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What’s Accreditation? 5 Things to Know When Choosing a Degree Program

Accreditations can help you know if a university's curriculum meets defined academic standards, and help you choose a high-quality degree program.


Thinking of going back to school to make your educational and career goals a possibility? In your research about potential universities and degree programs, you’re going to come across the word “accreditation.” If you are in search of a specific program, be sure to pay attention to the institution’s accreditations and the organizations that give them. Here are the five things you should know about accreditation.

1. What is accreditation?
Accreditation is an activity undertaken by a university to earn official recognition that the school meets or exceeds a defined set of standards for higher learning. Following a rigorous evaluation, a university may be awarded institutional or programmatic accreditation. This distinction is only given if the university has met the particular criteria defined by the accrediting organization.

2. What’s the difference between institutional and programmatic accreditation?
There are two kinds of accreditation—institutional and programmatic. Institutional accreditation certifies that the entire university meets or exceeds the standards in higher education as determined by that accrediting agency. Institutional accreditation by a recognized accrediting agency is required for a university to be eligible to award federal financial aid to qualified students. Institutional accreditation, for the purposes of federal financial aid, can be awarded by regional or national accrediting agencies that are recognized by the United States Department of Education.

Programmatic accreditation accredits specific degree programs. Agencies with subject-matter expertise perform an in-depth evaluation of the programs to determine whether they provide the courses, faculty, industry-relevant knowledge and skills required by the accreditor. There are programmatic accrediting agencies for a number of degree programs in various fields of study.

3. How does a university get accredited?
Accreditation requirements differ for each accrediting body. In order to achieve accreditation, the university usually has to respond to highly detailed questions about its goals, leadership, quality of instruction, academic programs, student learning experience and financial health, among other things. The university also must provide evidence of regular self-evaluation that leads to continuous improvements. Once this information has been collected, reviewers from the accrediting bodies conduct on-site visits to confirm that the university is meeting the accrediting body’s standards.

Accreditation is not a one-time process. Both institutional and programmatic accreditation is monitored regularly by the accrediting agencies, and the universities must repeatedly undertake the full accreditation review for institutional and programmatic re-accreditation at regular intervals.

4. How does accreditation affect financial aid?
Accreditation is important for financing your education. To be eligible for federal grants and loans, you must attend a university that’s been institutionally accredited by an agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, such as the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. Attending an accredited university does not guarantee that you will receive federal grants or loans, but you won’t be eligible to apply if your school is not institutionally accredited.

5. Is Strayer University accredited?
Yes, Strayer has been awarded both institutional and programmatic accreditations:

Institutional accreditation
Strayer University is an accredited institution and a member of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE or the Commission) Strayer University’s accreditation status is Accreditation Reaffirmed. The Commission’s most recent action on the institution’s accreditation status on June 22, 2017 was to reaffirm accreditation. MSCHE is recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education to conduct accreditation and pre-accreditation (candidate status) activities for institutions of higher education including distance, correspondence education, and direct assessment programs offered at those institutions. The Commission’s geographic area of accrediting activities is throughout the United States.

Programmatic accreditation
The Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP) programmatically accredits Strayer’s business degree programs, including the Jack Welch Management Institute MBA.

Choosing the university that’s right for you isn’t always easy. But an understanding of accreditation can give you more information to help with your decision. Knowing that a school meets particular academic standards may help you determine if an institution is the best choice for you.


Learn more about Strayer University's accreditations and certifications.

Category: Industry Leadership

Published Date: NOVEMBER 30, 2023