The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) is a Washington State nonprofit corporation, recognized as a 501(c)(3) organization by the Internal Revenue Service.

The Commission is recognized by the United States Department of Education (USDE) as an accreditor of higher education institutions throughout the United States.
NWCCU provides institutional accreditation for public and private institutions of higher education, including Tribal and Faith-Based, throughout the United States and internationally.

NWCCU promotes institutional efforts to advance student achievement, student learning, and student success; supports institutional efforts to close equity gaps; strengthens educational quality and institutional effectiveness; facilitates analytical self-assessment and critical peer review; ensures accountability and transparency; and advances research and engagement.

The overriding purpose of NWCCU accreditation is to assure stakeholders that an NWCCU-accredited institution has been rigorously evaluated and that it meets or exceeds the criteria required to maintain accreditation. In addition, NWCCU promotes a culture of data- and evidence-informed continuous institutional improvement, validates institutional integrity, and provides opportunities for feedback that improves the accreditation process.

NWCCU Vision

The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities aspires to be the premier accreditation agency whose member institutions foster access, belonging, and success for every student.

NWCCU Mission

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