Students choose to attend accredited institutions of higher learning for a number of reasons — federal governments only grant loans and funding to students at accredited schools, licensure examinations are only available to students who attended accredited universities and future employers examine the student's alma mater during interviews. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) is an organization based in the United States. The CHEA is comprised of over 3,000 institutions of higher learning that strive to provide a quality education for students.
The Council for Higher Education Accreditation was founded as the organization it is today in 1996. The founding of the CHEA marked a merger of several regional and national non-governmental accrediting agencies for institutions of higher learning. The organization exists to ensure quality among post-secondary education programs and to prevent changes to the structure of post-secondary education in America it finds unreasonable or unfair.
A CHEA accredited school is one that has been reviewed by the organization and deemed to meet their standards for quality. The CHEA accreditation process is a multi-step procedure. Accredited universities have their staff, curriculum and physical plant evaluated by the organization. After getting CHEA accreditation, the school is monitored for a period of five to ten years to ensure that quality and standards are maintained.
Benefits of CHEA accreditation are numerous. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation is a voluntary accreditation organization; participation is not required. In choosing to obtain Council for Higher Education accreditation, schools demonstrate accountability to the public and federal government. Because all schools with CHEA accreditation meet the same standards, students attending those organizations know the quality of education they choose to accept — it is as much of a marketing tool as it is a label.
There are numerous other types of accreditation aside from that given by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. The United States Department of Education (USDE) also accredits universities and colleges; both organizations operate within the United States. Accreditation types are not mutually exclusive. A school can hold both USDE and CHEA accreditation at the same time. Schools can also hold accreditation from other organizations; for example, schools with a veterinary medical program can also hold accreditation from the American Veterinary Medical Association.
CHEA accredited schools are re-examined on a periodic basis, typically every three to 10 years. If a school does not meet the same standards set forth by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, it can lose its status as an accredited school. The loss of accreditation does not preclude the institution from applying again at a later date. A school can be CHEA accredited and unaccredited at various points throughout its history.