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 higher 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, 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.

Two other agencies operate in the western region: 

Several institutional accrediting agencies have US Department of Education approval to carry out accreditation in the nation:


National Accreditation

Other institutional accreditation organizations are also 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/field for federal student aid. 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.