Accreditation of Colleges and Universities

The Accreditation of Colleges and Universities © BRB Publications

Per the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act (FERPA), the education records of students are not

public record unless used as general directory information. There must be consent to release records

containing personal information. However, what is very much public record is the accreditation of


Screening professionals place great importance on determining if a post-secondary college or university

granting a degree is accredited. This accreditation must be issued by an accredited organization –

Accreditor – that has been recognized by the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) and/or the Council

for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). To be “recognized” means that an accrediting body must

meet the quality standards of these two respective organizations.

Schools may operate without accreditation, as long as a state grants the authority to operate. The

schools that operate without accreditation and without authority are generally known as “diploma


About the USDE and CHEA

The U.S. Department of Education (USDE) publishes a database of Postsecondary Educational

Institutions and Programs Accredited by Accrediting Agencies, and State Approval Agencies Recognized

by the U.S. Secretary of Education, available at The database lists

approximately 6,900 postsecondary institutions and programs, each accredited by an accrediting

organization recognized by the USDE.

U.S. Department of Education

400 Maryland Avenue, SW, Washington, DC 20202

1-800-872-5327; Fax- 202-401-0689

The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) searchable database includes accrediting bodies,

over 7,700 schools and more than 18,700 accredited programs. The search function is based on the

school name and includes geographical filters. See

Council for Higher Education Accreditation

One Dupont Circle NW, #510, Washington, DC 20036

202-955-6126; Fax-202-955-6129

Each accrediting organization’s list of institutions or programs is prefaced by a brief description of the

accredited status of the institutions or programs, and the year for which the list is accurate.

Some accrediting organizations and their institutions and programs appear in both the CHEA database

and the USDE database. Others may appear in one but not both. Whether in CHEA or USDE, accrediting

organizations identified in the database have been “recognized.”

The Accrediting Bodies

Generally, accrediting entities are of two types:

1. Regional Accreditors

2. Specialized or Program Accreditors

Specialized accreditors focus on topics – religion (ABET, for example), teaching (NCATE, for example),

or health, social work, music, etc.

Most U.S. institutions with liberal arts programs are accredited by one of six regional associations of

colleges and schools takes primary accrediting responsibility for the entire school. The list below

includes the name of the accrediting association, web address, the phone number, and the list of the

states or territories covered by the association. These are excellent resources should you have

questions about an institution in a particular state. All provide web look-ups of the institutions they


Regional Accrediting Associations

These organizations provide accreditation to an entire institution.

MSA (or MSACHE) Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools. 215-662-5600, DE, DC, MD, NJ, NY, PA, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, and locations abroad. MSA

higher education activities are carried out by two independently functioning commissions: The Middle

States Commission on Higher Education, 215-662-5606, and The Middle States

Commission on Secondary Schools, 215-662-5603, that accredits institutions with

postsecondary, non-degree granting career and technology programs. Both may include institutions

that offer all or part of their educational programs via distance education modalities.

NEASC (NEACHE or NEASC CIHE) New England Association of Schools and Colleges, 781-271-0022, CT, ME, MA, NH, RI, VT. Like the MSA, NEASC higher education activities are carried

out by two separate commissions: Commission on Institutions of Higher Education (CIHE), 781-271-

0022, and NEASC’s Commission on Technical and Career Institutions, 781-541-


NCACS The Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, or . Includes AZ, AR, CO, IL, IN, IA, KS, MI, MN,

MO, NE, NM, ND, OH, OK, SD, WV, WI, WY, regional tribal institutions, and members’ distance

education programs. Like MSA and NEASC, NCACHE separates degree-granting institutions managed by

the Higher Learning Commission (NCA-HLC or NCACHE), 800-621-7440,, from trade-school/non-degree schools managed by the

Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement (CASI or NCACASI), 800-525-9517.

NASC or NWCCU, Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, 425-558-4224, 425-558-4224, Includes AK, ID, MT, NV, OR, UT, WA, and member schools’ distance

education programs. Operating similar to the five other regional accrediting organizations recognized by

the Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), NASC is the

seven-state Northwest region authority on educational quality and institutional effectiveness of higher

education institutions.

SACS or SACSCC – Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges, 800-248-

7701, 404-679-4500, Includes AL, FL, GA, KY, LA, MS, NC, SC, TN, TX, VA, and

member schools’ distance education programs.

WASC (erroneously known as WACS) Western Association of Schools and Colleges: 510-748-9001, CA, HI, territories of Guam, American Samoa, Federated States of Micronesia,

Republic of Palau, Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands, the Pacific Basin, and East Asia,

and areas of the Pacific and East Asia where American/International schools or colleges may apply to

WASC for service, also member schools’ distance education programs. WASC accredits colleges on

three levels. WASC Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities for senior colleges and universities,

510-748-9001,; WASC-JR or WACSJC is the Commission for Community and

Junior Colleges for accrediting junior colleges, 415-506-0234,; and, WASC Accrediting

Commission for Schools for adult and postsecondary schools (and pre-college schools) that offer

programs below the degree level, 650-696-1060,

Specialized Accreditors Specialized or program accreditors provide accreditation to programs,

departments or schools that stand alone or may be part of an institution.

The U.S. Department of Education has an excellent web page that describes the various types of

specialized accreditors – from distance learning to healthcare – as well as giving an excellent overview

of the accreditation process. Go to

Below is a complimentary, useful but partial list of Specialized Accreditors.

ABHES – Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools – 703-917-9503,, private,

postsecondary institutions offering predominantly allied health education programs.

ACCSC – Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges – 703- 247-4212,,

private, postsecondary nondegree-granting and degree-granting institutions that are predominantly

organized to educate students for occupational, trade and technical careers, and includes institutions

that offer programs via distance education.

ACCET – Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training – 202-955-1113,,

institutions that offer continuing education and/or vocational programs conferring certificates or

occupational associate degrees, including those programs offered via distance education.

ACICS – Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools – 202-336-6780,,

schools with programs designed to educate students for professional, technical, or occupational careers,

including those institutions offering programs via distance education.

COE – Council on Occupational Education – 800-917-2081,, postsecondary

occupational education institutions offering non-degree and applied associate degree programs in

specific career and technical education fields, including distance-education programs.

DETC – Distance Education and Training Council, Accrediting Commission – 202-234-5100,, postsecondary institutions offering degree programs primarily by the distance education

method, up to and including professional doctoral degrees Some schools are specifically certified for

Title IV purposes.

TRACS – Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools, Accreditation Commission – 434-

525-9539,, postsecondary institutions that offer certificates, diplomas, associate,

baccalaureate, and/or graduate degrees, including members offering distance education.

About Diploma Mills

Merriam-Webster’s online dictionary describes a diploma mill as:

A usually unregulated institution of higher education granting degrees with few or no academic


A diploma mill issues a paper diploma to a “student” (who can be a person, dog, cat, etc.) who performs

little or no actual study. Some mills offer degrees based on life experiences. Mills operating in the U.S. are

not authorized by a state licensing agency, such as the CA Department of Education, or an accrediting

body, such as the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC).

There are some diploma mill factories so bold to provide a phone number or email address for students to

submit to employers or employment screeners to use for verifications. This contact point leads to a bogus

registrar’s office with a very convincing, fake registrar who will confirm the school’s existence and even

get uppity if you suggest there is fraud.

Identifying Diploma Mills and Unaccredited Schools

If you are a subscriber to the Public Record Research System, your subscription includes over 850 known

diploma mills highlighted within the look-up index of the schools and universities section.

The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) provides an excellent overview about Degree Mills


There is no free, all encompassing list of diploma mills or unaccredited schools available free on the web,

but several states list of unaccredited schools particular to their state accreditation process.





Also, Hawaii lists 7 schools involved in lawsuits

The database maintained by this web page combines the above lists and has over 1,150 listed diploma


Two Incredible Resources

1. Accredibase

Based in Great Britain, Accredibase is the most powerful information and information database and service

about academic credential abuse and bogus colleges. This firm has ongoing collaboration worldwide with

government bodies, law enforcement agencies, and departments of education. In short, Accredibase is

the global leader on this subject and knows where the all 3,300 diploma mills are and who runs them. If

Accredibase says an entity is a mill, it is a mill.

2. Diploma Mills by Allen Ezell (retired FBI Agent) and John Bear, PHD.

This 466 page book ( Prometheus Books, 2012), experts Allen Ezell and John Bear go beyond exposing

these fraudulent practices to provide detailed recommendations—for government agencies, educational

institutions, and individuals—on what can be done to rid us of them. This eye-opening and definitive guide

shows how degree mills operate and how to check the validity of anyone’s degree—an indispensable

reference book. The Appendix includes a list of mills and a list of fake and unaccredited accrediting bodies.

(This book is available at the BRB Book Store.)

© BRB Publications. This text can not be distributed without the expressed permission of BRB Publications.



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *