A mechanism developed to ensure that education provided by institutions of higher education meets acceptable levels of quality, accreditation is both a status and a process. As a status, accreditation provides public notification that an institution or program meets standards of quality set forth by an accreditation agency. As a process, accreditation reflects the institution's or program's committment to self-study and external review by its peers—not only to meet standards, but to continuously enhance the quality of education and training provided.
Accreditation agencies are private educational associations that develop evaluation criteria and conduct peer evaluations to assess whether these criteria are met. Institutions or programs must meet an agency's criteria to be accredited by that agency.
Accreditation agencies operate through three different types of organizations:
- Regional accreditation agencies perform the accreditation process in six respective regions of the United States: Middle States, New England, North Central, Northwest, Southern, and Western. Regional accreditation is institutional in scope. Middle States Commission on Higher Education is the regional accrediting agency for New York, Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and several locations internationally. Teachers College has been accredited continuously by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education since 1921. More . . .
- National accreditation agencies operate throughout the United States and are limited in scope to specific types of institutions such as those providing teacher education, distance education, or religious instruction. Professional education programs at Teachers College that prepare personnel for K-12 schools (teachers, principals, psychologists, and counselors) constitute the "unit" accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education since 2005. More . . .
- Specialized or professional accreditation agencies review specific disciplines or professions. A number of programs at Teachers College are accredited by specialized professional accreditation agencies, including programs in psychology, teacher education, and dietetics. More . . .