Though it is the U.S. Department of Education that officially recognizes college accreditation, it is outside agencies that review institutions. According to the department, the agency process was created for "non-governmental, peer evaluation of educational institutions and programs." The Secretary of Education recognizes official accrediting agencies and maintains a database of accredited institutions.
An institution seeking accreditation must fill out an application, do a self-evaluation study and be evaluated onsite by an agency. If the agency decides the college does meet the set standards, it then publishes the college as an accredited institution. The Secretary of Education then adds the college to a database of accredited institutes.
Types of Accreditation
The Department of Education cites two types of accreditation: "institutional" and "specialized" or "programmatic." Institutional accreditation applies to the entire college, all parts and departments combined. Specialized or programmatic accreditation refers to programs, departments or schools within the institution. This could be an entire school or simply a curriculum.