• Accreditation

Introduction to Accreditation

The goal of accreditation is to ensure that institutions of higher education meet acceptable levels of quality. Voluntary, non-governmental, institutional accreditation as practiced by WSCUC and other accrediting commissions is a unique characteristic of American higher education. In many other countries, the maintenance of educational standards is a governmental function. In the United States the federal Department of Education recognizes accrediting agencies that meet certain criteria, and that recognition carries with it both a mark of respect and access for their students to federal financial aid. Accreditation can be granted to public and private, non-profit and for-profit, and associates, bachelors, professional and graduate degree-granting institutions. No institution in the United States is required to seek accreditation; however, because of the recognized benefits, most eligible institutions have sought to become accredited.

WSCUC accreditation aids institutions in developing and sustaining effective educational programs and assures the educational community and the general public that an accredited institution has met high standards of quality and effectiveness. Learn more about WSCUC’s approach to accreditation by visiting our About WSCUC page.

Types of Accreditation

There are different types of accreditation available to universities and colleges, each with a unique purpose or role in the academic landscape.

Institutional Accreditation

Institutional accreditation involves a comprehensive review of all institutional functions. Institutional accrediting organizations, like WSCUC, accredit the institution rather than individual programs, although new programs are reviewed through the substantive change process. Each accrediting commission and association has standards, policies, institutional review procedures, and staff that are specific to that Commission.

Examples of recognized institutional accreditors include:

Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC WASC)*
Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC)
Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)*
New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)*
The Higher Learning Commission (HLC)*
Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)*
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)**
The Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools (TRACS)

*Formerly recognized with a regional scope by the US Department of Education
**Currently accrediting only with a designated regional scope

Specialized or Professional Accreditation

Other accreditation organizations focus on specialized areas of study in a specific discipline. Specialized accreditation exists in the fields of education, law, medicine, nursing, chiropractic, computer science, engineering, business, and more than 90 other fields. For example:

Distance Education: Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC)
Law: American Bar Association (ABA)
Theology: Association of Theological Schools (ATS)
Art and Design: National Association of Art and Design (NASAD)
Music: National Association of Schools of Music (NASM)

Some accreditors function as both institutional (when a freestanding institution offers only program(s) within their specialized field) and programmatic accreditors.