Initial and Continuing Accreditation

INITIAL

If your program has never received an accreditation status, you will be seeking your first or "initial" accreditation.
You will be asked to perform many tasks leading to a report you submit, a visit by other educators to your site, and perhaps other follow-up tasks. (Get the details for your program from your Committee on Accreditation (CoA).

When you achieve accreditation, it will be called "initial accreditation." There will be a time limit to this accreditation after which your program's accreditation status will expire -- unless, of course, you apply for continuing accreditation. That time limit for initial accreditation is 3 or 5 years, so be sure to know your CoA's procedure. In terms of your status in the world, initial accreditation is no different from the accreditation older programs receive: once the status of initial accreditation is received, you are accredited (until the 3-year of 5-year time period ends).

Your work for initial accreditation will not differ in major ways from all accreditation work. You will be gathering information and data, analyzing, reporting, etc. What may feel different (but isn't really) is that unfamiliar processes can feel difficult. They're not especially hard; hundreds of your peers across the country have done this successfully and so can you; it just feels uncomfortable sometimes because all of the work is new to you. Don't let anxiety get you down; every time gets easier.

For reasons that are mistaken, some people think it is poor form to ask for help. Not so! In fact, you may need more assistance this first time than you will in later years. Whenever you are concerned about something, ask.

Don't think that it's some kind of black mark that's being entered into your file someplace if you ask questions; if anything, you'll be admired for your effort to get things right. When in doubt, don't struggle; don't guess; don't assume; and, especially, don't throw in the towel; ask!

The best source of information is your CoA but there are many other sources too including deans, colleagues in your profession, and in other professions.

Click below to hear LaCheeta McPherson, a dean, veteran CoA member and CAAHEP Board member, on the value of asking questions.

 


Click below to hear Debra Cason, a program director and veteran CoA member, on the array of people who can answer your questions.

 


One pitfall to avoid: DO NOT advertise that your program is seeking accreditation nor when accreditation is expected.

Doing so not only violates a rule of the process, it misleads students. And it makes your program look naive.

The only permissible advertising claim comes after you become accredited; then you may advertise with pride that your program is CAAHEP accredited.

CAAHEP's policies on when and how accreditation status may be advertised.

CONTINUING

The second time that you seek accreditation, you are going to be seeking and receiving "continuing accreditation" status. Continuing accreditation does not end, unless your CoA and CAAHEP have reason to withdraw it.

Your annual and periodic reporting requirements to your CoA may be somewhat different from those for programs with initial accreditation. But, as always, your CoA lays out all the procedures and requirements. Read the website. Ask questions.

PROBATIONARY

It is possible that your CoA will judge that your program has some serious deficiencies in its compliance with the Standards. In that case, the CoA may determine that your program should be recommended for probationary status.

If this happens, it means that a timetable is set by which the CoA expects the program to come back into compliance.

While probationary accreditation sometimes may be a first step to withdrawal of accreditation, this is rare. More often probationary accreditation is a formal way to express faith that a program is on its way to meeting Standards; it's not a black mark; it's an encouragement.

IS YOUR PROGRAM ACCREDITED? WITH WHAT STATUS?


[This may seem too basic to think about, and probably as a program director you know the accreditation status, but if you are new, possibly not.]

To find out what your program's accreditation status is you would be wise not to rely on someone else's memory. Your files [or perhaps a framed certificate on the wall] should contain a letter from CAAHEP informing you of accreditation status. You can be certain that your program is accredited as specified in that letter. 

  • If your program's status is initial accreditation, be sure to know when that status was granted and check to see when that status expires. The letter from CAAHEP should tell you.
  • If your program's status is probationary, know the time limit you have to remedy deficiencies in order to qualify for continuing accreditation.

If your files don't have such a letter, check the CAAHEP website for accredited programs. Great pains are taken to keep the list of accredited programs accurate and up to date. If your program is not on the list, you can be 99.99% certain that it is not accredited.

Perhaps your program was once accredited but the status has lapsed or been withdrawn. If so, CAAHEP and your CoA will have records that can be checked.

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