Program Accreditation

In the US, institutions of higher education and programs within the institutions are accredited using standards that help ensure that the educational experience  offered to students meets an acceptable level of quality. Program accreditation standards provide guidelines for colleges and universities on how to develop and improve programs, validate these programs within institutions of higher education, and give students and their families an assurance of quality.

In the 2008 Reauthorization of the Higher Education Act, Congress directed the National Coordinating Center to convene a workgroup to develop model program accreditation standards for college programs for students with ID. When implemented, the standards will move the field forward by offering accreditation of college programs that support students with ID.

This page shares resources to help you familiarize yourself with the Standards and learn about the work of the NCC Accreditation Workgroups, both current and past.

News & Features

The model program accreditation standards released in 2020 will shape the future of inclusive postsecondary education in important ways. With over 308 postsecondary education programs in the U.S. ...Read more
cover of report featuring colored boxes and photos of college students
The Think College National Coordinating Center has completed the Report on Model Accreditation Standards for Higher Education Programs for Students with Intellectual Disability: Progress on the Path to Education, Employment, and Community Living, and submitted it to the US Department of Education and relevant Congressional committees. ...Read more
photos of Martha Mock and Stephanie Smith Lee, chair and past chair of the Accreditation Workgroup
The  2021-2025 Accreditation workgroup will work with the National Coordinating Center to support the development of a program accreditation process for college programs for students with intellectual disability.   ...Read more

Frequently Asked Questions

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.