What is the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities?

The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities has been in a state of transition for at least the past 13 years. Originally founded in 1974 to accredit universities, primary schools and high schools, the organization eventually split into two distinct parts between 2000 and 2004. At that time, accreditation of high schools was handed to a newly formed, separate commission, while the accreditation of higher education institutions was handed to the newly formed Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. Today, the commission continues to offer crucial accreditation and recognition to both public and private universities throughout the region.

Critical to Higher Education in the Pacific Northwest

The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities is one of the major, regional bodies recognized by the United States Department of Education. As such, its accreditation determines whether or not students receive financial aid while they’re enrolled in a degree program. The institution’s influence also governs the validity of obtained degrees and assures students that their academic pursuits aren’t part of a “diploma mill” scam.

Though the commission has one of the smallest lists of member states, it still covers a large expanse of territory in the Pacific Northwest. That’s largely thanks to the overall larger size of states west of the Mississippi River. Its seven members include:

– Alaska
– Idaho
– Montana
– Nevada
– Utah
– Oregon
– Washington State

The commission borders areas covered by the influential Western Association of Colleges and Schools. It also borders several states that fall under the Higher Learning Commission, which is operated by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.

More than a Hundred Member Institutions

Though small in terms of the number of states participating in this regional body, the Northwestern Commission is home to more than 150 public and private institutions. Among the most important colleges and universities governed by the commission’s accreditation are Brigham Young University, the University of Oregon, and Boise State University. Regardless of their public or private status, all universities must meet certain criteria to both obtain and maintain their accreditation. Periodic reviews take place to ensure the long-term integrity of all members.

Despite its large number of member institutions and its federal recognition by the Department of Education, the Northwestern Commission on Colleges and Universities stands out as one of the few regional bodies not currently recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. Although significant, this recognition has no bearing on the universities, their degrees, or the federalĀ authority of the commission.

A Driving Force in Education for the Northwestern Part of the Country

Though recent years have seen several major political reorganizations in terms of regional accreditation for high schools, colleges and universities in the Pacific Northwest, the Northwestern Commission on Colleges and Universities remains the only regional body for institutions in seven American states. As such, its seal of approval is still instrumental when offering students financial aid and other federal programs that increase both the accessibility and value of a degree. As recent splits and reorganization initiatives settle down, it’s likely that the commission will make its way back to recognition by the CHEA and continue to make a real impact in regional higher education.