Accreditation is the process used in U.S. education to ensure that schools, postsecondary institutions, and other education providers meet, and maintain, minimum standards of quality and integrity regarding academics, administration, and related services. It is a voluntary process based on the principle of academic self-governance. Schools, postsecondary institutions and programs (faculties) within institutions participate in accreditation. The entities which conduct accreditation are associations comprised of institutions and academic specialists in specific subjects, who establish and enforce standards of membership and procedures for conducting the accreditation process.
Both the federal and state governments recognize accreditation as the mechanism by which institutional and programmatic legitimacy are ensured. In international terms, accreditation by a recognized accrediting authority is accepted as the U.S. equivalent of other countries' ministerial recognition of institutions belonging to national education systems.
School-Level Accreditation [PDF, 111K] describes the accreditation process at the primary and secondary education levels and provides links to accrediting agencies recognized by state governments and other authorities.
Nationally Recognized Accrediting Agencies is the U.S. Department of Education's directory of federally recognized accrediting agencies, both regional and national.
Postsecondary Accreditation [MS Word, 85K] describes the accreditation process at the tertiary level, including higher education, and provides links to accrediting agencies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and that are members of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).
CHEA Directory of Recognized Accrediting Organizations is the Council on Higher Education Accreditation's directory of recognized accrediting agencies.
Federal Recognition and Approval [MS Word, 76K] describes the nature and limitations of the federal role in recognizing accrediting agencies and in approving institutions.
Association of Specialized and Professional Accreditors (ASPA), a member of CHEA, is a national association of accreditation agencies for regulated professions.
State Approval of Schools and Postsecondary Institutions [MS Word, 72K] describes the process of licensing or chartering educational providers by state authorities.
Other Quality Assurance Provisions [MS Word, 77K] provides information on additional quality assurance activities in the United States.
Diploma Mills and Fraud [MS Word, 92K] provides information and links on the problems of unaccredited institutions, bogus accreditors and how to identify and avoid them.