The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) is recognized by the United States Department of Education (USDE) and the Council on Higher Education (CHEA) to accredit postsecondary institutions.

NWCCU is incorporated as a legally established, private 501(c)(3) non-profit corporation and accredits institutions of higher education in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and British Columbia, along with other domestic and international geographic areas.

Membership and organization of NWCCU are set forth in its Bylaws. Its decision-making body consists of up to twenty-six Commissioners who represent the public and the diversity of its accredited higher education institutions.

NWCCU Vision

Promote student success and close equity gaps.


NWCCU Mission

The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities accredits institutions of higher education by applying evidence-informed standards and processes to support continuous improvements and promote student achievement and success.

History of NWCCU

The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities was founded in 1917 as a voluntary, nongovernmental organization for the improvement of educational institutions.


Originally known as the Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges Commission on Colleges and Universities, the Commission on Colleges and Universities separated from the Association of Secondary Schools in 2002. On May 7, 2003, the Commission was renamed the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.


Since 1952, the U.S. Department of Education has listed the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities and its predecessors as a nationally recognized accrediting agency for institutions offering programs at the postsecondary level of at least one academic year in length. The Commission was re-recognized by USDE and CHEA in 2018 and 2019, respectively.

What is Institutional Accreditation?

The goal of accreditation is to ensure that education provided by institutions of higher education meets acceptable levels of quality. Accrediting agencies develop evaluation criteria and conduct peer evaluations to assess whether the criteria are met. Institutions that meet an agency’s criteria are then accredited.

What is the purpose of Institutional Accreditation?

While accreditation criteria and procedures of accrediting agencies differ across the United States, the principles underlying eligibility and levels of expectation are similar in their intent, which is to ensure:

  • Educational quality, stability, and sustainability assessed by peer evaluators against standards, eligibility requirements, and policies
  • Institutions and enrolled students qualify for Title IV federal funds to support teaching, research, and student financial aid
  • Institutional reputation, including student transferability and employability

Specifically, accreditation is focused on:

  • Student achievement, learning, and success
  • Accountability
  • Quality assurance
  • Continuous improvement

When granted, accreditation is not limited or 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 Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities’ expectations for compliance with the accreditation criteria.