Accreditation is the key to unlocking student aid and how it works

"Accreditation is the key to unlocking student aid and how it works" submitted by SchoolGrantsfor Editorial Team and last updated on Monday 9th January 2012

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The goal of accreditation is to ensure that education provided by institutions of higher education meets acceptable levels of quality. Accreditation in the United States involves non-governmental entities as well as governmental agencies. Accreditation is the key to unlocking federal student aid. Schools must be accredited to be eligible for student aid.

Accrediting agencies

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.

Accrediting institutions and/or programs

The government agency responsible for handing student financial aid programs. The U.S. Department of Education does not accredit educational institutions and/or programs. However, the Secretary of Education is required by law to publish a list of nationally recognized accrediting agencies that the Secretary determines to be reliable authorities as to the quality of education or training provided by the institutions of higher education and the higher education programs they accredit. An agency seeking national recognition by the Secretary must meet the Secretary's procedures and criteria for the recognition of accrediting agencies, as published in the Federal Register. Some of the criteria for recognition, such as the criterion requiring a link to Federal programs, have no bearing on the quality of an accrediting agency; however, they do have the effect of making some agencies ineligible for recognition for reasons other than quality. The recognition process involves not only filing an application with the U. S. Department of Education but also review by the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity, which makes a recommendation to the Secretary regarding recognition. The Secretary, after considering the Committee's recommendation, makes the final determination regarding recognition.

State agencies for public postsecondary vocational education and nurse education

The U.S. Secretary of Education also recognizes State agencies for the approval of public postsecondary vocational education and State agencies for the approval of nurse education. These agencies must meet the Secretary's criteria and procedures for such recognition and must undergo review by the National Advisory Committee.

Nursing School Accreditation By CCNE and NLNAC

The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and the National League for Nursing Accrediting Commission (NLNAC) are two of the most recognized accrediting agencies in the nation. They’re also two of the most influential agencies – often determining eligibility for student aid or employment feasibility. Financial aid agencies simply won’t fund non-accredited nursing programs and employers aren’t comfortable hiring graduates from non-accredited nursing schools.

To ensure nursing students can secure sufficient financial aid and find employment, both the CCNE and NLNAC impose strict requirements onto a wide variety of eligible programs. CCNE vs NLNAC accreditation differs in the sense that the CCNE does not accredit LPN, Diploma, or ADN programs while the NLNAC does.

All baccalaureate, graduate, and residency nursing programs operating under CCNE accreditation do so in accordance with nationally recognized standards. Nursing certificate, diploma, and professional degree programs operating under NLNAC accreditation do so in accordance with the same standards as well. And participation in both is completely voluntary.

Role of CHEA and USDE For Accreditation

For Accreditation in the US Accreditation in the United States is about quality assurance and quality improvement. It is a process to scrutinize higher education institutions and programs. Accreditation is private (nongovernmental) and nonprofit — an outgrowth of the higher education community and not of government. It is funded primarily by the institutions and programs that are accredited.

The two recognition processes are similar: self-evaluation based on standards, site visit and report, award of recognition status. Recognition adds value to society as a vital part of accreditation accountability or “accrediting the accreditors.”

Recognition in the United States is about scrutiny of the quality and effectiveness of accrediting organizations. It is carried out by the higher education enterprise through CHEA, a private body, and by government (USDE). CHEA recognition is funded by institutional dues; USDE recognition is funded by the U.S. Congress. The goals of the two recognition processes are different:

The council for higher education accreditation (CHEA):

Assuring that accrediting organizations contribute to maintaining and improving academic quality. CHEA counts approximately 3,000 academic institutions as members and currently recognizes 59 accrediting organizations. CHEA has six standards by which it reviews accrediting organizations for recognition. The standards place primary emphasis on academic quality assurance and improvement for an institution or program. They require accreditors to advance academic quality, demonstrate accountability, encourage purposeful change and needed improvement, employ appropriate and fair procedures in decision making, continually reassess accreditation practices and sustain fiscal stability. CHEA accreditors are normally reviewed on a 10-year cycle with two interim reports. The review is carried out by the CHEA committee on recognition, a group of institutional representatives, accreditors and public members who scrutinize accreditors for their eligibility for CHEA recognition and review accreditors based on an accreditor self-evaluation. The review may also include a site visit. The committee on recognition makes recommendations to the CHEA governing board to affirm or deny recognition to an accreditor.

CHEA faces substantial public education challenges, including helping the public to better understand accreditation in U.S. and to distinguish between the recognition of accrediting agencies conducted by the U.S. Secretary of Education, and those recognized by private nongovernmental associations, such as CHEA.

CHEA recognition of accreditors differs from recognition by the U.S. Secretary of Education because it does not play a role in the disbursement of Title IV (HEA) student financial aid and loan guarantees, whereas accreditor recognition by the U.S. Department of Education is required for Title IV eligibility. Visit: CHEA Website

United States department of education (USDE):

Assuring that accrediting organizations contribute to maintaining the soundness of institutions and programs that receive federal funds. USDE recognition standards place primary emphasis on whether an institution or program is of sufficient quality to qualify for federal funds for student financial aid and other federal programs. These standards require accreditors to maintain criteria or standards in specific areas: student achievement, curricula, faculty, facilities (includes equipment and supplies), fiscal and administrative capacity, student support services, recruiting and admissions practices, measures of program length and objectives of degrees or credentials offered, record of student complaints and record of compliance with program responsibilities for student aid as required by the 1965 federal Higher Education Act (Title IV) as amended. Visit: USDE Website

What if the school I choose isn't accredited?

Accrediting institutions in foreign countries?

The U. S. Department of Education does not accredit institutions in foreign countries. However, the Secretary of Education does appoint members to the National Committee on Foreign Medical Education and Accreditation. The law gives that Committee the responsibility for reviewing the standards that foreign countries use to accredit medical schools to determine whether those standards are comparable to the standards used to accredit medical schools in the United States. The comparability decisions made by the Committee affect whether U.S. students attending foreign medical schools can receive loans under the Federal Family Education Loan Program.

Accreditation of Institutions of Higher (Postsecondary) Education

There are two basic types of educational accreditation, one referred to as "institutional" and the other referred to as "specialized" or "programmatic."

Beginning postsecondary students at both public and private, not-for-profit 4-year institutions were more likely to cite reputation as the most important reason for attending than any other reason. However, students at public institutions were more likely than those at private, not-for- profit institutions to give location or price as the most important reason, and less likely to cite reputation. In contrast to 4-year students, beginning students at public 2-year institutions were about as likely to cite location as they were to cite reputation as the most important reason.

A Public postsecondary institution operated by publicly elected or appointed officials where the program and activities are under the control of these officials and that is supported primarily by public funds. A Private, not-for-profit postsecondary institution that is controlled by an independent governing board and incorporated under Section 501(c)(3) of the Internal Revenue Code. A Private/ for-profit postsecondary institution that is privately owned and operated as a profit-making enterprise. These institutions include career colleges and proprietary institutions.

Institutional accreditation normally applies to an entire institution, indicating that each of an institution's parts is contributing to the achievement of the institution's objectives, although not necessarily all at the same level of quality. The various commissions of the regional accrediting agencies, for example, perform institutional accreditation, as do many national accrediting agencies.

Specialized or programmatic accreditation normally applies to programs, departments, or schools that are parts of an institution. The accredited unit may be as large as a college or school within a university or as small as a curriculum within a discipline. Most of the specialized or programmatic accrediting agencies review units within an institution of higher education that is accredited by one of the regional accrediting agencies. However, certain accrediting agencies also accredit professional schools and other specialized or vocational institutions of higher education that are freestanding in their operations. Thus, a "specialized" or "programmatic" accrediting agency may also function in the capacity of an "institutional" accrediting agency. In addition, a number of specialized accrediting agencies accredit educational programs within non-educational settings, such as hospitals.

Note: The U.S. Department of Education does not have the authority to accredit private or public elementary or secondary schools, and the Department does not recognize accrediting bodies for the accreditation of private or public elementary and secondary schools. However, the U.S. Department of Education does recognize accrediting bodies for the accreditation of institutions of higher (postsecondary) education. If an accrediting body which is recognized by the Department for higher education also accredits elementary and secondary schools, the Department's recognition applies only to the agency's accreditation of postsecondary institutions.

Check whether your institution is accredited or not:

U.S. Department of Education Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs: Click here
Database of Institutions and Programs Accredited by Recognized United States Accrediting Organizations: Click here

Recommended Reading:
Financial Aid For Postsecondary Students Accreditation in the United States: describes Accreditation Functions, Procedure and Types, Accrediting Agency Evaluation Unit, Recognition Process for Accrediting Agencies, Application for Recognition and more.

An overview of U.S. accreditation: describes about the council for higher education accreditation (CHEA), CHEA (nongovernmental) recognition standards, types of u.s. accrediting organizations, how u.s. accreditation is organized, the roles of accreditation, values and beliefs of accreditation, how u.s. accreditation is funded, the operation of u.s. accreditation, recognition of accrediting organizations and how recognition operates, United States department of education (USDE), federal (governmental) recognition standards, how recognition is funded and more.

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