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Schools in the USA

University Accreditation

Accreditation is a form of independent, professional certification that focuses on schools and programs in a particular field. Accreditation of universities and 4-year colleges therefore assures you and your parents that the school adheres to high quality standards. Which means the programs are delivered by qualified faculty and are constantly updated to follow the changes and meet the needs of the relevant industry or working world. Attending an accredited school or program is often thought to make you more competitive on the job market.

Accreditation in the US takes place at different levels. At the highest level, governmental and other agencies govern and recognize the accrediting bodies. For instance, the US Department of Education, the Council for Higher Education Association (CHEA) and the Association of Specialized and Professional Accreditors (ASPA) grant power to associations that oversee accreditation at the regional, institutional or program level.

  • Regional: The US Department of Education recognizes 6 distinct higher educational regions, each of which is overseen by a different accrediting body. This is the type of accreditation most commonly referred to and is for a university or college as a whole, not for individual programs. Accreditation by these regional agencies isn't automatic: this is voluntary accreditation.


  • Institutional: Depending on the kind of university or college it is (e.g., private, public, Christian, etc.) it may also be accredited by institute-type specific agencies. America's universities and 4-year colleges are extremely different in character, size, location and in the programs they offer. Therefore a school may be accredited by one or more organizations.


  • Specialized: Specialized accreditation focuses on specific areas of study and individual programs. This is sometimes called professional accreditation, because it means specific programs meet the national standards for that field of study. Universities and 4-year colleges cover a huge range of programs, and each institution usually has a page on its website listing both institutional and individual program accreditation.

    When assessing quality, you can also look at whether a school or program has any memberships in, or endorsements by, professional associations which reflect certain standards of quality, but this is not the same as official accreditation. For instance, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities does not accredit programs, but is a national organization committed to maintaining and promoting the quality of America's higher education system.

    Regional Accrediting Agencies for Universities and Colleges
  • Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Higher Education

  • New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Commission on Institutions of Higher Education

  • North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission

  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities

  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges

  • Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities


  • Why Accreditation?
    The goal of accreditation is to ensure that education provided by institutions of higher education meets acceptable levels of quality. Accrediting agencies have no legal control over institutions or programs; they promote certain standards and approve or renew membership of institutions that apply and meet the accreditation standards or criteria. Certain licensing programs may require that you've been through a course of study with specialized accreditation, because it ensures that you have been taught by faculty qualified to teach in that field. The US Secretary of Education and CHEA each maintain and publish a list of nationally recognized accrediting agencies, and most institutions attain eligibility for Federal funds by holding accredited or pre-accredited status with one of the recognized accrediting agencies.
     



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