Skip to content

Who We Are

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.

NWCCU Core Values

Continuous Improvement We aspire to promote excellence in outcomes for all.
Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion We believe there is strength in our differences and that opportunities to succeed are afforded every individual.
Justice We aspire to see all people supported to achieve equal economic, political, and social rights and opportunities.
Respect We pay attention to and value each individual’s perspective, voice, and opinion, being aware of individual (and institutional) needs.
Collaboration We work together to support internal and external stakeholders, ensuring that individuals feel supported.
Integrity We work to ensure that integrity is the cornerstone of everything we do.

Achieving Our Vision

NWCCU will achieve its vision through the following goals:

  1. Set the standard for institutional accreditation, rooted in continuous improvement,
    staff development, and organizational best practices and effectiveness.

    • Action :
      • Provide Staff professional development
      • Provide Commissioner professional development
      • Provide Peer Evaluator professional development
      • Provide Accreditation Liaison Officer (ALO) professional development
      • Deliver educational programing that is in support of NWCCU Mission and Vision
      • Develop policies, Standards, and operating procedures that promote institutional
        continuous improvement in pursuit of student achievement and closing equity
  2. Demonstrate the value of accreditation to present and future members as a
    mechanism for quality improvement, advancing student success, and closing equity

    • Action:
      • Engage with institutions, faculty, staff, and students
      • Engage with federal and state leaders, including governmental and non-governmental partners and other stakeholders
      • Invigorate communications strategy and tactics
      • Deliver educational programming that is in support of NWCCU’s Mission and Vision
      • Facilitate effective institutional review processes
  3. Advance strategic partnerships with professional associations and institutions of higher
    education in alignment with the mission, vision, and values of NWCCU.

    • Action:
      • Engage with Council of Regional Accrediting Commissions(C-RAC), Council of Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), United States Department of Education (USDE)
      • Staff engagement with other national organizations, including Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education (WICHE), American Council on Education (ACE), Association of American Colleges & Universities (AACU), National Center for Higher Education Management Systems (NCHEMS), and others.


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.

Sign up for our Newsletter

Explore the latest issue of NWCCU’s quarterly newsletter, The Beacon, and discover educational resources, innovations, and events happening in the Northwest.