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Understanding Accreditation

Educational accreditation is a process of external quality review created and used by higher education to scrutinize colleges, universities and programs for quality assurance and quality improvement. Accreditation in the United States is more than 100 years old, emerging from concerns to protect public health and safety and to serve the public interest.

In the United States, accreditation is carried out by private, nonprofit organizations designed for this specific purpose. External quality review of higher education is a nongovernmental enterprise.

There are two types of educational accreditation: institutional and specialized.

Regional (Institutional) Accreditation

Institutional accreditation is provided by regional and national associations of schools and colleges. There are six regional associations, each named after the region in which it operates (Middle States, New England, North Central, Northwest, Southern, Western). The regional associations are independent of one another, but they cooperate extensively and acknowledge one another’s accreditation. Several national associations focus on particular kinds of institutions (for example, trade and technical colleges, and religious colleges and universities). An institutional accrediting agency evaluates an entire educational organization in terms of its mission and the agency’s standards or criteria.

As an institution, Illinois Central College is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association (www.ncahlc.org).

Specialized (Programmatic) Accreditation

Programmatic accreditors review specific programs, professions and freestanding schools of law, medicine, engineering, etc. Several ICC programs have sought and received specialized (program) accreditation/approval. These include the following.

Accrediting Agencies