Accreditation Process

What is the process for obtaining accreditation?

In order to be considered for accreditation by NWCCU, a school must:

  • Primarily exist to provide higher learning/higher education;
  • Have similar characteristics to other higher education institutions; and,
  • Meet the Eligibility Requirements, Standards for Accreditation, and Policies that NWCCU has adopted.

What do we mean by these Requirements?

  • We ask that institutions have programs that are degree related and that those programs are designed to build on knowledge, abilities, or skills that students normally would have achieved by completing high school or a similar form of education.
  • We ask that the programs at an institution are based on knowledge that is verified by competent experts.
  • We require that the institution must also continue to meet the Eligibility Requirements, the Standards for Accreditation, and the Policies that NWCCU has put in place to make sure institutions are effective, offer a high-quality education, and are constantly working to improve.

Curious about the Eligibility Requirements, Standards, and Policies? Read more here.

There are three main phases for an institution that is working to become accredited:

  1. Applicant – lasts for one to three years
  2. Candidate for Accreditation – lasts for up to (but no more than) five years
  3. Member (Accredited) Institution – begins with Initial Accreditation and starts the seven-year accreditation cycle

Although becoming a Candidate institution is a status that is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as a pre-accreditation status, institutions are not actually considered Accredited until they have achieved Initial Accreditation and become member institutions.

So what does membership look like?

Once a school is accredited, they have a schedule of accreditation-related activities known as the seven-year cycle, as well as the constant obligation to abide by the Eligibility Requirements, Standards, and Policies of NWCCU.

These activities include:

  • A yearly institutional update report;
  • Scheduled self-study reports in the first, third, and seventh year of the institution’s cycle;
  • Any additional reports requested by the Board of Commissioners; and,
  • Reporting any changes that fall under the Commission’s Substantive Change Policy.

Throughout the seven-year cycle, every institution is reviewed by NWCCU staff, teams of peer evaluators, and the Board of Commissioners in order to be sure that the institution is improving any problem areas, is still an effective school, offers a high-quality education, and is working to fulfill its mission.

The process of becoming and staying accredited is explained in much more detail in the Accreditation Handbook. You are welcome to download a PDF copy of the Accreditation Handbook here.