Federal Student Aid - IFAP
SFA Information for Financial Aid Professionals
U.S. Department of Education
PublicationDate: 9/1/98

National Recognition of Accrediting Agencies by the U.S. Secretary of Education

The U.S. Secretary of Education is required by statute to publish a list of nationally recognized accrediting agencies that the Secretary determines to be reliable authorities as to the quality of education or training provided by the institutions of higher education and the higher education programs they accredit.

Most institutions attain eligibility for Federal funds by holding accredited or preaccredited status with one of the accrediting agencies recognized by the Secretary, in addition to fulfilling other eligibility requirements. Fore example, accreditation by a nationally recognized institutional accrediting agency enables the institutions it accredits to establish eligibility to participate in the Federal student financial assistance programs administered by the U.S. Department of Education under Title IV of the Higher Education Act of 1965, as amended.

The commissions of the institutional (regional and national) accrediting agencies that are recognized by the Secretary have no legal control over educational institutions or programs. They promulgate standards of quality or criteria of institutional excellence and approve or admit to membership those institutions that meet the standards or criteria.

The Accrediting Agency Evaluation Branch

The Accrediting Agency Evaluation Branch has been established within the Department of Education to deal with accreditation matters. Located in the Office of Postsecondary Education, the Branch carries out the following major functions with respect to accreditation:

1. Conduct a continuous review of standards, policies, procedures, and issues in the area of the Department of Education's interests and responsibilities relative to accreditation;

2. Administer of the process whereby accrediting agencies and State approval agencies secure initial and renewed recognition by the Secretary of Education;

3. Serve as the Department’s liaison with accrediting agencies and
State approval agencies;

4. Provide consultative services to institutions, associations, State agencies, other Federal agencies, and Congress regarding accreditation;

5. Interpretations and disseminate policy relative to accreditation issues in the case of all appropriate programs administered by the Department of Education;

6. Conduct and stimulate appropriate research; and

7. Provide support for the Secretary's National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity.