Accreditation in the United States
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National Recognition of Accreditors by the U.S. Secretary of Education

An accreditor seeking recognition from the Secretary of Education must meet the Department’s regulatory criteria for the recognition of accreditors, and must have a link to a federal program (e.g., federal student aid). Only accreditors recognized by the Secretary can provide the gate-keeping function to allow institutions they accredit to participate in the federal student aid programs under the HEA. Some of the criteria for recognition, such as the criterion requiring a link to Federal programs, have no bearing on the quality of an accreditor; however, they do have the effect of making some accreditors ineligible for recognition for reasons other than quality. The recognition process involves reviews by the Department’s Accreditation Group staff and the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity. (NACIQI). Both the staff and NACIQI recommendations are submitted to the Senior Department Official designated by the Secretary who makes the decision regarding recognition.

The Secretary also recognizes various State agencies for the approval of public postsecondary vocational education and for the approval of nursing education. These agencies must meet separate sets of recognition criteria and their applications for recognition also undergo review by the Accreditation Group staff and the NACIQI.

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Last Modified: 11/13/2015