Accreditation is an intensive process of institutional self-study and peer evaluation. Accreditation offers a unique opportunity for all members of the institution: faculty, administrators, staff, students, alumni, and board members to participate in a focused process that results in ongoing institutional improvement. Following this institutional review or self-study, a committee of peers conducts a comprehensive onsite evaluation.
Institutions accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities are distinguished by their demonstrated ability to meet broadly accepted higher education standards of quality. The value of accreditation is not limited to quality assurance alone. Accreditation also fosters public confidence in the institution's ability to fulfill its stated mission and goals, facilitates student mobility between institutions, and enhances an institution's credibility with its peers. It provides effective mechanisms for creating institutional vision and enhancing programmatic and financial viability and effectiveness.
Regional accreditation is a process of recognizing educational institutions for performance, integrity, and quality that entitles them to the confidence of the educational community and the public. In the United States this recognition is extended largely through nongovernmental, voluntary membership associations that establish accreditation criteria, evaluate institutions against that criteria, and approving institutions that meet the criteria.
Institutions accredited or pre-accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities are required to examine their own missions, goals, operations, and achievements. It then provides expert analysis by peer evaluators, and, later, commendations for accomplishments and recommendations for improvement from the accrediting body. Since the accreditation status of an institution is reviewed periodically, institutions are encouraged toward continued self-study and improvement.
While accreditation criteria and procedures of regional accrediting agencies differ from region to region, the principles underlying eligibility and levels of expectation are similar in their intent to:
When granted, accreditation by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities is not partial. It applies to the entire institution in operation at the time of the most recent comprehensive evaluation. It indicates that the institution as a whole is substantially achieving its mission and that it meets the Commission's expectations for compliance with the accreditation criteria.