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Accreditation ABCs

What Do We Mean By Quality

There are two aspects of "quality" in the world of accreditation. Or, you might say, there are two kinds of answers to the fundamental accreditation question: How good is this educational program?

First, there is the seal-of-approval aspect. When you claim (and, of course, appropriately receive acclaim) that your program is accredited, you demonstrate to students, parents, counselors and others that your program is "in the zone" of programs that meet national standards. In some professions, students may only be able to proceed from your program to their next step of taking required examinations if your program is "in the zone." So that seal of approval is mighty important to students and to you.

Second, there is the progressive aspect. Quality equals meeting national standards, of course, and then exceeding them. Quality is stepping beyond a minimum (the Standards) and doing even better. Quality is being even better this year than you were last year -- and figuring out how to be better yet next year. It's this approach that explains why leaders in accreditation often explain accreditation in terms of "continuous quality improvement."

The accreditation process exists to assure that all professional programs (if accredited) meet a minimum. But the accreditation process also serves to assure that you will have the data you'll need to show progress year-to-year.

Is yours a quality program? You absolutely want to have an "accredited" seal of approval, to say to any and all that your program is "in the zone" of the nation's quality programs; you meet all the standards.

But why settle for that? You are urged -- by students, by employers, by your colleagues perhaps, by your advisory board, and by your own inner compass as a professional educator -- to always strive to exceed the current standards. Someone's program will be the quality leader. If not today, someday that may be yours.


According to an article on the website of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (www.chea.org), accreditation has two purposes:

"Accreditation is about both

  • QUALITY ASSURANCE: Assuring threshold quality in higher education, and
  • QUALITY IMPROVEMENT: Assuring that institutions and programs have processes to try to do what they do better."