What is accreditation?
Voluntary accreditation in higher education originated almost a century ago as a uniquely American process. Sought voluntarily by colleges and universities, accreditation is conferred by nongovernmental bodies. Voluntary accreditation has two fundamental purposes; quality assurance and institutional and program improvement.

Voluntary accreditation has come to be marked by the following attributes; it is provided through private agencies; it requires a significant exercise of self-evaluation by an institution or program, the results of which are summarized in a report given to the agency; a team visit is conducted by the agency; judgments about accreditation are made by experts and trained peers; and institutions under review have opportunities to respond to most steps in the process.

There are two types of accreditation for higher education in the United States: institutional and specialized accreditation.

Institutional Accreditation
An institutional accrediting body evaluates an entire organization and accredits it as a whole. It assesses formal educational activities and also evaluates governance and administration, financial stability, admissions, and student personnel services, resources, student academic achievement, organizational effectiveness and relationships with outside constituencies.

Specialized Accreditation
Specialized (or program) accreditation agencies evaluate particular units, schools, or programs within an organization. Some are discipline-based (business, computer science, and library science, for example), and many are also associated with national professional associations and state licensing (engineering, medicine, health professions, and law are good examples). Institutional accreditation is separate from the accreditation given or withheld by specialized agencies, although the Commission does take cognizance of the standards set by professional bodies. (Information from http://www.ncahlc.org)

Licensure Program Approval
Licensure program approval agencies review and approve school administrator and teacher licensure programs to maintain high standards for quality licensing.