Types of Accreditation
Regional Accreditation is a form of institutional accreditation that involves a comprehensive review of all institutional functions. Regional 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 regional commissions, is a unique characteristic of American education. Accreditation is granted 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, most of the eligible institutions in this and other regions have sought to become accredited. Regional accreditation is granted to public and private, nonprofit and for-profit, two- and four-year institutions.
WSCUC operates in the Western Region, which covers California, Hawaii, and the Pacific Region. It also accredits some schools in Mexico, South America, Europe, East Africa, India and the Middle East.
Two other agencies operate in the Western Region:
- Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC) - Accredits community colleges and other associate degree-granting institutions.
- Accrediting Commission for Schools (ACS WASC) - Accredits K-12 and non-degree-granting schools.
Other Regional Accrediting Agencies
- Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
- New England Association of Colleges and Schools (NEASC)
- The Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
A second type of institutional accreditation focuses on institutions in special areas of study. For example:
- Theology: Association of Theological Schools (ATS)
- Art and Design: National Association of Art and Design (NASAD)
- Music: National Association of Schools of Music (NASM)
Specialized or Professional Accreditation
A third type of accreditation is specialized or professional accreditation, which focuses on programs in a specific discipline within an institution, but does not evaluate the entire institution. Specialized accreditation exists in the fields of education, law, medicine, chiropractic, computer science, and more than 90 other disciplines. Most specialized accreditors require regional accreditation as a foundation for their reviews and as assurance of the fiscal integrity and health of the institution.
Each Commission and Association has standards, policies, institutional review procedures, and staff that are specific to that Commission.
Links to Other Agencies
- American Council on Education (ACE)
- Association of American Colleges and Universities (AAC&U)
- California Department of Education
- Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA)
- Hawaii State Department of Education
- Association of Public and Land-Grant Universities (APLU)
- United States Department of Education (ED)
- Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE)
- Association of Independent California Colleges and Universities (AICCU)