Providing Accreditation for 30 Years
FAQs About Accreditation

GENERAL QUESTIONS ABOUT ACCREDITATION and CIHE

 
Q: What is accreditation and why is it important?

Accreditation is a status that provides assurance to prospective students, their families and the general public that an institution meets clearly statedStandards for Accreditationand that there are reasonable grounds to believe the institution will continue to meet those standards in the future.


Q: Are there different kinds of accreditation?
In the U.S., schools and colleges voluntarily seek accreditation from nongovernmental bodies. There are two types of educational accreditation: institutional and specialized (or programmatic).
 
Institutional accreditation is provided by regional and national associations. There are six regional associations. 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, technical or religious colleges). An institutional accrediting agency evaluates the institution as a whole, applying the standards in light of the institution’s mission. Besides assessing educational programs, it evaluates areas such as governance and administration, financial stability, physical resources, library and technology, admissions, and student services. Institutional accreditation encompasses the entire institution.
 
Specialized or programmatic accreditation evaluates particular schools or programs within an institution. Specialized accreditation is often associated with national professional associations such as those for engineering, medicine, and law, or with specific disciplines such as business, teacher education, and nursing.
 
Q: What is the difference between accreditation and state licensure?
In order to protect students and the public, many states have established regulations that must be met before an educational institution may operate. To operate legally, an institution needs state approval, which may include licensure. In fact, an institution must have the appropriate state authorization to operate before it can seek accreditation. But  in most states, institutions do not have to be accredited to operate.
 
Accreditation is voluntary. It represents an institution’s willingness to abide by the Standards and to open itself regularly to examination by outside evaluators familiar with higher education. As such accreditation is recognized as a symbol of accountability to the public.
 
Q: Can a U.S. institution be governmentally accredited?
No. In the U.S., accreditation is handled through non-governmental agencies, many of which are recognized by the federal government as reliable authorities on the quality of education. Only institutions accredited by those agencies are authorized to participate in federal Title IV funding (student financial aid).
 
Q: Does CIFMAT accreditation include online programs and branch campuses?
Yes. CIFMAT is an institutional accreditor, so it accredits the institution as a whole, including all programs at all locations, as well as those offered online.   
 
Q: Who is on the Commission on Institutions of Higher Education and what do they do?
The Commission consists of presidents, senior administrators, and faculty from member institutions, as well as representatives of the public from outside higher education. Commissioners are elected for no more than two three-year terms. Commissioners are bound by explicit ethical standards to prevent conflict of interest. 
 
 
Q: How are decisions made about an institution’s accreditation status?
Accreditation is not for a specific period of time but is a continuing relationship that is subject to periodic review. Institutions provide information to the Commission annually and at other intervals depending on the circumstances. Comprehensive evaluations, including site visits by a team of peer evaluators, take place at least every ten years. The Commission holds four regular meetings each year to review institutional reports and reports of peer evaluation teams. The Standards for Accreditation guide all decisions.
 
Q: Who are the peer evaluators who visit campuses under review?
CIFMAT maintains a database of more than 1,500 experienced senior educators, from all types of accredited colleges and universities, who have volunteered for this important task. They are carefully selected and trained to evaluate institutions according to the Standards for Accreditation.

Q: How does an institution become accredited by CIFMAT? How long will it take?
An institution must first be licensed to operate and demonstrate that it meets the Commission's Requirements of Affiliation..  (Overseas institutions follow a slightly different procedure, explained here)

The Commission determines whether or not an institution may apply for candidacy only after comprehensive review and on-site evaluation. The process begins with an in-person interview with Commission staff at the CIFMAT offices. The length of time to candidacy depends on a number of factors, including how long the institution has been in operation and the results of its on-site evaluations. Once candidacy is achieved, an institution must progress to accreditation within five years.
 
QUESTIONS ABOUT INSTITUTIONS AND PROGRAMS
 
Q: Does CIFMAT recommend or rank colleges?
No. Institutions differ so much from one another (with regard to mission, types of programs, students served) that they cannot be reliably ranked. Various commercial publications rank institutions on specific details (such as size, tuition, endowment, selectivity, faculty publications). These rankings may offer one source of information, but they do not contain all the information needed to determine institutional quality. Each student must determine whether an institution meets his or her needs.
 
Q: How can I find out if an institution is accredited by CIFMAT?
See our roster of institutions.
 
Q: Does CIFMAT accredit the professional program at my institution?
CIFMAT accredits institutions, not programs. Therefore, if the institution is accredited by CIFMAT then that status encompasses the entire institution. For information about whether the program has specialized (or programmatic) accreditation, consult the institution or the accreditor in that field.

Q: I’m applying for a job and have to prove that I graduated from an accredited institution. Can you help me?
Contact the registrar of your institution, who can validate its accreditation status and provide proof that you received your certification.

Q: I need an Apostille, how do I obtain one?
TO REQUEST AN APOSTILLE
For further information please contact Jennifer Salchli at apostille@cifmat.org
Cost for one Apostille is $66.00.
Cost for two Apostilles mailed to one address is $72.00
Cost for two Apostilles mailed to two different addresses is $132.00

Q: How can I get a copy of an institution’s self-study?
The Commission does not release institutional reports or correspondence. Some institutions post their self-studies on their websites. If you have an interest in a particular institution's self-study, you are encouraged to contact the president or chief executive officer of the institution.
 
Q. Does accreditation guarantee that my credits can be transferred?
No. Every institution retains the right to determine what credits and degrees it will accept. Transfer-ability of credits depends on a number of factors, including accreditation, curriculum compatibility, and grades.  Institutions are required under CIHE’s Standards to have clear transfer policies and to make those policies available to you. Consult the Policy on Transfer and Award of Academic Credit. If you have questions about whether your credits or degrees will be accepted, check with the Registrar or Admissions office of the school to which you intend to apply.
 
Q: Does accreditation guarantee that my certification will be recognized for professional licensing?  
No. States and graduate schools set their own requirements for licensure or admission. The appropriate contact is the state board of education or graduate school admissions department.  
  
Q: What happens to my records if my college closes?
The closing institution arranges with the state department of higher education or other appropriate agency to file all academic records as well as financial aid information. You should receive a notice from the college about arrangements made for filing student records. Begin further inquiries by contacting the higher education agency in the state where the institution was authorized to operate. If the college merges with another institution, that institution will receive the records. If you need further assistance, contact a member of the Commission staff.
 
Q: How can I let the Commission know about a concern I have about an institution?
There are several ways. During an institution’s comprehensive review, the Commission seeks written third-party comments. Visiting evaluation teams will also be available on campus to meet with students, faculty, or staff who have a concern about an institution. Consult the schedule of Upcoming Evaluations to see institutions undergoing comprehensive review.
 
At any time, you may contact the Commission in writing with a complaint that raises significant questions about institutional conditions that violate the Standards. The Commission does not adjudicate individual grievances. Persons wishing to lodge a complaint against a member institution should first consult the Commission’s Consideration of Complaints Against Affiliated Institutionsfor information about the procedure. Complaints should reference the Standards and be supported by evidence. For further guidance on filing a complaint,