Accreditation is a quality assurance process that certifies educational institutions or programs for achieving and maintaining commonly recognized high standards.
An external group of faculty and administrators, selected by the accreditor, evaluates the institution or program according to set standards. Everything from academic quality and student services to financial health is considered in this peer-review process.
Why Is Accreditation Important?
Accreditation requires institutions and programs to continually improve. It validates an institution’s quality and integrity.
Besides ensuring a school’s quality and adherence to academic standards, accreditation also plays a role in:
- Financial aid: A school must be accredited by a recognized agency to be eligible for federal and state financial aid programs.
- Credit transfers: Accreditation plays a major role in whether a school accepts credits transferred from another school.
- Job market: Employers want to see degrees from respected and recognized schools on your resume.
What Are the Different Types of Accreditation?
Accreditation can be broken down into the following categories:
- Regional accreditation: This type of accreditation covers the entire institution. There are six regional accreditation agencies in the United States. Depending on the location of the university’s main campus or headquarters, the appropriate regional accrediting agency evaluates the school’s mission, programs, faculty, tuition, support services, and more to ensure the school is adhering to high standards of quality.
- Specialized accreditation: This type of accreditation covers individual programs, departments, and/or schools within institutions. Pursuing a degree with specialized accreditation can be especially important if you’re looking to go into a career that requires professional licensure—for example, nursing or counseling. It’s common to see regionally accredited schools with specialized accreditation for specific degree programs.
There’s also something called “national accreditation” that’s awarded to single-purpose or specific types of institutions, such as flight schools, private career institutions, Bible colleges, schools of dance, etc.
Who Provides Accreditation?
Accreditation is determined via a peer review process performed by an external group of faculty and administrators selected by the accrediting agency. There are several accrediting agencies for each of the different types of accreditation. Every year, the U.S. Secretary of Education publishes an approved list of accrediting agencies. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) also examines accrediting agencies on a yearly basis. Agencies on these lists are considered reliable authorities to evaluate the quality of education or training provided by colleges, universities, and vocational schools in the United States.
How Do You Check If a School Is Accredited?
Use these trusted sources to find out which schools and programs are accredited:
Capella University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (hlcommission.org), a regional accreditation agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Learn more about university and program accreditations.