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College Accreditation Basics In The U.S.

Who Grants Accreditation To Colleges And Universities?

You may be surprised to learn that the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) does not actually accredit colleges or universities anywhere in the country, whether they be traditional schools or online schools. While the USDE plays a role in indentifying accrediting agencies who work to maintain quality among the universities and colleges they accredit, the ultimate responsibility of making certain that the college you choose to attend is accredited is up to you. With that in mind, the information provided here on accreditation is designed to assist you in understanding how accreditation works and how to determine the accreditation of the college or university that interests you.

What Is The Role Of The U. S. Department Of Education?

While the USDE does not accredit colleges and universities itself, it does identify and recognize nationally accredited agencies who grant accreditation. To become a nationally recognized Agency, the Secretary of the USDE must determine that the quality of the criteria used by the agencies can and will adequately assess the schools for quality assurance when they apply for accreditation.

The Secretary of the USDE is required by law to publish a list of nationally recognized accrediting agencies determined to be trustworthy authorities to provide accreditation to institutions of higher learning. It is important to know that the Secretary evaluates only those accrediting agencies which request recognition by the USDE.

To learn more about the criteria used by the U. S. Department of Education to determine the quality of evaluating / accrediting agencies, please visit

What Is An Accrediting Agency?

Accrediting agencies are private educational organizations that are either regional or national. Their job is to develop evaluation criteria for colleges and universities within their particular range. They then determine whether or not each school that applies for accreditation meets the criteria by providing quality educational programs. This is determined in a variety of methods such as self-evaluation, peer reviews and site visits by teams of people who work diligently to make these determinations. When a school shows that their education programs meet the necessary criteria, then the school is deemed accredited by that particular agency.