Program Accreditation

Accreditation Workgroup Chair

Establishing an accreditation process for college programs for students with intellectual disability is a very important goal in the field today. Such a process is NOT currently available, although Accreditation Standards have been written and are available to guide practice. 

A key activity of the Think College National Coordinating Center 2020-2025 is to establish a process by which postsecondary education programs for students with intellectual disability can become accredited. In this work, we will be building on the work of previous accreditation workgroups, which started in 2011. In 2020, a Report to Congress from the National Coordinating Center described the work to date and shared for the first time finalized program accreditation standards. In early 2021, the newly established NCC Accreditation Workgroup began to create an accreditation process including guidance to programs seeking accreditation, training and materials for accreditation site reviewers, and an accreditation self-study process.

This page shares resources related to the work of the National Coordinating Center on the development of an accrediting process, as well as resources and tools to assist programs to familiarize themselves with the accreditation standards.  

News & Features

photo of campus steps with many students
Program accreditation standards have been finalized.  A workgroup assembled by the National Coordinating Center, chaired by Dr. Martha Mock and Stephanie Smith Lee with lead staffer Debra Hart is working to develop an accreditation process and structure by which postsecondary education programs for students with intellectual disability can become formally accredited. Why does this matter?  Read the full article! ...Read more
dictionary definiton of the word accreditation
Published in October, 2021, this blog post from the Accreditation workgroup chair, Dr. Martha Mock, shares her thoughts on the ongoing and important work of the Workgroup.  Dr. Mock shares her thoughts on what program accreditation means for students, famiy members, college faculty and program staff, and what each of those groups can do NOW to get involved.  Read the full blog post.  ...Read more
resources to help programs learn more about program accreditation standards
Currently, there is no formal process by which college programs for students with ID can become accredited.  While that process is being created, we offer college programs for students with intellectual disability some tools that they can use to become familiar with Program Accreditation Standards. Click here to learn about and access the tools we have developed.  ...Read more

Meet the Accreditation Workgroup

The NCC Accreditation Workgroup represents a wide array of stakeholders who bring expertise in college programs for students with intellectual disability, higher education accreditation, employment of individuals with disabilities, disability policy and higher education administration. The Workgroup meets regularly to refine and implement a program accreditation process so that the program accreditation standards finalized in 2020 may be used to accredit college programs.

Learn more about the members of the Accreditation Workgroup.



Why is accreditation of programs important?

Accreditation offers a way to indicate that a program is meeting basic quality standards in a number of key areas. Accreditation of programs creates quality benchmarks for programs that are useful to the institutions and to students and parents. It provides legitimacy for programs that meet the standards and guidelines for colleges and universities who are considering establishing high-quality programs.

How were the current finalized Accreditation Standards developed?

The first National Coordinating Center Accreditation Workgroup was established in 2011 and completed its work in 2015. That Workgroup developed, for the first time, model program accreditation standards for these programs by consulting with existing accreditors, working with experts in the fields of higher education for students with intellectual disability and gathering input from hundreds of key stakeholders such as family members, educators, and accreditors.

The second NCC Accreditation Workgroup began its work in 2016 and concluded in 2020. This Workgroup conducted a field test of the model standards developed by the first Workgroup, held sessions to gather public input, surveyed programs regarding their interest in becoming accredited, and reached out to existing accreditors to ascertain interest in using the model standards.

What is the current accreditation status of college programs for students with ID?

Program accreditation standards have been finalized, and The National Coordinating Center Accreditation Workgroup has submitted a final report on the work conducted on Program Accreditation Standards from 2015-2020 to Congress, the Secretary of Education and the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity.
The Think College National Coordinating Center 2020-2025 continues to work on program accreditation with the assistance of an accreditation workgroup that will develop, pilot and finalize a program accreditation process that college programs for students with ID can participate in.

While no entity is currently accrediting these programs, the accreditation workgroup and the Think College NCC are exploring the steps involved in establishing an accreditation organization. In the meantime, program applicants and institutions may use the program standards to prepare for accreditation.

What is the timeline for program accreditation for college programs for students with ID to be implemented?

A strict timeline cannot be stated at this time – work continues to establish a process for program accreditation and the creation of an entity to conduct accreditation peer review visits, and to determine program accreditation status.