Types of Accreditation

Institutional Accreditation

Institutional accreditation involves a comprehensive review of all institutional functions. Institutional accrediting organizations do not accredit individual programs, although new programs are actively reviewed through the substantive change process.

Voluntary, non-governmental, institutional accreditation, as practiced by WSCUC and other accrediting commissions, is a unique characteristic of American education. Accreditation is granted by the US Department of Education at the completion of a peer review process, and assures the educational community, the general public, and other organizations that an accredited institution has met high standards of quality and effectiveness.

No institution in the United States is required to seek accreditation. However, because of the recognized benefits, including access to federal financial aid, many eligible institutions have sought to become accredited by organizations recognized by the United States Department of Education. Accreditation can be granted to public and private, nonprofit and for-profit, two- and four-year institutions.

There are two kinds of institutional accrediting agencies (whose approval carries the same form of eligibility for federal student aid): regional and national. “Regional” accrediting agencies have requested from the Department of Education a scope, or range of authority, that is limited to institutions whose main campuses are located in the Western Region, which covers California, Hawaii, and the Pacific Region. (WSCUC also accredits some schools in Mexico, South America, Europe, East Africa, India and the Middle East).

Two other agencies operate in the Western Region: 

Several regional accrediting agencies have US Department of Education approval to carry out accreditation in other parts of the US:


National Accreditation

Other institutional accreditation organizations are national in scope and may focus on specialized institutions or in special areas of study. For example:


Specialized or Professional Accreditation

A third type of accreditation is specialized or professional accreditation, which focuses on programs in a specific discipline. Such accreditation only qualifies the school for federal student aid if it evaluates the entire institution (and does not . Specialized accreditation exists in the fields of education, law, medicine, nursing, chiropractic, computer science, engineering, business, and more than 90 other disciplines.

Each Commission and Association has standards, policies, institutional review procedures, and staff that are specific to that Commission.


Links to Other Higher Education Agencies (partial)