The Accreditation Process

What is Accreditation?

Accreditation is a voluntary quality assurance process for educational institutions, wherein a comprehensive and objective process of outside peer review is used to determine whether an institution or program meets the standards of the accrediting body in institutional and/or educational quality and effectiveness. ACCET provides institutional accreditation for its members. For more information, please refer to ACCET Document 1 – The Accreditation Process

What are the benefits of ACCET Accreditation?

Please refer to our Benefits of Accreditation page.

What is the difference between institutional and programmatic accreditation?

Institutional accreditation (for institutions not already accredited by an agency recognized by the U.S Department of Education) is the process that evaluates and attests to the institution’s compliance with the standards of the accrediting agency in all areas of the organization, including goals and planning, management, finances, curricula, instructional staff and delivery, admissions and student services, and evaluation. Institutions that are already accredited by an agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education (U.S.D.E.) may also seek programmatic accreditation for certain programs, in order for the graduates of these programs to be eligible, upon graduation, to sit for nationally recognized programmatic certification. Programmatic accreditation is offered by some agencies recognized by the U.S.D.E. ACCET does not offer programmatic accreditation to its members; however, institutions accredited by ACCET may offer programs that have programmatic accreditation through another accrediting agency.

What types of institutions are eligible for ACCET accreditation?

ACCET accredits institutions that offer vocational and/or avocational programs that may include short courses, programs offered at the certificate, diploma, and degree levels, as well as courses and programs offered via interactive distance learning. ACCET does not accredit institutions that offer programs longer than an Associate’s Degree, or institutions that offer cosmetology programs. The following are types of institutions that may be eligible for ACCET accreditation: Trade and professional associations Private career schools Corporate training departments Intensive English programs (IEPs) Social service, volunteer and personal development organizations

What are the institutional requirements for accreditation?

The basic requirements for ACCET accreditation are that the institution: Meets applicable state licensing requirements. Can demonstrate continuous, on-going and successful operation of the institution in the delivery of education and/or training programs for at least two consecutive years immediately prior to application. Has not had a prior accreditation withdrawn from a nationally recognized accrediting agency, nor has it voluntarily withdrawn under a show cause action, within one year prior to application to ACCET. Has been under the same ownership and/or control for at least two (2) years immediately prior to application. Is an educational establishment that offers post-secondary certificates, diplomas, or degrees up to the Associate’s level. If the institution offers more advanced degrees, specifically at the Bachelor’s degree level and above, that entity will not be eligible for accreditation. Please refer to our Eligibility Requirements for more information.

How long does the process take?

While there is no fixed, definitive timeframe for completing the accreditation review process, twelve (12) to eighteen (18) months is a reasonable estimate for an institution committed to a serious investment of the necessary effort and resources. An initial application expires one year from the date of receipt at ACCET, unless officially accepted along with the subsequent receipt of an ASER/BASER, request for on-site visit and fees within that timeframe. Applicants scheduled for an on-site evaluation during a specified review cycle (April, August, or December) are required to timely submit the appropriate documentation and fees. ACCET’s workload and logistical factors may necessitate the rescheduling of the visit(s) for a subsequent review cycle. Please refer to our Review Schedule for more information.

What are the steps in the accreditation process?

Please refer to the Accreditation Process and the Process of Initial Accreditation flowchart for more information.

How much does initial accreditation cost?

The overall cost of the initial application process is determined by the scope of the institution’s programs and the number of its locations. The on-site visit team requires a curriculum specialist for each of the various types of programs offered by the institution, and offering more than one type of program and additional locations will raise the cost of the site visit fees. Please refer to ACCET’s Fee Schedule (Document 10) for more information.

Costs include the initial inquiry, initial application, workshop attendance, readiness visit, and the on-site visit. A member of the ACCET Application Review Committee can help you estimate the total cost more accurately. Please call the office and we will arrange a time to speak with you.

Am I guaranteed accreditation if I pay?

Final determination of the institution’s accreditation status is made by ACCET’s Commission at the end of each accreditation cycle, and following review of the site visit team report and any additional information submitted in response to the team report by the institution. At that time, the Commission may vote to approve, defer (until such time as the Commission determines that the institution meets all ACCET requirements), or deny accreditation for the instituion.

When do I need to attend an accreditation workshop and why?

Attendance at an accreditation workshop by a member of the institution is a requirement for those undergoing initial accreditation and for accredited institutions that are in a reaccreditation cycle. During initial accreditaion, the applicant cannot attend a workshop until the Initial Inquiry has been approved. It is recommended that the applicant attend prior to the submission of the Application for Accreditation, and required that they attend before the ASER is submitted. Institutions that are undergoing reaccreditation must send a representative from that institution to a workshop prior to the submission of their ASER. The workshops are designed to provide a review of any recent updates to ACCET’s policies and procedures, and an in-depth study of the ACCET accreditation process in order to assist the institution in the preparation of the ASER, the on-site evaluation, and the actions of the Commission.

What is an ASER?

The Analytical Self Evaluation Report (ASER) is a self study report, and part of both the initial accreditation and reaccreditation processes, that is completed by the institution and based on one or more templates (institutional and programmatic) provided by ACCET. The ASER addresses specific questions related to ACCET’s eight standards and serves as a structured resume on the institution’s history, mission, management, coursework, admissions, academic policies, and quality measures, along with plans for continued improvement and growth. As responses to each of the questions that follow the standards in this guideline are addressed, it should be apparent that the process purposefully provokes a critical self-evaluation that the subsequent on-site review team will be required to verify and/or challenge on the basis of actual operational activities and observable results. During this process, issues may arise that mandate some revision to policies, procedures, and/or practices; this should be viewed as a positive attribute of the accreditation process to inspire self-analysis and improvement. Further, it is designed to be a team effort among all institutional members, requiring a high level of commitment, input, and interaction across a broad cross-section of staff and faculty; questions, ideas, and proposals raised in the course of preparing the eASER are team development opportunities.

Does ACCET offer 'candidate' or 'pre-accreditation' status?

No. “Candidate status” is made available by some accrediting agencies for institutions that offer degree granting programs that are two years or longer in length, and when the length of the accreditation process may be two years or more. These agencies may offer the institution a “candidate” or “pre-accreditation” status with some of the recognition of accreditation, without having completed the accreditation process. ACCET does not recognize “candidate” status or any “pre-accreditation” status that would allow applicants any of the recognition or benefits of accreditation prior to Commission approval and the granting of accreditation.

Are institutional or programmatic changes allowed during the accreditation process?

Prior to the submission of the ASER, any revisions to the information contained in the Application, must be accompanied by an addendum to the Document 4 – Application for Accreditation, with appropriate exhibits and a narrative explanation accordingly; however, once the ASER has been submitted to ACCET, no substantive changes in the institution’s operations will be processed or further considered for ACCET approval until after the Accrediting Commission has met, reviewed, and taken final action upon the application for initial accreditation. Substantive changes include, but are not limited to, new programs, major program/course modifications, additional sites, and relocations out of the general market area. Since the eASER presents a comprehensive picture at a given point in time, the Commission wishes to ensure that the accreditation process is accurately focused on a stable representation of the institution’s operations.

Does ACCET accredit institutions outside the US?

ACCET currently accredits institutions and their branches in North and South America, Puerto Rico, and the Middle East.

Does ACCET accredit institutions that offer distance learning programs or degrees?

Accet accredits institutions offering programs that are taught entirely or in part by interactive distance learning, that do not exceed an Associates Degree in length.

What is the role of the Commission in accreditation?

The Accrediting Commission consists of no fewer than eleven (11) nor more than fifteen (15) members. The Accrediting Commission manages the administrative and fiscal affairs of ACCET and serves as the judicial body with final authority to interpret and apply the Standards for Accreditation in determining whether or not an applicant meets the published criteria for accreditation. The Commission decides, based upon the eligibility criteria, whether it is competent to apply the ACCET Standards to specific educational programs. The Commission is responsible for submitting proposed changes in the eligibility requirements and the Standards for Accreditation, to the membership for review and approval. The Commission may adopt such policies and procedures as it deems necessary with regard to the accreditation process. Five members of the Accrediting Commission must be from the public, unaffiliated with the ACCET membership. Additional public and consumer representatives may be appointed to advise the Commission. Commission meetings are held three times per year, in addition to an annual conference and such special meetings as approved by the Commission in accordance with the ACCET Bylaws.

Who determines the ACCET standards and how often are they evaluated?

The ACCET Standards for Accreditation are under constant monitoring and review by the Accrediting Commission and periodically, at intervals no greater than every five years, are submitted to the membership and to other interested parties for review and comment.

Will I be able to offer CEUs if I become accredited?

ACCET accredited organizations are authorized to offer the Continuing Education Unit, which is commonly recognized as a standard unit of measure for attributing continuing education and training activities, particularly as it applies to the personal and professional development of adult learners in a formalized, educational setting.

Once accredited, is the institution eligible to offer federal student financial aid?

Vocational institutions that are accredited by a regional or national accrediting agency that is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education are eligible to seek approval for federal student aid monies, such as Pell Grants, Stafford Loans, Perkins Loans, and Guaranteed Student Loans, dependant upon the length and types of programs offered by the institution. For additional information on Title IV financial aid programs, institutional requirements, and application of a Program Participation Agreement (PPA) with the Department of Education (DOE), please visit their website at or call (202) 377-3173.

Once accredited, what are the ongoing requirements to maintain accreditation?

The ongoing requirements for accreditation are the submission of three annual reports: Financial, Enrollment, and Completion&Placement (vocational schools only), and the payment of annual sustaining fees. Please refer to our page on Maintaining Accreditation

Member Reaccreditation

How often must an institution undergo reaccreditation?

Accreditation can be granted for a minimum of one year but cannot exceed five years. Following the initial grant of accreditation, institutions will be required to apply for re-accreditation by completing the full process, including an application, eASER/BASER(s), and on-site reexamination(s) prior to the expiration date cited in their letter of accreditation from ACCET. Reaccreditation applicants should refer to ACCET Document 45 – Steps to Follow for Reaccreditation. ACCET reserves the right to require an on-site examination at any time it determines that circumstances warrant such action.

What is the cost of reaccreditation?

Please refer to ACCET’s Fee Schedule for more information.

What are the steps in the reaccreditation process? (Doc 45)

Please refer to the Reaccreditation Process for more information.

How does ACCET determine whether the member institution meets accreditation standards?

When is Annual Reporting due? (Timelines and Tutorial)

Document 12 – Annual Reporting  The determination is made by the Commission, following review and analysis of the team report written following the team visit, and any additional information supplied by the institution in response to that report.

Do member institutions ever lose accredited status?

Yes. Accreditation is only granted in terms of one, three, or five years. At the end of an institution’s term of accreditation, it must reapply for accreditation and repeat the Accreditation process to maintain their accredited status. An institution may resign its accreditation status at any time, or accreditation may be withdrawn by the Commission should the institution fall out of compliance with ACCET standards.