The goal of accreditation is to ensure that education provided by institutions
of higher education meets acceptable levels of quality.
Accreditation in the United States involves non-governmental
entities as well as governmental agencies.
Accrediting agencies, which
are private educational associations of regional or national
scope, develop evaluation criteria and conduct peer evaluations
to assess whether or not those criteria are met. Institutions
and/or programs that request an agency's evaluation and that
meet an agency's criteria are then "accredited"
by that agency.
The U.S. Department of Education does not accredit educational institutions
and/or programs. However, the Secretary of Education is required
by law to publish a list of nationally recognized accrediting
agencies that the Secretary determines to be reliable authorities
as to the quality of education or training provided by the
institutions of higher education and the higher education
programs they accredit. An agency seeking national recognition
by the Secretary must meet the Secretary's procedures and criteria for the recognition of
accrediting agencies, as published in the Federal Register.
Some of the criteria for recognition, such as the criterion
requiring a link to Federal programs, have no bearing on the
quality of an accrediting agency; however, they do have the
effect of making some agencies ineligible for recognition
for reasons other than quality. The recognition process involves not only filing an application
with the U. S. Department of Education but also review by
Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity,
which makes a recommendation to the Secretary regarding recognition.
The Secretary, after considering the Committee's recommendation,
makes the final determination regarding recognition.
The U.S. Secretary of Education also recognizes State agencies for the approval of public postsecondary vocational
education and State agencies for the approval of nurse education.
These agencies must meet the Secretary's criteria and procedures
for such recognition and must undergo review by the National
The U. S. Department of Education does not accredit institutions in foreign
countries. However, the Secretary of Education does appoint
members to the National
Committee on Foreign Medical Education and Accreditation.
The law gives that Committee the responsibility for reviewing
the standards that foreign countries use to accredit medical
schools to determine whether those standards are comparable
to the standards used to accredit medical schools in the United
States. The comparability
decisions made by the Committee affect whether U.S. students
attending foreign medical schools can receive loans under
the Federal Family Education Loan Program.
States Association of Colleges & Schools, Commission on
England Association of Schools and Colleges
Association of Schools and Colleges
Association of Colleges and Schools
Western Association of Schools and Colleges