The Criteria for Accreditation
The Criteria for Accreditation are organized under five major
headings. Each Criterion has three elements: Criterion Statement,
Core Components and Subcomponents, and Examples of Evidence.
The Criteria Statements define necessary attributes of an
institution accredited by the Commission. An institution must be
judged to have met each of the Criteria to merit accreditation. An
institution addresses each Core Component and subcomponent as it
presents reasonable and representative evidence of meeting a
Criterion. The Examples of Evidence illustrate the types of
evidence an institution might present in addressing a Core
The Criteria are intentionally general so that accreditation
decisions focus on the particulars of each institution, rather than
on trying to make it fit a pre-established mold. The widely
different purposes and scopes of colleges and universities demand
criteria that are broad enough to encompass diversity and support
innovation, but clear enough to ensure acceptable quality.
The Criteria Statements and Core Components are presented
Criterion One: Mission
The institution's mission is clear and articulated publicly; it
guides the institution's operations.
The institution's mission is broadly understood within the
institution and guides its operations.
- The mission statement is developed through a process suited to
the nature and culture of the institution and adopted by the
- The institution's academic programs, student support services,
and enrollment profile are consistent with its stated mission.
- The institution's planning and budgeting priorities align with
and support the mission. (This sub-component may be addressed
by reference to the response to Criterion 5.C.1.)
The mission is articulated publicly.
- The institution clearly articulates its mission through
one or more public documents, such as statements of purpose,
vision, values, goals, plans, or institutional priorities.
- The mission document or documents are current and explain the
extent of the institution's emphasis on the various aspects of its
mission, such as instruction, scholarship, research, application
of research, creative works, clinical service, public service,
economic development, and religious or cultural purpose.
- The mission document or documents identify the nature, scope,
and intended constituents of the higher education programs
and services the institution provides.
The institution understands the relationship between its mission
and the diversity of U.S. society.
- The institution addresses its role in a multicultural
- The institution's processes and activities reflect attention to
human diversity as appropriate within its mission and for the
constituencies it serves.
The institution's mission demonstrates commitment to the public
- Actions and decisions reflect an understanding that in its
educational role the institution serves the public, not solely the
institution, and thus entails a public obligation.
- The institution's educational responsibilities take primacy
over other purposes, such as generating financial returns for
investors, contributing to a related or parent organization, or
supporting external interests.
- The institution engages with its identified external
constituencies and communities of interest and responds to their
needs as its mission and capacity allow.
Criterion Two: Ethical and Responsible Conduct
The institution acts with integrity; its conduct is ethical and
||The institution operates with integrity in its
financial, academic, personnel, and auxiliary functions; it
establishes and follows fair and ethical policies and processes for
its governing board, administration, faculty, and staff.
||The institution presents itself clearly and
completely to its students and to the public with regard to its
programs, requirements, costs to students, faculty and staff,
control, and accreditation relationships.
||The governing board of the institution is
sufficiently autonomous to make decisions in the best interest of
the institution and to assure its integrity.
- The governing board of the institution is sufficiently
autonomous to make decisions in the best interest of the
institution and to assure its integrity.
- The governing board's deliberations reflect priorities to
preserve and enhance the institution.
- The governing board reviews and considers the reasonable and
relevant interests of the institution's internal and external
constituencies during its decision-making deliberations.
- The governing board preserves its independence from undue
influence on the part of donors, elected officials, ownership
interests, or other external parties when such influence would not
be in the best interest of the institution.
- The governing board delegates day-to-day management of the
institution to the administration and expects the faculty to
oversee academic matters.
||The institution is committed to freedom of
expression and the pursuit of truth in teaching and learning.
The institution ensures that faculty, students, and staff
acquire, discover, and apply knowledge responsibly.
- The institution provides effective oversight and support
services to ensure the integrity of research and scholarly
practice conducted by its faculty, staff, and students.
- Students are offered guidance in the ethical use of
- The institution has and enforces policies on academic honesty
Criterion Three: Teaching and Learning-Quality, Resources and
The institution provides high quality education, wherever and
however its offerings are delivered.
The institution's degree programs are appropriate to higher
- Courses and programs are current and require levels of
performance by students appropriate to the degree or certificate
- The institution articulates and differentiates learning goals
for its undergraduate, graduate, post-baccalaureate, post-graduate,
and certificate programs.
- The institution's program quality and learning goals are
consistent across all modes of delivery and all locations (on the
main campus, at additional locations, by distance delivery, as dual
credit, through contractual or consortial arrangements,
The institution demonstrates that the exercise of intellectual
inquiry and the acquisition, application, and integration of
broad learning and skills are integral to its educational
- The general education program is appropriate to the mission,
educational offerings, and degree levels of the institution.
- The institution articulates the purposes, content, and intended
learning outcomes of its undergraduate general education
requirements. The program of general education is grounded in a
philosophy or framework developed by the institution or adopted
from an established framework. It imparts broad knowledge and
intellectual concepts to students and develops skills and
attitudes that the institution believes every college-educated
person should possess.
- Every degree program offered by the institution engages
students in collecting, analyzing, and communicating information;
in mastering modes of inquiry or creative work; and in developing
skills adaptable to changing environments.
- The education offered by the institution recognizes the human
and cultural diversity of the world in which students live and
- The faculty and students contribute to scholarship, creative
work, and the discovery of knowledge to the extent appropriate to
their programs and the institution's mission.
The institution has the faculty and staff needed for effective,
high-quality programs and student services.
- The institution has sufficient numbers and continuity of
faculty members to carry out both the classroom and the
non-classroom roles of faculty (oversight of the curriculum and
expectations for student performance; establishment of academic
credentials for instructional staff; involvement in assessment of
student learning; etc.).
- All instructors are appropriately credentialed, including
those in dual credit, contractual, and consortial programs.
- Instructors are evaluated regularly in accordance with
established institutional policies and procedures.
- The institution has processes and resources for assuring that
instructors are current in their disciplines and adept in their
teaching roles; it supports their professional development.
- Instructors are accessible for student inquiry.
- Staff members providing student support services, such as
tutoring, financial aid advising, academic advising, and
co-curricular activities, are appropriately qualified, trained,
and supported in their professional development.
The institution provides support for student learning and
- The institution provides student support services suited to the
needs of its student populations.
- The institution provides for learning support and preparatory
instruction to address the academic needs of its students. It has a
process for placing entering students in courses and programs for
which the students are adequately prepared.
- The institution provides academic advising suited to its
programs and the needs of its students.
- The institution provides to students and instructors the
infrastructure and resources necessary to support effective
teaching and learning (e.g., technological infrastructure,
scientific laboratories, libraries, performance spaces, clinical
practice sites, museum collections).
- The institution provides to students guidance in the effective
use of research and information resources.
The institution fulfills its claims for an enriched educational
- The institution's co-curricular programs are suited to its
mission and contribute to the educational experience of its
- The institution demonstrate any claims it makes about
contributions to its students' educational experiences by virtue of
aspects of its mission, such as research, community engagement,
service learning, religious or spiritual purpose, and economic
Criterion Four: Teaching and Learning-Evaluation and
The institution demonstrates responsibility for the quality of
its educational programs, learning environments, and support
services, and evaluates their effectiveness for student learning
through processes designed to promote continuous improvement.
The institution demonstrates responsibility for the quality of
its educational programs.
- The institution maintains a practice of regular program
- The institution evaluates all the credit that it transcripts,
including what it awards for experiential learning or other forms
of prior learning.
- The institution has policies that assure the quality of the
credit it accepts in transfer.
- The institution maintains and exercises authority over the
prerequisites for courses, rigor of courses, expectations for
student learning, access to learning resources, and faculty
qualifications for all its programs, including dual credit
programs. It assures that its dual credit courses or programs for
high school students are equivalent in learning outcomes and
levels of achievement to its higher education curriculum.
The institution maintains specialized accreditation as
appropriate to its educational purposes.
The institution evaluates the success of its graduates. The
institution assures that those degree or certificate programs
it represents as preparation for advanced study or
employment accomplish these purposes. For all programs, the
institution looks to indicators it deems appropriate to its
mission, such as employment rates, admission rates to advanced
degree programs, and participation rates in fellowships,
internships, and special programs (e.g., Peace Corps and
The institution demonstrates a commitment to educational
achievement and improvement through ongoing assessment of student
- The institution has clearly stated goals for student learning
and effective processes for assessment of student learning and
achievement of learning goals.
- The institution assesses achievement of the learning outcomes
that it claims for its curricular and co-curricular programs.
- The institution uses the information gained from assessment to
improve student learning.
- The institution's processes and methodologies to assess student
learning reflect good practice, including the substantial
participation of faculty and other instructional staff
The institution demonstrates a commitment to educational
improvement through ongoing attention to its retention,
persistence, and completion rates in degree and certificate
- The institution has defined goals for student retention,
persistence, and completion that are ambitious but attainable and
appropriate to its mission, student populations, and educational
- The institution collects and analyzes information on student
retention, persistence, and completion of programs.
- The institution uses information on student retention,
persistence, and completion of programs to improve its persistence
and completion rates as warranted.
- The institution's processes and methodologies for collecting
and analyzing information on student retention, persistence, and
completion of programs reflect good practice. (Institutions are
not required to use IPEDS definitions in their determination of
persistence or completion rates. Institutions are encouraged to
choose measures that are suitable to their student populations, but
institutions are accountable for the validity of their
Criterion Five: Resources, Planning, and Institutional
The institution's resources, structures, and processes are
sufficient to fulfill its mission, improve the quality of its
educational offerings, and respond to future challenges and
opportunities. The institution plans for the future.
The institution's resource base supports its current educational
programs and its plans for maintaining and strengthening their
quality in the future.
- The institution has the fiscal and human resources and
physical and technological infrastructure sufficient to support
its operations wherever and however programs are delivered.
- The institution's resources allocations process ensures that
its educational purposes are not adversely affected by
elective resource allocations to other areas or disbursement of
revenue to any superordinate entity.
- The goals incorporated into mission statements or elaborations
of mission statements are realistic in light of the institution's
organization, resources, and opportunities.
- The institution's staff in all areas are appropriately
qualified and trained.
- The institution has a well-developed process in place for
budgeting and for monitoring expense.
The institution's governance and administrative structures
promote effective leadership and support collaborative
- The institution has and employs policies and procedures to
engage its internal constituencies- including its governing board,
administration, faculty, staff, and students-in the institution's
- The governing board is knowledgeable about the institution,
provides oversight for the institution's financial and academic
policies and practices, and meets its legal and fiduciary
- The institution enables the involvement of its administration,
faculty, staff, and students in setting academic requirements,
policy, and processes through effective structures for contribution
and collaborative effort.
The institution engages in systematic and integrated
- The institution allocates its resources in alignment with its
mission and priorities.
- The institution links its processes for assessment of student
learning, evaluation, planning, and budgeting.
- The planning process encompasses the institution as a
whole and considers the perspective of internal and external
- The institution plans on the basis of a sound understanding of
its current capacity. Institutional plans anticipate the possible
impact of fluctuations in the institution's sources of revenue,
such as enrollment, the economy, and state support.
- Institutional planning anticipates emerging factors, such as
technology, demographic shifts, and globalization.
The institution works systematically to improve its
- The institution evaluation develops and documents evidence of
performance in its operations.
- The institution learns from its operational experience and
applies that learning to improve its institutional effectiveness,
capabilities, and sustainability, overall and in its component