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Accreditation in American Higher Education

Accreditation is a process of peer review that the educational community has used for self-regulation since the early 20th century when institutions of higher education joined to form regional accreditation associations. Colleges and universities apply for accreditation and, once accredited, must adhere to the standards of quality and integrity set forth by their accrediting organization. There are six regional agencies of accreditation, and the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (“Middle States”) is responsible for higher education institutions in Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. These agencies are non-governmental but are recognized, approved, and regulated to some extent by the U.S. Department of Education. Accreditation is not only an affirmation of the quality of the institution’s educational program but also a federal requirement for students and faculty applying for funding from federal agencies. Thus, accreditors are the gatekeepers for federal financial aid for the institutions they oversee.

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