The United States has no federal Ministry of Education or other centralized authority exercising single national control over postsecondary educational institutions in this country.
The states assume varying degrees of control over education, but, in general, institutions of higher education are permitted to operate with considerable independence and autonomy. As a consequence, American educational institutions can vary widely in the character and quality of their programs.
In order to insure a basic level of quality, the practice of accreditation arose in the United States as a means of conducting nongovernmental, peer evaluation of educational institutions and programs. Private educational associations of regional or national scope have adopted criteria reflecting the qualities of a sound educational program and have developed procedures for evaluating institutions or programs to determine whether or not they are operating at basic levels of quality
Some Functions of Accreditation
- Verifying that an institution or program meets established standards;
- Assisting prospective students in identifying acceptable institutions;
- Assisting institutions in determining the acceptability of transfer credits;
- Helping to identify institutions and programs for the investment of public and private funds;
- Protecting an institution against harmful internal and external pressure;
- Creating goals for self-improvement of weaker programs and stimulating a general raising of standards among educational institutions;
- Involving the faculty and staff comprehensively in institutional evaluation and planning;
- Establishing criteria for professional certification and licensure and for upgrading courses offering such preparation; and
- Providing one of several considerations used as a basis for determining eligibility for Federal assistance.
To check the accreditation status of an institution, visit the U.S. Department of Education’s Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions.