In order for an institution that offers post-secondary education programs in professional, technical or occupational fields to receive accreditation from ACICS, it must withstand a formal, structured and comprehensive review of the details of its operations and be deemed in compliance with standards and expectations by a team of experienced evaluators. The multi-month peer-review process culminates with a substantial discussion and analysis by an elected and appointed accrediting Council, comprised of members of the public and member institutions. Only institutions that have withstood that level of scrutiny and review are awarded grants of accreditation by ACICS and can be deemed “accredited.” There is no short-cut to accreditation nor is it permanent; the certification of quality and integrity is owned by ACICS and may be withdrawn, suspended or revoked at any time for appropriate reasons. All institutions must re-apply for accreditation on a regular basis and undergo the same type of review.
Institutions that have not successfully withstood that level of review and scrutiny may fall under the category of “diploma mills;” the U.S. Department of Education (www.ed.gov) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (www.CHEA.org) have more detail and definitions about “diploma mills” on their websites.
Not all accrediting bodies are created equally. The Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools must withstand direct, detailed scrutiny and review by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation every five years in order to retain its status as “an authority on institutional quality and integrity.” Like the process utilized by bona fide accrediting bodies to certify the education quality of colleges and schools, ACICS and bona fide accreditors are subject to standards, expectations and practices applied by third-party peers who are knowledgeable about the discipline of accreditation. Once granted the authority to accredit colleges and schools, ACICS must maintain operations at acceptable levels or risk losing that authority. It is not permanent and is subject to renewal on a recurring basis.
Accrediting entities that are not recognized by the Department or by CHEA may be deemed as “accreditation mills,” as they have not withstood the peer review and scrutiny applied to recognized accreditors. The Department (www.ed.gov) and CHEA (www.CHEA.org) have more detail and definitions about “accreditation mills” on their websites.