Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools
In Pursuit of
The mission of the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and
Schools (ACICS or the Council) is to advance educational excellence at
independent, nonpublic career schools, colleges, and organizations in
the United States and abroad. This is achieved through a deliberate and
thorough accreditation process of quality assurance and enhancement
as well as ethical business and educational practices.
Since 1953, ACICS has engaged in the evaluation and accreditation
of independent colleges and career schools. In 1956, the Council was
ofﬁcially designated by the U.S. Commissioner of Education as a nation-
ally recognized accrediting agency. Such recognition has been renewed
continuously by the U.S. Secretary of Education since that time. Recently,
ACICS was given the maximum ﬁve-year
grant of recognition by the Secretary. Since 1953, ACICS has engaged
Institutions accredited by ACICS are
eligible for participation through the U.S. in the evaluation and accreditation
Department of Education in Federal Title
IV student ﬁnancial aid programs, of independent colleges and
ACICS is also recognized by the career schools.
Council for Higher Education
Accreditation (CHEA). Degree-granting
institutions accredited by ACICS are eli-
gible for membership in CHEA. CHEA’s mission is to serve students and
their families, colleges and universities, sponsoring bodies, governments,
and employers by promoting academic quality through formal recogni-
tion of higher education accrediting agencies. CHEA is the successor
organization to the Council on Postsecondary Accreditation (COPA) and
the Commission on Recognition of Postsecondary Accreditation (CORPA).
ACICS has been a charter member of all three organizations, beginning
with the founding of COPA in 1975. ACICS is reviewed by CHEA for
continued recognition at least once every ﬁve years.
The Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools is an in-
dependent accrediting agency. It is organized as a nonproﬁt corpora-
tion incorporated in the Commonwealth of Virginia and is recognized as
a 501(c)(3) corporation by the Internal Revenue Service.
The Council is composed of ﬁfteen commissioners, each of whom
must be either elected by the membership or appointed by the Council.
Each commissioner is a member of the Board of Directors, and in this
capacity they oversee both the administrative and corporate activities of
The Council is subdivided into three committees for the purpose of
reviewing materials for initial or continuing accreditation. These commit-
tees are equally comprised of commissioners with various credentials, so
that every committee can review applications at each level (certiﬁcate/
diploma, occupational associate, academic associate, bachelor, and
master’s degrees). Appointed commissioners may be representatives
from within education – member institutions, other institutions of higher
education, or education-related government agencies – or from the gen-
eral public, representing industry, business, or the professions. Elected
commissioners represent member institutions. A minimum number of com-
missioners, including at least one member of the Board of Directors, must
be from the public.
CHARACTERISTICS OF INSTITUTIONS
ACICS accredits institutions operating in the United States, the Cayman
Islands, England, France, Germany, Greece, Mexico, Spain, and
Approximately 300 main campuses and 400 nonmain campuses
are accredited by the Council. Programs include traditional business ar-
eas such as accounting, business administration, secretarial sciences,
and computer operations. In addition, career-speciﬁc programs in grow-
ing ﬁelds such as court reporting, paralegal, computer-aided drafting,
culinary arts, allied health, and electronics may be offered. The current
ACICS Directory of Accredited Institutions, listed on www.acics.org,
contains a summary of all programs offered and a listing for each loca-
Credentials offered by institutions include certiﬁcates, diplomas, as-
sociate’s degrees, bachelor’s degrees, and master’s degrees.
Accreditation is a voluntary system of nongovernmental self-regulation of
the nation’s educational institutions. Through the process of accreditation,
institutions and the programs they offer are evaluated and recognized for
quality assurance. The Council’s aim is to maintain the educational qual-
ity and the effectiveness of the private
career schools and colleges that it ac-
The Council is dedicated to more
credits. The accrediting process is a
vehicle for institutional self-examination than 400,000 students who
and self-regulation. The Council is
dedicated to more than 400,000 stu- pursue career education...
dents who pursue career education at
its accredited institutions each year.
Accrediting agencies consider all factors that inﬂuence the quality
of education. These areas include:
Inputs. What types of students are enrolled in the institution? Are the
faculty members qualiﬁed? Are the learning resources adequate? Is the
equipment up-to-date? What is the condition of the facilities? What are
the institution’s admissions practices and testing procedures? What is
the level of ﬁnancial stability?
Outcomes. Do retention and job placement rates, employer and student
satisfaction, and the speciﬁc skills, knowledge, and competencies a
student has gained as a result of the institution’s education programs
demonstrate successful outcomes and educational effectiveness?
Processes. Inputs and outcomes are evaluated within the context of the
institution’s stated mission. Through its effectiveness plan, the institution
is asked to demonstrate how the results of these measures are utilized to
develop changes in areas such as admissions requirements, curriculum,
student services, and information resources.
Accreditation is more than a purely regulatory process. Through ac-
creditation, member institutions demonstrate their commitment to the high-
est standards of educational conduct. The Council seeks from its members
not mere conformity, but a constant striving for excellence. Accreditation
should be viewed as a continuous process, not a status to be achieved
every few years and then neglected until the next scheduled evaluation.
Achievement of accreditation by ACICS carries with it the responsibility
for maintaining accreditation.
Evaluation leading to accreditation is an evolving process and the
practices at an institution that meet accreditation expectations one year
may not do so the next year. Accrediting criteria are deleted, modiﬁed,
and instituted to meet the rapid changes taking place in postsecondary
education, as well as expectations by the numerous publics for institu-
tional effectiveness and account-
Through accreditation, member ability. A critical responsibility of
an accredited institution is to pro-
institutions demonstrate their com- vide comment on proposed chang-
mitment to the highest standards of es to these standards.
The Council, through research,
educational conduct. attention to educational and mar-
ket trends, and a commitment to
require both ethical business and
education practices at institutions, attempts to maintain minimum stan-
dards, policies and procedures leading to institutional effectiveness.
Only institutions that subscribe to these goals and strive daily to
meet them should apply for initial or continuing accreditation by
ELIGIBILITY FOR ACCREDITATION
To be eligible for consideration for accreditation, an institution or entity
must satisfy the following minimum requirements:
1. It shall be either an institution of postsecondary education primarily
offering certiﬁcates or diplomas, a postsecondary institution offering as-
sociate’s, bachelor’s, or master’s degrees in programs designed to edu-
cate students for professional, technical, or occupational careers, or a
noninstitutional entity offering professional enhancement education.
An institution is presumed to be an institution of postsecondary education
if it (1) enrolls a majority of its students in one or more programs, the
content of which is on a postsecondary academic level and which leads
to a postsecondary academic credential (such as a certiﬁcate, diploma,
or degree) or an occupational objective; (2) enrolls students who pos-
sess a high school diploma or its equivalent, or who are beyond the age
of compulsory school attendance and demonstrate through valid assess-
ment an ability to beneﬁt from the educational experience; and (3) offers
at least one program which is a minimum of 300 clock hours in length.
2. It shall be legally organized; be licensed by (1) the appropriate state
education agency for postsecondary institutions or (2) the appropriate
state agency for authorizing the conduct of business in that state for non-
institutional entities; and have offered its educational services to the gen-
eral public for at least two years immediately prior to consideration of
the application by ACICS.
3. Its mission shall be to offer educational programs which help students
develop skills and competencies to enhance their careers.
4. Its residential enrollment and enrollment in each program shall be
sufﬁcient both to support course work and learning experiences that,
separately or in combination, constitute measurable and deﬁned educa-
tional programs; and to enable ACICS to access the educational effec-
tiveness of those programs.
5. It shall have a sufﬁcient number of graduates from a majority of its
programs to enable ACICS to assess the educational effectiveness of
those programs. Programs offered at any credential level from which
there are no graduates will be reviewed in accordance with standards
outlined in the Accreditation Criteria.
6. It shall be in compliance with all applicable laws and regulations.
7. It shall be organized as a corporation, as a limited partnership with
corporate general partner, or as a limited liability company.
8. Its evaluation for accreditation shall be authorized by the chief ex-
9. Its owners or managers shall not have been debarred by ACICS.
Institutions must be legally authorized by the appropriate state education
agency, where such authority exists, to confer the degrees offered.
The Council maintains speciﬁc procedures that all applicant institutions
must follow and encourages administrators to contact staff members for
An institution seeking an initial grant of accreditation is required to
complete a questionnaire that explores the institution’s preliminary quali-
ﬁcations and it’s adherence to the eligibility requirements. If a review by
the Council staff shows that the institution appears to be eligible for ac-
creditation, the institution is invited to submit the application, supporting
exhibits, audited ﬁnancial statements, and the application fee. A current
institutional catalog also must be submitted at this time.
Upon receipt of a complete application and a review of the ﬁnan-
cial statements to determine ﬁnancial stability, a resource visit is con-
ducted to assess the institution’s
The self-study also serves as a blue- eligibility and readiness to proceed
with the self-study phase of the appli-
print for institutional improvement... cation. If this evaluation is positive, the
institution is invited to complete this
part of the application process.
Once the institution has reached this stage, the procedures for pre-
paring the self-study and completing the application for an initial grant
do not differ from those for currently accredited institutions seeking a new
grant of accreditation.
The overall goal of the self-study is to provide the institution with an
opportunity to evaluate its administrative and educational policies and
procedures. The self-study also serves as a blueprint for institutional im-
provement by assisting the institution in pinpointing its strengths and
weaknesses. Depending on the size of the institution, its diversity, and
the number of programs, the self-study process typically spans a period
of six to nine months.
Following receipt of the self-study, a full evaluation visit is conducted
by a team of educators and administrators drawn both from within and
outside of ACICS-accredited institutions. The team will report on the insti-
tution’s compliance with the Council criteria and the accuracy of the
self-study. The institution is provided with a copy of the team report and
is invited to respond to it in writing. The Council then will consider all
information submitted, including the application, ﬁnancial statements,
self-study, team report, and response to the team report, at its next meet-
ing. The Council considers applications in April, August, and
The Council grants accreditation to institutions for a speciﬁc period
of time, prior to the expiration of which the institution may reapply and
again be evaluated. Grants of accreditation vary in length and are given
for a maximum of eight years. Initial grants of accreditation are normally
three to four years in length.
Each year, each institution must ﬁle annual reports. Institutions report en-
rollment, graduation, and placement rates, and other relevant data. The
institution also must submit ﬁnancial statements for each ﬁscal year.
The Council continuously monitors and evaluates these data to en-
sure that the institution is adequately serving the needs of students. The
Council may, at any time, require institutions to submit supplemental re-
ports related to retention, placement, and ﬁnancial status.
The Council, at its discretion, may direct unannounced visits to oc-
cur at institutions that are subject to adverse information, or when gen-
eral operations of the institution may be called into question. The Council
also visits institutions that initiate new academic programs or branch
campuses or that undergo a change of ownership.
Institutional representatives are required to attend an ACICS accredita-
tion workshop within 18 months prior to the submission of the self-study.
For initial applicants, the chief on-site administrator of the main and all
branch campuses are required to attend. For continually accredited insti-
tutions, the chief on-site administrator or the self-study coordinator of the
main campus and all branch campuses are required to attend. These
workshops are held several times each year to explain the accrediting
process to applicants, administrators of currently accredited institutions,
and other interested individuals. Other workshops offered by the Council
address topics such as evaluator training, institutional effectiveness, re-
tention and placement, and programs. The Web site posts the workshop
schedule. Inquiries regarding the workshop schedule should be directed
to the Council ofﬁce.
These publications and other ACICS forms are available at the ACICS
Web site by accessing www.acics.org.
Accreditation Criteria, which outlines the procedures and standards by
which institutions seeking initial and new grants of accreditation are
measured. One copy is provided to each institution invited to submit an
Directory of Accredited Institutions, which lists ACICS-accredited institu-
tions and provides information regarding institutional program offerings.
Summary of Key Operating Statistics, which provides annual enrollment
and ﬁnancial summaries for all institutions.
Institutional Effectiveness: A Guide to Implementation, which provides
information on ACICS institutional effectiveness criteria and best prac-
tices among institutions.
Annual Report, which provides an overview of ACICS progress for the
In Pursuit of Excellence, a pamphlet introducing ACICS and eligibility
The Criterion, the ACICS newsletter (also available in hard copy).
Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools
750 First Street, NE, Suite 980 | Washington, DC 20002 | (202) 336-6780 | www.acics.org