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Accreditation ABCs

Is Accreditation Voluntary


You will see it said about accreditation that this is a voluntary system. It is literally true that education programs (in several professions) need not be accredited. And, once accredited, your program can opt out by voluntarily withdrawing.


In the practical world, where programs compete for students, for status in their institutions, for financial resources, for quality faculty and for other valuable benefits, it has become difficult for programs to forego accreditation. In several professions, graduation from an accredited program is a requirement in order for a new practitioner to gain employment or to take state-required or profession-required exams -- which makes it necessary (even if 'voluntary') for programs to be accredited.

The history of accreditation, a uniquely American phenomenon (now in the early stages of being established in a few other countries) is that educators took the initiative 100 years ago or more in some professions to set up their own peer-review quality-control system. That was voluntary.

In most other countries, the power to establish, evaluate and sanction education programs is controlled by territorial or national governments.

In this sense, the American system is voluntary; it is not a governmental system supported by taxes but a private one offered (or required) by professions and supported by fees.

Because accreditation involves professional peers reviewing each others' work, it is a system heavily reliant on individuals who volunteer their time for little-or-no compensation. In this sense, it is a volunteer system, if not a voluntary one.

Your program can only benefit from accreditation.

If there's any doubt, take our word for it: You should 'volunteer' your program to be accredited. [And down the road, after you've experienced the processes of accreditation for a few years, you should consider being a volunteer to help review other programs.]