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are operating at basic levels of quality. The procedures of these

accrediting commissions and associations usually involve five basic


1. Establishment of educational standards in collaboration with

educational institutions and other appropriate constituencies;

2. Conduct of institutional or program self-study by applicants for accreditation under the guidance of the accrediting body;

3. On-site evaluation by a team of peers, selected by the accrediting body, in order to determine first-hand if the institution's objectives and the accrediting body's standards are being met;

4. Publication of the accredited status of those institutions or

programs which are determined by the accrediting body to have met its standards;

5. Periodic reevaluation of accredited institutions or programs to determine whether or not they continue to meet the established standards. The nongovernmental accrediting agencies fall into two major

categories--institutional and specialized.

Institutional accreditation

is conducted by agencies such as the commissions of the six regional accrediting associations. For example, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools maintains four accrediting commissions--one for elementary schools, one for secondary schools, one for vocational schools, and one for degree-granting collegiate institutions.


Each regional association maintains at least one commission on higher education and one on secondary education. Two associations have established commissions for postsecondary occupational education and one has established a commission on elementary schools. Institutional accreditation applies to the total institution and signifies that the institution as a whole is achieving its objectives satisfactorily.

Specialized accreditation is conferred by a number of organizations which are national in scope, rather than regional, and each of which represent a specialized area, such as architecture, business, law, medicine, or teacher education. A primary purpose of specialized

accreditation is to protect the public against professional or occupational incompetence. A majority of the programs evaluated by such agencies are located in regionally accredited institutions.

However, most of the

national specialized accrediting groups, in addition to accrediting programs within institutions, also accredit some specialized institutions which are not accredited by regional association commissions. Relatively recent newcomers to the accreditation scene are the specialized agencies dealing with the private (mostly for-profit) vocational sector of education, including business, cosmetology, home study education, and trade and technical education. These agencies deal with education located outside of the college and university sector, and, therefore, with varying emphases, evaluate both institutional and programmatic aspects of their educational universe.


History of Criteria for Listing Nationally Recognized Accrediting Agencies and Associations

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Although the Office of Education has dealt with accrediting agencies throughout much of its history, it was not until the enactment of the Veterans' Readjustment Assistance Act of 1952 (P.L. 82-550) that the U.S. Commissioner of Education was required, for the first time, to publish a list of nationally recognized accrediting agencies and associations which he determined to be reliable authority as to the quality of training offered by an educational institution. This statutory provision was subsequently restated in at least 14 major Federal aid-to-education legislative acts. In October 1952, subsequent to the passage of the Veterans' Readjustment Assistance Act, Criteria for the Recognition of National Accrediting Agencies and an initial list of 28 agencies so recognized were published. By 1967, there were 36 agencies listed by

the Commissioner.

The 1952 Criteria remained in effect until January 16, 1969, when the current Criteria for determining nationally recognized accrediting agencies and associations were published in the Federal Register. By 1972, the Commissioner's list of recognized accrediting agencies had grown to 47, and by May of this year, 61 agencies were listed. Some ten additional accrediting agencies are in varying stages of petitioning the Commissioner for recognition and listing.

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On March 1, 1974, revised Criteria for Nationally Recognized Accrediting Agencies and Associations were published under Notice of Proposed Rule Making in the Federal Register. The final version of these new criteria are currently in process of being published. We anticipate that they will become effective soon. A further revision of the criteria will be published by June 30, 1975. Features of the proposed revised Criteria may be grouped into four broad categories which seek to insure the functionality, responsibility, reliability, and autonomy of nationally recognized accrediting agencies. More specifically, these elements include, in operation, the following: Functionality: An accrediting agency should be regional or


national in its scope of operations and maintain a clear definition of its activities, both as to geographic area and nature and type of institutions or programs covered. It should have adequate administrative and financial support to carry out its accrediting programs, and should have access to a sufficient number of competent and knowledgeable personnel to participate on visiting teams, on its decision-making committee, and as consultants. The agency shall also have developed clearly written procedures for each level of accreditation status, including institutional or program selfanalysis and on-site reviews by a visiting team.

b. Responsibility:

Considerations here include: a clearly identified need for accreditation by the agency in the field in which it operates; responsiveness to the public interest; adequate provisions for due process in accrediting procedures; demonstrated capability and willingness to foster ethical practices among the institutions or programs which it accredits; a program of evaluation of educational standards.



Reliability: The agency demonstrates wide acceptance of its policies, procedures, and decisions: regular review of its standards

and procedures; experience as an accrediting agency; and representation in its policy and decision-making bodies of the community of interests directly affected by the scope of its accreditation.

d. Autonomy: The agency must demonstrate the autonomy and

independence of its decisions from outside influences.

It is noteworthy that these revised Criteria place increased emphasis upon accrediting agencies' responsibility to the public interest and their reliability of operations.

Whereas the various versions of the Criteria for Nationally recognized Accrediting Agencies and Associations have been the Office's instrument for directly supporting constructive change in the area of accreditation as it relates to the eligibility process, the Office has funded or supported a number of projects over the past six years designed to improve indirectly the effectiveness of the eligibility determination


1. Study of Accreditation of Vocational-Technical Curricula in Postsecondary Institutions, conducted by the Center for Research and Development in Higher Education of the University of California under contract with the Office of Education;

2. National Study for Accreditation of Vocational/Technical Education, conducted by the American Vocational Association under contract with the Office of Education;

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