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Accreditation is the recognition that an institution maintains standards requisite for its graduates to gain admission to other reputable institutions of higher learning or to achieve credentials for professional practice. The goal of accreditation is to ensure that education provided by institutions of higher education meets acceptable levels of quality.

Institutions and/or programs that request an agency's evaluation and that meet an agency's criteria are then "accredited" by that agency

Accrediting agencies
Organizations (or bodies) that establish operating standards for educational or professional institutions and programs , determine the extent to which the standards are met, and publicly announce their findings.

Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA)
CHEA is a coordinating agency that carries out a recognition of accrediting agencies function in the private, nongovernmental sector.

Distance education
An educational process that is characterized by the separation, in time or place, between instructor and student.

Freestanding means not part of a larger college or university that is accredited by a regional accredited agency or another nationally recognized institutional accrediting agency. In general, a freestanding institution is a separate single-purpose institution that offers a specialized program of study in a particular field.

Hybrid agencies
Hybrid agencies are recognized for the accreditation of both specialized programs at larger institutions and for the accreditation of freestanding institutions. This is a website-specific term, and is only used in the context of the U.S. Department of Education Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs.

Institutional accreditation
Institutional accreditation normally applies to an entire institution, indicating that each of an institution’s parts is contributing to the achievement of the institution’s objectives, although not necessarily all at the same level of quality.

Institutional accrediting agency
An agency that accredits institutions of higher education.

Internship site
A location used for the supervised practical training of advanced students or recent graduates in areas such as medicine, psychology, and dietetics.

A unique identification number for institutions that participate in the Integrated Postsecondary Education Data System Survey.

Nationally recognized accrediting agencies
National accrediting agencies are recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education as reliable authorities concerning the quality of education or training offered by the institutions of higher education they accredit. These agencies accredit single-purpose institutions.

No Longer Recognized
The process of seeking and renewing recognition from the Department is a demanding one for accrediting agencies, and not always essential to their mission. On occasion, agencies request to withdraw from recognition. On other occasions, the Department withdraws its recognition, upon a determination that an agency no longer meets recognition criteria. Because recognition decisions, in the first instance, concern accrediting agencies rather than accredited institutions and programs, a cessation of recognition should not simply be presumed to reflect negatively on the quality of the institutions or programs accredited by that agency. For this reason, the Department is authorized to permit institutions participating in the federal student aid programs that are accredited by an agency that is no longer recognized up to 18 months of continued participation to obtain alternative accreditation from a different, recognized agency. For the same reason, the Department will continue to include on this list for 18 months institutions and programs accredited by agencies that are no longer recognized, but will indicate that the accrediting agency no longer has recognized status by inserting (No Longer Recognized) by the name of the agency each time it appears in the listing.

Identification number used by the U.S. Department of Education's Office of Postsecondary Education (OPE) to identify schools that have Program Participation Agreements (PPA) so that its students are eligible to participate in Federal Student Financial Assistance programs under Title IV regulations. This is a 6-digits number followed by a 2-digit suffix used to identify branches, additional locations, and other entities that are part of the eligible institution.
Outlying areas
Includes American Samoa, the Federated States of Micronesia, Guam, the Marshall Islands, the Northern Mariana Islands, Palau, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands.
Postsecondary education
The provision of a formal instructional program whose curriculum is designed primarily for students who are beyond the compulsory age for high school. This includes programs whose purpose is academic, vocational, and continuing professional education, and excludes avocational and adult basic education programs.
Postsecondary education institution
An institution which has as its sole purpose or one of its primary missions, the provision of postsecondary education.
The status of public recognition that an accrediting agency grants to an institution or program for a limited period of time that signifies the agency has determined that the institution or program is progressing towards accreditation and is likely to gain accreditation before the expiration of that limited period of time.
Private institution
An educational institution controlled by a private individual(s) or by a nongovernmental agency, usually supported primarily by other than public funds, and operated by other than publicly elected or appointed officials. These institutions may be either for-profit or not-for-profit.
A postsecondary educational program offered by an institution of higher education that leads to an academic or professional degree, certificate, or other recognized educational credential.
Program Participation Agreement (PPA)
A written agreement between a postsecondary institution and the Secretary of Education. This agreement allows institutions to participate in any of the Title IV student assistance programs other than the State Student Incentive Grant (SSIG) and the National Early Intervention Scholarship and Partnership (NEISP) programs. The PPA conditions the initial and continued participation of an eligible institution in any Title IV program upon compliance with the General Provisions regulations, the individual program regulations, and any additional conditions specified in the program participation agreement that the Department of Education requires the institution to meet. Institutions with such an agreement are referred to as Title IV institutions.
Programmatic accrediting agencies
Agencies that accredit specific educational programs that prepare students for entry into a profession, occupation, or vocation. These agencies are also known as specialized accreditors.
Public institution
An educational institution whose programs and activities are operated by publicly elected or appointed school officials and which is supported primarily by public funds.
Regional accrediting agencies
Regional accrediting agencies are recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education as reliable authorities concerning the quality of education or training offered by the institutions of higher education they accredit. The individual agencies accredit institutions in specific geographic regions of the country.
Residency site
A location used for the specialized clinical training of physicians.
Denotes an institution or program that voluntarily withdrew its recognition as an accredited institution or program.
Specialized accreditation
Specialized accreditation normally applies to the evaluation of programs, departments, or schools which usually are parts of a total collegiate or other postsecondary institution. The unit accredited may be as large as a college or school within a university or as small as a curriculum within a discipline. Most of the specialized accrediting agencies review units within a postsecondary institution which is accredited by one of the regional accrediting commissions. However, certain of the specialized accrediting agencies accredit professional schools and other specialized or vocational or other postsecondary institutions which are free-standing in their operations. Thus, a "specialized" or "programmatic" accrediting agency may also function in the capacity of an "institutional" accrediting agency. In addition, a number of specialized accrediting agencies accredit educational programs within non-educational settings, such as hospitals.
State accrediting agencies
There are two types of state agencies: those recognized for the approval of postsecondary vocational education, and those recognized for the approval of nurse education.
The status of an institution or program that an agency no longer accredits.
Title IV institution
An institution that has a written agreement with the Secretary of Education that allows the institution to participate in any of the Title IV federal student financial assistance programs (other than the State Student Incentive Grant (SSIG) and the National Early Intervention Scholarship and Partnership (NEISP) programs).
Vocational education
A program of training to prepare students for gainful employment in a recognized occupation.