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Accreditation ABCs

Who is CHEA?

CHEA is a trade association of accrediting agencies, both those such as CAAHEP which accredit educational programs, and those regional and national accreditors that accredit higher education institutions. Here's how CHEA explains the importance of accreditation on the CHEA website.


“Accreditation” is the primary means of assuring and improving the quality of higher education institutions and programs in the United States. Active for the past 100 years, this private, voluntary system of selfexamination and peer review has been central to the creation of a U.S. higher education enterprise that is outstanding in many respects.


Accreditation is

  1. The primary public symbol of legitimate higher education for over 100 years
    * A key litmus test of threshold academic quality
    * 7,000 higher education institutions and more than 19,000 programs are accredited
  2. The primary “reliable authority” for federal and state governments funding for higher education
    * Accreditation required for student access to federal and state grants and loans
    * Accreditation required for institution and program access to
    * Other federal funds for research and programs and
    * State funds for operating
  3. The primary reliable authority for private sector financial support for higher education
    * Accreditation required to obtain private foundation support
    * Accreditation required to obtain corporate support: gifts, research and tuition assistance
  4. A major source of protection against fraud and abuse for students and consumers
    * Primary bulwark against degree mills and accreditation mills
  5. Successful in encouraging major innovation while maintaining quality over the years, such as
    * The development of community colleges
    * The advent of distance learning
    * The growth of for-profit higher education
  6. Cost-efficient in the use of resources to achieve its goals
    * Expended more than $92 million in 2006−2007
    * Operated 80 recognized accrediting organizations with 650 full- and part-time staff
    * Involved more than 18,000 volunteers
    * Took major action with regard to approximately 2,495 institutions and 3,965 programs
  7. Central to states carrying out licensure of the professions
    * Many states require that professional programs are accredited
    * Many states require that individuals who sit for licensure examinations in the professions have graduated from accredited programs
  8. Essential to international mobility
    * Vital to international students, governments and higher education institutions for
    * Judgments about transfer of credit
    * Judgments about recognition of qualifications and degrees
    * Judgments about entry to U.S. higher education from other countries
  9. Responsive to current climate of accountability
    * Equipped to meet current challenges
    * Significant progress with student learning outcomes
    * Significant progress with institutional performance
    * Major progress in greater transparency
    * Major progress with transfer of credit
  10. Vital to maintaining key features of higher education that have contributed to the enterprise as among the best in the world
    * A diverse array of institutions
    * A mission-based system
    * Responsible institutional independence for academic judgment
    * Responsible academic freedom
  11. Accreditation is
    * A highly successful and well-tested system of quality assurance and quality improvement
    * An outstanding example of an effective public-private partnership
    * An outstanding example of reliable and responsible self-regulation