What is the Accreditation Process?

The accreditation process is a very important one in the higher education arena. If you are in the process of comparing colleges and degree programs, it is very important to make an educated decision before you apply to any specific school. Schools that have been granted an accreditation from a respected third-party, unbiased agency are consider much more legitimate than schools that do not possess or maintain an accreditation. While an accreditation is a credential that distinguishes the good programs from the sub-par programs, it is also a credential that ensures that licensing agencies and employers perceive your degree highly. The wisest prospective students will take time to learn about the accreditation process. Here is what you need to know so that you are familiar with the process: 

The Initial Review Process

For starters, the accreditation process can vary from agency to agency depending on the policies and procedures that are determined by the council. While the process can vary from agency to agency, in many ways most legitimate councils and agencies do have the same procedures. Legitimate bodies are defined as those that are recognized by the U.S Department of Education, so it is best to start there whenever you are researching a school to determine if it is a respectable institution. 

There is more than one process that you need to know about. One process that you should familiarize yourself with is the initial review process. Accreditation is a voluntary process, and schools have the option to apply to be evaluated and be granted their accreditation. This is why the initial step in the review process is to apply for accreditation, and this is initiated by the school, department or program. 

New applicants will need to pass the initial review and the first step is doing this is to send the agency a statement that the accreditation unit understands the components of the process prior to the start. Once a complete application is received and the payments are made, the unit will meet with the council. At this time, the council will evaluate documents, standards, curriculum and performance outcomes. The assessment period can last up to 2 years from the time that the application is received, but most decisions will take 10 to 14 months.

The Renewal Process

Once you are granted initial accreditation, you will later need to maintain it. Renewal periods are typically 2 years in length, but some accreditation periods will last 4 years. The process of renewal includes sending the council or organization an Intent to Renew which means that the school is committed to meeting any new standards set. The school then sending in Renewal Materials that are requested and then must pass a site visit. This visit is typically scheduled for 6 months after the materials are received. 

As you can see, accreditation is not easy to earn. The school initiates the process when ready, and must prove that it is worthy. Make sure that you know verify that any school you want to attend is accredited. Once you do this, make sure that they have passed the accreditation process recently so that you have peace of mind.

Related Resource: Regional and National Accreditation