Designed to protect public health, safety, and interest, accreditation provides a system of quality assessment and improvement. In the United States, educational, human services, and health-care programs and institutions undergo accreditation review. Although each of these three sectors has unique accreditation processes, accreditation generally consists of a process of voluntary, external review that occurs and results in a decision based upon the institution’s consistency with accepted standards. This entry discusses the history of accreditation in the United States, the process of accrediting U.S. higher education institutions, criticisms of the accreditation system in higher education, and supporters’ responses to these criticisms.

Many accrediting practices provide recommendations to increase compliance and, therefore, offer opportunities for program improvement to those undergoing review. The accreditation process has evolved over ...

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