“Accreditation” is review of the quality of higher education institutions and programs. In the United States, accreditation is a major way that students, families, government officials, and the press know that an institution or program provides a quality education.
Whether a college, university, or program is accredited is important:
- Students who want federal (and sometimes state) grants and loans need to attend a college, university, or program that is accredited.
- Employers ask if a college, university, or program is accredited before deciding to provide tuition assistance to current employees, evaluating the credentials of new employees, or making a charitable contribution.
- The federal government requires that a college, university, or program be accredited in order to be eligible for federal grants and loans or other federal funds.
- State governments require that a college, university, or program be accredited when they make state funds available to students or institutions and when they allow students to sit for state licensure examinations in some professional fields.
Accreditation is a complicated subject. “Informing the Public About Accreditation” is an effort to reduce this complexity and provide the public with answers to these basic questions:
Colleges, universities, and programs are accredited. In the U.S., colleges and universities are accredited by one of 19 recognized institutional accrediting organizations. Programs are accredited by one of approximately 60 recognized programmatic accrediting organizations. [Accrediting organizations that are “recognized” have been reviewed for quality by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) or the United States Department of Education (USDE).]
The CHEA Database of Institutions and Programs Accredited by Recognized United States Accrediting Organizations contains information about more than 8,200 institutions and 20,000 programs in the U.S. Links to the Websites of these colleges and universities are also available.
When using the database:
- To learn about a specific college or university, type in the name of the institution.
- To learn about an institution in a specific state, type in the name of the state.
- To find out whether a particular accrediting organization accredits an institution, click on the name of the accreditor.
In the U.S., the accreditors are private, nongovernmental organizations created for the specific purpose of reviewing higher education institutions and programs for quality. In most other countries, accreditation (or quality assurance) is carried out by government organizations.
To find a recognized U.S. accrediting organization or a ministry of education or quality assurance organization in another country, visit the CHEA International Directory. This directory contains contact information about quality assurance and accreditation organizations from 467 countries, including the United States.
Here are several brief documents that describe accreditation and how it operates.
- U.S. Recognized Accrediting Organizations (pdf)
Institutional and programmatic accrediting organizations that are or have been recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) or the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) or both.
- Profile of Accreditation(pdf)
Provides the number and types of institutions and programs accredited in the U.S. as of 2012.
- Accrediting Organizations in the U.S.: How Do They Operate to Assure Quality? (pdf)
Describes how accrediting organizations do their work, including how accreditation standards are developed and how accreditation decisions are made.
- The Fundamentals of Accreditation: What Do You Need to Know? (pdf)
Answers 20 basic questions about accreditation, especially for federal officials interested in this area.
Here are two documents that offer important questions about accreditation and quality.
- Twelve Important Questions About External Quality Review (pdf)
Provides key questions for students and the public to ask about the quality of an institution or program.
- “Diploma Mills” and “Accreditation Mills”(pdf)
Provides key questions to help identify dubious providers of higher education and accreditation so that students and the public can avoid dealing with a diploma mill or accreditation mill.