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Accreditation basics: types of accreditation

When you’re looking at accreditation, you’re likely coming up with lots of questions. What type of accreditation does my school need? Which accrediting agency is right for my school? Does my school even need to get accredited?

In this post, let’s cover one of the basics: accreditation types. Luckily, there are just two main types.

Programmatic

Also called specialized accreditation, it’s accreditation for a program or a group of programs within an institution.

What they do Accrediting agencies that grant programmatic accreditation are experts in specific curriculum areas and set program standards accordingly. For example, an agency may only accredit culinary programs. Or, they may be even more specific, dealing with only certain program titles, like EMT or Paramedic programs. Many programmatic accrediting agencies exist, and they cover many types of programs.

Why you should pursue it: It validates your commitment to program excellence and commitment to continual improvement.It may be required by an industry. For example, a student may have to graduate from an accredited program in order to sit for a licensing exam for certain occupations.

Why you might not: Programmatic accreditation does not lead a program to Title IV eligibility. Institutions should spend some time researching accrediting agencies to decide which is the best fit.

Institutional

Institutional accreditation, as you have probably already guessed, is the accreditation of an entire institution, including all courses and programs offered within.

What they do: Institutional accreditors hold all programs and services to a certain standard. Many institutional accreditors are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Some work with institutions offering multiple types of programs. Some work with institutions offering training in a specific industry or skill, like healthcare or culinary. Some only work with institutions providing a majority of programs via distance learning.

Why you should pursue it: The variety of agencies means that there is a right fit for any institution that wants to gain institutional accreditation. Institutional accreditation can be voluntary or required. Most vocational certificate schools can choose whether or not to become accredited based on their own goals. However, for post-secondary schools offering degree level programs, the regulatory agency at the state level may require that the institution seek accreditation.

ESL institutions that want to offer visas to international students must obtain institutional accreditation.

It qualifies schools to seek Title IV funding approval. However, there are stipulations for certain institutional accreditors, set by the US Department of Education, which must be met. And of course, Title IV has its own program eligibility requirements that must be met as well.