What is Accreditation?


According to the Unites States Department of Education (USDE), accreditation is the process of ensuring that degree-granting schools offering higher education are offering quality education. The procedure consists of a series of rigorous evaluations that institutions must endure which confirms whether they meet the standards that are set by a collaborative effort of private nongovernmental regional or national organizations and accrediting agencies.

Programs that provide studies in a variety of industries and professions, including nursing, journalism, psychology, social work, law, the arts, business and more, are carefully assessed and monitored for the accreditation process. The examination period consists of periodical on-site visits, self-evaluation studies, and afterward, monitoring performed by the accreditors.

Approved schools are then published in the lists of nationally or regionally accredited institutions. Accrediting bodies often re-evaluate schools to determine if accreditation should be continued.


The National Association of Private, Catholic, and Independent Schools (NAPCIS) indicates that the accreditation process originated in the 1960’s in the United States as a response to a lack of control over American institutions by a federal entity at the time.

The purpose of the procedure was for post-secondary institutions to demonstrate to nongovernmental peer organizations the competency and effectiveness of their programs. Once schools proved to the Federal government their capability of providing quality education, they were certified to receive federal funds in the form of grants, loans and scholarship monies.


1. Are schools that don’t grant degrees accredited?

Federal accreditation doesn’t apply to elementary schools, middle schools, or high schools. However, these kinds of institutions are regulated by the states for the same reason that accreditation was established for post-secondary institutions. The application process for schools that don’t grant degrees varies. After approval has been granted, funds for student financial assistance opportunities are provided to these kinds of institutions by the State Department of Education.

2. What is the accreditation renewal process?

The renewal procedure for accreditation may differ, depending on the institution. The typical items that are requested from accrediting bodies include documentation regarding a school’s upcoming plans, reports on academic credit examinations, self-study assessments, and faculty and staff evaluations. Accrediting agencies then audit the institution’s premises before making a final decision.

3. How much does it cost to become accredited?

Most schools are required to submit an maintenance review fee when they renew their accreditation. Actual costs vary by a variety of factors, such as the kind of school (i.e. post-secondary, high school, elementary school, etc.), program type (i.e. business, accounting, nursing, etc.), and student population.


Unites States Department of Education (USDE). (2011).

National Association of Private, Catholic, and Independent Schools (NAPCIS). (2011).

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