Accreditation matters. It is a time-honored, peer-review process for assessing and ensuring institutional quality.
At its core, accreditation affirms adherence to institutional mission and signals to stakeholders and students alike that programs and offerings are guided by principles of quality and integrity. So important is accreditation that without it, institutions may not participate in federal student assistance programs under Title IV of the Higher Education Act.
Governing boards hold institutions in trust and define the missions and values of their institutions. Understanding what accreditation is, how the process functions, and what it means for your college is necessary for a board to govern its institution effectively. Trustees must understand their roles in the accrediting process and how to leverage accreditation on behalf of the college. Accreditors pay attention to governing boards – their policies,
their decisions, and their behaviors – as key indicators of institutional health and well-being.
Dr. Judith S. Eaton has served as president of the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) since 1996. She has made the sometimes-complex process of accreditation easy to understand and straightforward, presenting the topic through the lens of what trustees need to know, from the basics to how boards and accreditors can work together as partners.
ACCT is grateful to Dr. Eaton for sharing her expertise in this important paper, and to Lumina Foundation for supporting its publication. We encourage all community college board members to carefully review the information presented on the following pages.
Don’t hesitate to contact ACCT or CHEA if you have any questions that aren’t addressed here, or if you need any further guidance.