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Are you ready for accreditation?

Are you ready for accreditation?

Good question. And like the answer to most big questions, the answer is “it depends.” It depends on your institution. It depends on the accreditation you want to pursue. And it depends on that accrediting body’s regulations.* But in general, there are a few ways to tell when you’re ready.

1. Are you licensed? Your institution, and all programs offered, must be licensed by the regulatory body that oversees schools in the state in which your institution resides. Typically, the regulatory body is the state post-secondary education board, but depending upon the type of training being offered, the regulator could also be a state cosmetology board, department of health, or other entity. Know the rules in your state.

If your institution resides in more than one state, you must have a license in every state. If your school is exempt from licensing by state regulation, you should have a letter from the state verifying exempt status.

2. Have you been operating for at least two years? Most accrediting agencies require at least two years of continuous operations before you can apply for accreditation. That means two years of students actively enrolled, while you were operating under an approved state license.

“If your institution resides in more than one state, you must have a license in every state. If your school is exempt from licensing by state regulation, you should have a letter from the state verifying exempt status.”

3. Are you financially sound? To gain accreditation a school must be financially viable. Most regulatory agencies look for at least a 1:1 ratio of assets to liabilities. A school that is in danger of going out of business or desperate for Title IV funding is not a safe bet for an accrediting body. If your school is just below the 1:1 benchmark, it may not be a deal breaker—but be prepared for a more challenging pathway and additional work.

4. Have you had at least one graduating class? Typically, schools must have at least one graduating class from the longest program to be eligible to apply for accreditation. If you don’t have graduates, you may have to hold your application.

5. What’s your student success rate? One of the measures of a quality institution is that students complete programs. If those programs are career related, another important measure is whether students find jobs. Though measures vary, in general, 70% is a good indicator of quality. That means 70% of students complete your training programs, and that 70% of those graduates are placed in training-related employment.

In addition, if you want to apply for accreditation, you should be able to demonstrate all of these:

A strong, ethical operational foundation
Sound policies and written procedures that are followed and documented
Proven curriculum adhering to best practices and meeting industry requirements

Without these solid foundational elements, even a school that meets the minimum requirements to apply may not go through accreditation successfully.

"If you want to be accredited, you’ll need to be able to demonstrate a strong, ethical operational foundation, sound policies and written procedures that are followed and documented, and proven curriculum adhering to best practices and meeting industry requirements.”