To be considered for accreditation by NWCCU, an institution:
- Has the primary mission to provide higher learning/higher education;
- Has similar characteristics to other higher education institutions; and,
- Meets NWCCU’s Eligibility Requirements, Standards for Accreditation, and Policies.
What do we mean by these Requirements?
- Institutions must have programs that are degree related, which are designed to build on knowledge, abilities, or skills students normally would have achieved by completing high school or a similar form of education.
- Programs are based on achieving knowledge that is verified by competent experts.
- Institution must continue to meet NWCCU’s Eligibility Requirements, Standards for Accreditation, and the Policies that are in place to make sure institutions are effective, offer a high-quality education, and are constantly working to improve student outcomes.
There are three main phases for an institution that is working to become accredited:
- Applicant status – lasts for one to three years
- Candidate status – lasts for up to (but no more than) five years
- Member (Accredited) status – begins with Initial Accreditation and starts the seven-year accreditation cycle
Although the Candidate status is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as a pre-accreditation status, institutions are not actually considered Accredited until they have achieved Initial Accreditation and become member institutions.
What does membership look like?
Accredited institutions must follow a schedule of accreditation-related activities known as the Seven Year Cycle and abide by NWCCU’s Eligibility Requirements, Standards, and Policies.
These activities include:
- Submission of an Annual Report;
- Submission of self-study reports in years Three (Mid-Cycle Report), Six (Policies, Regulations, and Financial Resources Report), and Seven (Evaluation of Institutional Effectiveness Report) of the accreditation cycle;
- Additional ad hoc reports, as requested by the Board of Commissioners; and,
- Reports of any changes that fall under the Commission’s Substantive Change Policy.
Throughout the seven-year cycle, every institution is reviewed by NWCCU staff, teams of peer evaluators, and the Board of Commissioners to confirm institution is working to fulfill its mission, addressing problems identified previously, continuously improving, offering high quality education, and supporting student success and closing equity gaps.
The process of becoming and staying accredited is explained in the Accreditation Handbook. For an overview of the process, please see our Accreditation at a Glance guide.