How Does College Accreditation Work?

College Accreditation is one concept that is always used and heard of but has remained vague to many. Accreditation is one of the fundamental criteria that makes an institution come highly recommended or preferred. College accreditation is so vital that the existence of a college and the success of a college depends largely on it. No one would want to spend years and money to attend a college just to find out that the course studied or the degree attained is totally useless.

In this article, we shall take an in-depth look at the concept of college accreditation and how it works. For you to understand better, we will also explain the different types of college accreditation that exist. We shall also answer some frequently asked questions that border around this topic.

To start up with, we’ll like to make you understand what college accreditation means.

What is College Accreditation?

College Accreditation is simply the procedure a college or a higher institution of learning undergoes to ensure that such a college has exceeded the minimum standards and requirements. In other words, accreditation signifies that a school has voluntarily submitted to a third-party accrediting agency’s assessment procedure in order to ensure educational standards. The accrediting agency looks at factors like teacher quality, student learning, and professional results, and whether the school uses data-based research to improve its courses and student services during the evaluation.

Accreditation can also be seen as a voluntary quality assurance program in which schools have an outside entity review their programs and policies in order to ensure that students receive a worthwhile and useful education. 

It is also a procedure in which a college or university is evaluated by an impartial authority to see if it meets academic and ethical requirements. In the United States, this peer-review process is the major means of ensuring educational quality.

Schools can be accredited on a regional or national level. Regional accreditation is the gold standard for liberal arts degrees, whereas national accreditation is often utilized for vocational or trade schools or religious institutions.

There is no federal control of higher education in the United States when it comes to academic quality and standards; instead, each state sets its own laws. Because state governments have lax regulations, some institutions engage in unethical tactics and give poor education. As a result, prospective students can only evaluate an institution’s educational credentials through independent accreditation authorities.

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What Is The Process Of Accrediting Schools?

Accreditation agencies look for varied characteristics based on the type of school, and the majority of them specialize in specific types of educational institutions. Because of the vast differences in fields, a vocational culinary institute will confront different accreditation standards than a medical school residency program. All schools, however, are bound by some overarching accreditation standards that cut across fields and serve as the process’s foundation. For example, all accrediting authorities believe that schools must have a clearly stated mission that aspires to improve student education and service.

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Furthermore, all schools must demonstrate that they have the means to accomplish their objective, as well as evidence that the mission has been accomplished. To ensure that accreditation standards are consistently maintained, practically all institutions must agree to periodic and unannounced external reviews as well as thorough internal review systems.

Who Is In Charge Of School Accreditation?

This question has a significant impact on your life. You must ensure that your school is accredited by a respected organization. The US government does not regulate accreditation and instead delegates the task to private organizations. Fake certifying agencies have sprung up all over the Internet as a result of the high number of fraudulent online institutions. Make sure you don’t fall into their trap.

The US Secretary of Education recognizes and lists the agencies that are considered to be reputable accreditation authorities on the US Department of Education’s website. Checking that the agency that accredits your institution is on this list is the simplest approach to guarantee that the accreditation is valid.

If you live outside of the United States or are enrolled in a distance education program based there, check sure your school is accredited by a body recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). The Commission on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) is the international authority on post-secondary accreditation, and it also maintains a list of trustworthy agencies.

How Accreditation Concerns You

Accreditation may appear to be unimportant to you as a student, yet nothing could be farther from reality. Employers assess the school you attended and if it is accredited by a reputable agency when you graduate and hunt for a career. Employers will doubt the authenticity of your degree and your potential as a competitive job candidate if it came from an institution with questionable accreditation. Furthermore, no school will accept transfer credits from an unaccredited university if you want to transfer to another college at any point during your academic career.

While some unaccredited programs may provide beneficial learning opportunities, not all educational opportunities are created equal. If you attend an unaccredited program, you may be ineligible for federal financial aid, be unable to transfer credits to another school, and be unable to earn a suitable professional license in your field.

Many unaccredited universities are little more than diploma mills, offering students nothing of real value. Similarly, some “accrediting agencies” are mills that exist solely to provide the institutions they falsely certify a veneer of respectability. Students should constantly check the database of recognized accrediting agencies and schools maintained by the US Department of Education.

Now let us examine the different types of accreditation that exist and the basic difference between them and how they apply to you and your institution.

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Types of Accreditation

We will explain 4 different types of accreditation, the first will be;

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1. Regional Accreditation

As the name implies, Regional Accreditation is done by regional accrediting organizations that operate in specific regions of the country. These organizations grant accreditation to schools, colleges, and universities showing that their credits and degrees meet minimum standards and requirements. This is a voluntary process that self-regulates the higher education industry. Qualifying for regional accreditation is a very difficult process that institutions strive hard to earn. Regionally accredited colleges are the most academically oriented, non-profit, or state-owned institutions.

2. National Accreditation

National Accreditation is done by National Accreditation Agencies. They focus on For-profit, faith-based, trade, and vocational institutions. National Accreditation is not as prestigious as regional accreditation because it is not as stringent. All national accrediting bodies are overseen by the Education Department, and nationally recognized institutions are eligible for most federal financial aid programs.

National accreditation agencies focus on accrediting career programs that offer certifications and degrees. Because these institutions have a more narrow concentration, they are less standardized than typical certified schools and must be assessed every three to five years. Many of these organizations in the United States are recognized by the US Department of Education and are not restricted by geography.

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3. Institutional Accreditation

Representatives from specialized accrediting institutions review colleges and universities for institutional accreditation. Colleges and universities can use this tool to evaluate their own performance and compare it to that of other schools. When a school receives accreditation, it signifies that it has met particular educational qualification requirements.

Accreditation does not guarantee that credits will transfer between universities, but it does increase the chances significantly. Students should verify with the program they want to transfer to see if their credits will be accepted. There are various other advantages to enrolling in an authorized program. Employers are far more likely to recognize accredited degree programs, and students in institutionally certified organizations are eligible for government financial help. Furthermore, having gone through the accreditation procedure indicates that the institution meets a high level of educational quality.

4. Programmatic Accreditation

Programmatic Accreditation is carried out by Professionally oriented specialty accrediting agencies. The assumption is that professionals in a particular sector are best suited to assess the educational quality of a program. The American Bar Association, for example, accredits law schools, whereas the American Library Association accredits library schools. Nursing, dentistry, and psychiatry are among the professions that have their own specialized agency. In many circumstances, completing a program that has been approved by the appropriate body is a requirement for employment in professions such as psychology, law, and healthcare. Many programmatic accreditors, such as the American Psychological Association (APA), demand that certified programs be hosted in an institutionally approved school.

Steps in Accreditation

  • Determine which accreditation credential to obtain as the first step toward accreditation. Some accrediting agencies certified by the CHEA or the US Department of Education are more prestigious than others due to their more stringent certifying standards. In general, the higher the accreditation, the higher the requirements that the school must meet.
  • After deciding on which accreditation to pursue, a school must identify and meet the eligibility requirements. It may be in candidacy status throughout this time. This indicates that the institution is not yet accredited, but is on its path to achieving accreditation.
  • During the candidacy period, the school will submit a substantial amount of paperwork and documentation to demonstrate that it meets the accreditation requirements. This will include information about the faculty, the school’s financial viability, class syllabi, graduation criteria, degree requirements, and student work samples.
  • The evaluation process begins, with commission members reviewing the school’s accomplishments and characteristics to see if accreditation is appropriate. This will normally include a study of documents as well as a tour of the school’s campus and facilities.
  • The final step is to make a decision. The school will be required to provide continuous reports on its academic and financial situation until a decision is reached. If the school is accredited, it will be required to renew its accreditation on a regular basis, usually every few years.
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How Frequently Are New Colleges Accredited?

The existing accreditation procedure, according to critics, can be a barrier to accreditation for new, innovative higher education institutions. The vast majority of authorized universities have been in existence for decades, if not centuries. New universities are rarely accredited by major regional accreditors. The New England Association of Schools and Universities, for example, administers 242 accredited colleges in the United States, although just five were granted accreditation between 2007 and 2016.


I trust you’ve had an insightful read from this post. This information is very vital and useful. Please do well to apply them in your search for the best institution to attend.

FAQs On How Does College Accreditation Work

What are the implications when my college or university is not accredited?

A school can evade the norms and requirements imposed on authorized institutions by remaining outside the scope of accreditation. Unaccredited universities may opt to follow their own rules, maintain autonomy, or offer unique programs that fall outside the boundaries of what accreditation allows them to do. It’s also possible that an unaccredited college isn’t a reputable institution of higher learning.

Is it possible to get work with an unaccredited degree?

Because many firms prefer to recruit applicants who have earned an accredited degree, attending an unaccredited institution or university may limit your job options. A lack of accreditation may be interpreted by employers as a sign that the job candidate is not as well-prepared for the position as other candidates.

What are the different types of accreditation for colleges?

Schools may be accredited on a national or regional level. National accreditation is for vocational, technical, faith-based, and for-profit institutions, whereas regional accreditation is for nonprofit, degree-granting institutions. Individual departments or programs within a school receive specialized or programmatic accreditation.

What happens if my college’s accreditation is suspended?

For whatever cause, a school’s accreditation has lapsed, indicating that it no longer meets accrediting standards. It tarnishes an institution’s reputation, leading to a drop in enrollment and, in certain cases, the closure of a school.

Are employers willing to accept degrees that have been accredited by a national body?

Career and technical degrees, vocational programs, and religious institutions are frequently accredited at the national level. Employers in specialized fields will accept nationally accredited degrees if they meet their demands and specifications.


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