Department of Education database for accreditation

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. 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 considered accredited by that agency.

List of accrediting agencies

Accreditation is generally divided into two segments: institutional accreditation and specialized accreditation. 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. Institutional accrediting agencies are further divided into regional accreditors, which accredit most of the public and some private institutions in a specific section of the United States, and national accreditors, which accredit many private vocational schools and colleges regardless of location

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 institutional accrediting commissions. However, certain accrediting agencies also accredit professional schools and other specialized or vocational institutions of higher education that are free-standing in their operations. Thus, a specialized or programmatic accrediting agency may also function in the capacity of an institutional accrediting agency.

In order to be sure the accrediting group is reliable, you should be sure the accreditation is granted by an association recognized by the U.S. Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. 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. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) is a private nonprofit national organization that coordinates accreditation activities in the United States. CHEA is the only nongovernmental higher education organization that formally scrutinizes and certifies the quality of accrediting organizations.