The following is copyrighted by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation and is reprinted with permission.
What is the value of accreditation?
- Encourages confidence that an institution’s or program’s presentation of the education it provides is fair and accurate, including the description of services available to students and the accomplishments of its graduates.
- Assures that a neutral, external party (the accrediting organization) has reviewed the quality of education provided and has found it to be satisfactory, based upon appropriate peer expertise.
- Confirms that institutions and programs have processes in place to meet changes in thinking within the academy and in the public’s expectations;
- Provides for eligible students to have access to federal financial aid if they attend institutions accredited by accreditors that are “recognized” or scrutinized for quality by the U.S. Department of Education (USDE).
- Assists with transfer of credits among institutions or admission to graduate school, with student mobility more likely to be successful among accredited institutions as compared to unaccredited institutions.
- Aids with entrance to a profession, when a particular field may require graduation from an accredited program or institution.
- Signals prospective employers that an educational program has met widely accepted educational standards.
Why is the accredited status of an institution or program important to students?
Accredited status is a reliable indication of the value and quality of educational institutions and programs to students and the public. Without accredited status, it is hard to be sure about the quality of the education or to be confident that an institution or program can deliver on its promises. Similarly, employers or graduate programs cannot be confident that graduates of an unaccredited institution or program will be appropriately prepared. Remember that accreditation of an institution may not mean that a specific program is accredited, particularly a professional program leading to licensure.
What does the fact that the institution or program is accredited mean to students?
It means that students can have confidence in an institution or program because those who went before had access to a quality education. Through accreditation, peer experts have reviewed the quality of the education provided, the processes by which students are educated and the processes that the institution or program uses to maintain an acceptable level of quality over time.
How do students know that an accredited institution or program will leep its word in providing the education described in its public materials?
As part of the accreditation process, institutions and programs must demonstrate that they meet the accreditation standards requiring that they provide quality education. And, they have to demonstrate truth in advertising – that the information presented about the education they offer is accurate.
Can every accreditor be trusted?
Not all accreditors are the same. Recognition of an accreditor by USDE or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) means that the accreditor has been reviewed by an outside organization to determine that the accreditor is trustworthy. Both of these organizations provide periodic external reviews of accrediting organizations and have high standards, checking, e.g., every five to ten years to see if the accreditors they have recognized continue to meet these standards. Some established accrediting organizations are not eligible to address either USDE or CHEA recognition standards. Others may deserve special scrutiny because they may be rogue providers of accreditation or “accreditation mills.”
What is a “recognized” accrediting organization?
Just as institutions and programs are accredited, accrediting organizations are reviewed to make sure that have processes and outcomes in place to protect students and the public. An accrediting organization that has been reviewed and determined to meet the standards of an external body, such as USDE or CHEA, is “recognized.”
How does the accrediting organization review educational outcomes?
Accrediting organizations require institutions and programs to set standards for student learning outcomes and provide evidence that the learning outcomes are achieved. The expected outcomes and the evidence vary, depending on the level of education provided and the different skills or competencies required of graduates in different fields.
What are some of the differences between accredited and unaccredited institutions and programs?
All accredited institutions and programs must provide resources to assist students toward successful completion of their courses of study. Although similar resources may be available in institutions or programs that are not accredited, accreditation provides external assurance that those resources are in place.
Where is information about accredited institutions and programs available?
All accrediting organizations provide information to the public about the institutions and programs they accredit, when they are reviewed and the general results of the most recent accreditation review. This is readily available on the accreditor’s Website.
For a complete list of accrediting organizations and access to their accredited institutions or programs, see: