About Accreditation

Resources, Documents and Definitions

About Accreditation

Higher education in the United States relies on accreditation to ensure quality and foster a culture of continuous improvement. Accreditation offers a mark of distinction for academic programs and institutions, signaling high quality and a commitment to excellence.

There are two distinct types of accreditation in higher education:

Programmatic (specialized and professional) accreditation conducts an in-depth assessment of specialized or professional programs at a college, university or independent institutions.
Institutional accreditation reviews academic and organizational structures of a college or university as a whole.

Some programmatic and institutional accreditors may be “recognized” – wherein accreditors are reviewed against established standards set by an external agency:

U.S. Secretary of Education (USDE)

The U.S. Secretary of Education (USDE) recognizes accreditors to indicate that they are reliable authorities on the quality of education or training provided by the programs and institutions they accredit. There are federal links (laws) that require accreditation by recognized accreditors in order for programs and institutions to participate in federal programs such as Title IV student loans and scholarships. Additional federal links include Veterans Affairs and Homeland Security laws, among others.

Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA)

The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) is a non-governmental institutional higher education membership organization that recognizes accreditors. CHEA’s primary focus is quality assurance and quality improvement. Accrediting organizations that seek CHEA recognition must demonstrate the quality of their activities and the pertinence and value of their activities to higher education and the public interest