It is incorporated as a legally established, private 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation for the expressed purpose of accrediting higher education institutions in the seven-state Northwest region which includes Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington. Membership and organization of the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities is set forth in its Bylaws.
NWCCU is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as the authority on the educational quality and institutional effectiveness of higher education institutions in the seven-state Northwest region of Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington. The Commission also recognizes higher education institutions internationally, including Canada. NWCCU is also recognized by the Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).
The Commission oversees regional accreditation for 162 institutions. Its decision-making body consists of up to twenty-six Commissioners who represent the public and the diversity of higher education institutions within the Northwest region.
The mission of the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) is to assure educational quality, enhance institutional effectiveness, and foster continuous improvement of colleges and universities in the Northwest region through analytical institutional self-assessment and critical peer review based upon evaluation criteria that are objectively and equitably applied to institutions with diverse missions, characteristics, and cultures.
Institutions accredited or preaccredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities are required to examine their own missions, goals, operations, and achievements. It then provides expert analysis by peer evaluators, and, later, commendations for accomplishments and recommendations for improvement from the accrediting body. Since the accreditation status of an institution is reviewed periodically, institutions are encouraged toward continued self-study and improvement. NWCCU fulfills its mission by establishing accreditation criteria and evaluation procedures by which institutions are reviewed.
NWCCU is a voluntary, nongovernmental organization for the improvement of educational institutions founded in 1917. Originally known as the Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges Commission on Colleges and Universities, the connection between the association of secondary schools and the Commission on Colleges and Universities was severed in 2002, and the Commission was renamed the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities and its predecessors have been listed since 1952 by the U.S. Department of Education as a nationally recognized accrediting agency for institutions offering programs of at least one academic year in length at the postsecondary level. The Commission’s recognition was most recently reaffirmed by the Department in 2018.
Regional accreditation is a process of recognizing educational institutions for performance, integrity, and quality that entitles them to the confidence of the educational community and the public. In the United States this recognition is extended largely through nongovernmental, voluntary membership associations that establish accreditation criteria, evaluate institutions against that criteria, and approving institutions that meet the criteria.
While accreditation criteria and procedures of regional accrediting agencies differ from region to region, the principles underlying eligibility and levels of expectation are similar in their intent to:
When granted, accreditation by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities is not limited or partial. It applies to the entire institution in operation at the time of the most recent comprehensive evaluation. It indicates that the institution as a whole is substantially achieving its mission and that it meets the Commission’s expectations for compliance with the accreditation criteria.