| UNIVERSITY ACCREDITATION IN VIRGINIA
| Accreditation is a form of independent, professional certification that focuses on schools and programs in a particular field. Accreditation of universities and colleges in each state therefore assures you and your parents that the schools adhere to high quality standards. Which means the programs are delivered by qualified faculty and are constantly updated to follow the changes and meet the needs of the relevant industry or working world. Attending an accredited school or program is often thought to make you more competitive on the job market.
Please note that the information below is a general guide for students researching American universities and colleges, and is applicable to schools in all states. For the most current and specific details, students should therefore also refer to individual state higher education agencies, as well as individual universities and colleges.
Accreditation of institutions of higher education in the US takes place at different levels. On one hand, governmental and other agencies oversee and recognize the accrediting bodies. For instance, the US Department of Education, the Council for Higher Education Association (CHEA) and the Association of Specialized and Professional Accreditors (ASPA) grant power to associations that handle accreditation at the regional, institutional or program level.
Regional: The US Department of Education recognizes 6 distinct higher educational regions, each of which is overseen by a different accrediting body. This is the type of accreditation most commonly referred to and is for a university or college as a whole, not for individual programs. Accreditation by these regional agencies isn't automatic: this is voluntary accreditation.
Regional Accrediting Agencies for Universities in the USA
Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Higher Education
New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Commission on Institutions of Higher Education
North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission
Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities
Institutional: Depending on the kind of university or college it is (e.g., private, public, Christian, etc.) it may also be accredited by institute-type specific agencies. America's universities and colleges are extremely different in character, size, location and in the programs they offer. Therefore a school may be accredited by one or more organizations.
Specialized: Specialized accreditation focuses on specific areas of study and individual university and college programs. This is sometimes called professional accreditation, because it means specific programs meet the national standards for that field of study. Each state's universities and colleges cover a huge range of programs, and each institution usually has a page on its website listing both institutional and individual program accreditation.
When assessing quality, international students can also look at whether a school or program has any memberships in, or endorsements by, professional associations which reflect certain standards of quality, but this is not the same as official accreditation. For instance, the American Association of State Colleges and Universities does not accredit programs, but is a national organization committed to maintaining and promoting the quality of America's higher education system.
The goal of university and college accreditation is to ensure that the education provided meets acceptable levels of quality. Accrediting agencies have no legal control over institutions or programs; they promote certain standards and approve or renew membership of institutions that apply and meet the accreditation standards or criteria. Certain licensing programs may require that you've been through a course of study with specialized accreditation, because it ensures that you have been taught by faculty qualified to teach in that field. The US Secretary of Education and CHEA each maintain and publish a list of nationally recognized accrediting agencies, and most institutions attain eligibility for Federal funds by holding accredited or pre-accredited status with one of the recognized accrediting agencies.