The goal of accreditation is to ensure that education provided by institutions of higher education meets acceptable levels of quality. 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.
Depending on a number of factors, the process of obtaining initial accreditation can take up to two years for national accreditation and up to four or more years for regional accreditation. Choosing an appropriate accreditor is an important first step and one that should be taken with due care, as not all accrediting agencies are created equal.
To determine which accrediting agency is right for your school, you’ll need to understand the eligibility requirements of each agency.
Consider the answers to these questions:
- Is my institution a private, postsecondary career school or college with trade, occupational or technical educational objectives?
- Does my school provide general or avocational education?
- Are our programs offered online on campus or both?
- What is my school’s primary educational objective?
- How long has my school been training students?
- Does my school have a graduate from the longest program offered?
- Does my school offer at least one program that is 300 clock hours (or longer)?
- Is my school in compliance with state, local, and other federal requirements?
- Is my school financially sound?
Depending on the answers to these questions, your institution may be eligible to apply for accreditation through several different accreditation agencies.
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