Accreditation of Colleges in the U.S.
Students studying in the U.S. can be reassured of the quality of education they receive through a process
called, `accreditation'. Accreditation is one of the most important factors to consider while deciding on
which college to attend, be it online or on-ground. Here is a look at the accreditation process in the U.S.
and its importance.
Colleges in the U.S. voluntarily seek out accreditation from non-governmental, third party organizations.
Accreditation is an independent review process carried out by these organizations of the programs and
the amenities (faculty, curriculum, administration, financial aid assistance, student services) offered
by a college. The process helps to determine that the education provided by the college is of uniform
and sound quality. A college maintains its accreditation by adhering to criteria set by these accrediting
The importance of accreditation
Accreditation is the indication of a college (or any other educational institution) having met the set
standards of quality of an accrediting organization. However, accreditation is important for several other
purposes as well.
Financial aid: In order to be eligible for state or federal (Title IV) financial aid programs, the government
requires a college to be properly accredited.
Transfer of credits: Right accreditation is important for easy transfer of credits to another college.
Professional security: Employers give preference to applicants who have completed their education
from an institution that has been properly accredited as it reassures them about the quality of education
they have received.
The types of accreditation
There are three main types of accreditation in the United States. These are:
Regional accreditation: Regional accreditation is performed in six geographic regions in the U.S.
The New England Association of Schools & Colleges: Accreditation of colleges in the New
England region (Maine, Rhode Island, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, Connecticut)
The Northwest Association of Schools And Colleges: Accreditation of colleges in the North-
West region (Oregon, Idaho, Nevada, Utah, Montana, Alaska, and Washington)
The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools: Accreditation of colleges in the southern
region (Texas, Kentucky, Georgia, Florida, Louisiana, Alabama, North Carolina, South Carolina,
Tennessee, Mississippi, Virginia)
The Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools: Accreditation of colleges in the
middle states region (Maryland, District of Columbia, Delaware, New York, Pennsylvania, New
Jersey and Puerto Rico)
The North Central Association of Colleges and Schools: Accreditation of colleges in the North
central region (Arkansas, Michigan, Arizona, Illinois, Colorado, Iowa, Indiana, Kansas, Nebraska,
Minnesota, Missouri, Ohio, Oklahoma, New Mexico, North Dakota, South Dakota, Wisconsin,
West Virginia and Wyoming)
The Western Association of Schools and Colleges: Accreditation of colleges in the western
region (California and Hawaii, the territories of Guam, American Samoa, Federated States of
Micronesia, Republic of Palau, Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands)
National accreditation: Is the accreditation of colleges throughout the United States. An example
of a college that is nationally accredited is CollegeAmerica. CollegeAmerica accreditation is from the
Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC), recognized by the U.S. Department
Specialized or Programmatic accreditation: Is the accreditation of a certain program or department
within a college. For example: The Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC) accredits
a respiratory therapy program within a college.
Who holds accrediting organizations accountable?
The United States Department of Education (USDE) or a private organization called the Council for
Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) carry out a process of reviewing accrediting organizations
called `recognition'. This process reviews the accrediting organization's qualifications and activities.
Both, the USDE and CHEA maintain databases of the organizations they recognize on their respective
websites. As a student, it would be in your best interest to look into colleges that have been accredited by
organizations that have been recognized by the USDE and/or the CHEA.
When it comes to deciding on which college to go to, accreditation is of utmost importance. Hopefully, this
article will help you understand the nature and purpose of accreditation better.