Process of Accreditation
Webinar on Initial Accreditation
Benefits of Accreditation
Experts’ Views on Curricula Quality
Eligibility and Standards
Powers and Responsibilities
Call for Public Comment
Appeal Panel Volunteers
The DETC Accrediting Commission was established
in 1955. The Commission's mission is to promote, by means of standard-setting,
evaluation, and consultation processes, the development and maintenance
of high educational and ethical standards in education and training
programs delivered through distance learning. The DETC Accrediting
Commission identifies and accredits distance education and training
institutions that have attained and maintained the standards deemed
necessary to operate at a high level of quality.
The Accrediting Commission's recognition by
Department of Education and the Council
for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) are for postsecondary
programs purposes only. Since the U.S. Secretary's authority is
statutorily limited to postsecondary institutions in the United
States, this federal recognition encompasses only DETC accreditation
in this area. Presently, the Commission's scope of recognition
extends only through the Professional Doctoral Degree level.
The Commission establishes educational, ethical and business standards;
it examines and evaluates distance education institutions in terms
of these standards; and accredits those who qualify. Its accrediting
program employs procedures similar to those of other recognized
educational accrediting agencies. The Commission’s procedures
and standards have been continuously refined and improved over
the past half century.
Distance study institutions located outside the United States
are eligible to apply for accreditation. The opportunity to apply
for accreditation is open to private and public distance education
institutions, both at the degree (Associates through the professional doctoral degree level) and non-degree levels.
Today, more than 4 million Americans are enrolled in DETC-accredited
institutions. It is estimated that since 1890, some 130 million
Americans have taken distance education courses. Presently, there
are 110 institutions accredited by the Accrediting Commission.
Process of Accreditation
Since accreditation is a voluntary process,
each institution must make its own choice: to seek accreditation
or re-accreditation or not. Schools desiring accredited status
are expected to take the initiative in going through a series
of steps that are outlined below. Institutions seeking accreditation
or re-accreditation assume the burden of proof in presenting themselves
as meeting the established standards. For more detailed information,
please see the DETC Accreditation
In addition, you can click here to view an archived version of the DETC Webinar on Initial accreditation.
The eight steps in the accreditation process are:
1. Obtain the DETC Accreditation Handbook,
Review Application, Complete Course, and Begin Writing SER
Institution receives the DETC Accreditation
Handbook and reviews it carefully: The Accrediting Commission’s
comprehensive publication on accreditation, the DETC Accreditation
Handbook, is currently sold for $30 (U.S.). It is available from
DETC’s web site for no charge (www.detc.org, select “Publications”
and “Accreditation Handbook”). The Handbook is updated
every January, so you should check DETC’s web site to make
certain you have the most up-to-date versions of the documents.
For institutions undergoing the five-year reaccreditation process,
information will be sent to them in the preceding year advising
them of their upcoming reaccreditation review.
Review Application: Once the
institution has studied the Handbook, the CEO/President should
review the “Application for Accreditation” found in
Appendix G.1. to make certain he/she understands all that is required
in the accreditation process.
Enroll and Complete Course: A
key person must enroll in and complete the DETC Course on Preparing
for Accreditation to qualify as a Compliance Officer. The course
is available online or in print for no charge from DETC’s
web site at www.detc.org, “Member Services” (sign
in using the word “guest” for your user name and password)
and “Publications.” DETC will be notified when the
Compliance Officer has completed the course. This course should
be completed before writing the SER. DETC
will not accept an application without proof that someone has
completed this course.
Begin Writing the SER: The
Compliance Officer begins writing the institution’s Self-Evaluation
Report (SER). The SER is prepared in accordance with the provisions
of the “Guide to Self-Evaluation” for initial applicants
or the “Guide to Self-Evaluation for 5-Year Review”
for institutions undergoing reaccreditation found in Appendix
A. The SER provides data on all areas of an institution’s
operation, history, course offerings, student services, finances,
etc. The self-evaluation includes as wide a gathering and analysis
of pertinent data on all aspects of the institution and its work.
It should, above all else, be a truly self-analytical
document that identifies an institution’s particular
strengths and challenges. It should reveal the philosophy, organization,
specific practices and procedures (documented wherever possible),
the success of different operations, and the outcomes of the educational
process including the degree to which the institution is accomplishing
its stated objectives. Data should not be amassed routinely, but
in a constant search for new meanings, new methods and procedures,
new hypotheses, and new ideas for improvement. The Self-Evaluation
Report really “tells a story” about the institution.
What the Accrediting Commission is looking for is a candid
self-analysis of the institution.
Even though the Compliance Officers is the
key person who oversees the writing of the SER, it is recommended
that as many staff as possible help to write the Report. Preparing
the SER is a great learning experience for everyone. When writing
the SER, the name of a contact person should be assigned to each
Standard. This helps the evaluators to determine who to interview
during the on-site visit.
Preparing the Self-Evaluation Report may take
only a few months for a small institution, to as many as 9 months
for a large institution. Institutions are instructed to allow
sufficient time for writing, editing, and revising the Self-Evaluation
Report. This is a key document in the institution’s
quest for accreditation!
2. Submit Application and Other Required
Institution submits application
with application fee: To initiate the accreditation process,
the Application for Accreditation (found in Appendix G.1), and
the $1,000 accreditation fee (or $500 reaccreditation fee), must
be submitted to the Commission. Initial applicants must submit
a draft of their SER no later than 60 days after submitting their
Application. The Accrediting Commission accepts applications from
institutions that have been operating as a bona fide
distance education institution or organization and enrolling students for at least two
years. The CEO must sign the “Certification of Application”
in the Application. In doing so, the CEO agrees that at least
one key person has completed the course, DETC Course on Preparing
for Accreditation, before he/she began writing the SER. Upon receipt
of the Application, the Commission staff will consult with the
institution as needed. Receiving the Application begins the formal
process. The steps obligated in the accreditation process must
be taken within two accrediting periods after application is made
(approximately one year).
Institution submits students
names, catalogs, and copy of state licensure: Along with
the fee, no more than 100 mailing labels with student names must
be submitted, as well as the institution’s catalog and copies
of state licensures. If an institution has less than 100 students,
it must send mailing labels for all of its students. The Commission
uses these labels to survey students.
DETC posts names of applicants for
accreditation on its web site and publications: The name
of the institution applying for reaccreditation
is published in DETC publications (DETC News, DETC Bulletin, Washington
Memo, etc.) and web site (www.detc.org), and the public is requested
to send any comments they may have to the Accrediting Commission
by a given date. As of October 1, 2008, the name of an initial applicant will not be published in DETC’s publications or posted on DETC’s web site until after it has completed a successful Readiness Assessment.
3. Undergo Readiness Assessment (Initial Applicants
For initial applicants, the institution submits
3 copies of the draft of its SER (no later than 60 days from the
date of application). Once DETC receives this document, the Director
of Accreditation (Nan Bayster) will coordinate a review by an
evaluator for a Readiness Assessment (see Appendices B.9. and
C.12.). The evaluator reviews the SER and writes a report stating
if the institution is deemed “ready,” to undergo a
full on-site visit. Then the institution proceeds to the next
step. If it is not deemed “ready,” then it must correct
the areas of concern before proceeding with the accreditation
4. Submit Course Materials, DETC Schedules
On-Site Visit and Surveys Students
Institution submits courses materials
for review: Course materials also are required to be
submitted as part of the accreditation process. A new applicant
for accreditation must submit one complete set
of each course. An institution undergoing a reaccreditation examination
must submit one complete set of all course materials.
Degree-granting institutions should following the instructions
in C.5. Policy on Course Approval for submitting course materials.
This includes advertising, an institution catalog, enrollment
agreement(s), examinations and examination solutions, and all
tools, kits, and equipment provided with the course(s). Course
materials submitted as part of an institution’s application
for accreditation are not returned to the institution;
they are consumed in the review process.
Subject matter experts, who are also called
“subject specialists,” are selected to review and
report on the institution’s course materials (see Appendix
J.4.). Typically, these reviews take place in the subject specialists’
home or office. However, if an institution offers a combination
distance study-resident program, offers a degree program, or has
an extremely large number of courses (e.g., a military institute),
then one or more subject specialists are appointed to visit the
institution for an on-site review of course materials. Each subject
specialist submits to the Accrediting Commission written report
on the courses reviewed (see Appendices D.2., D.3., and D.5.).
Date of Visit is Set: A
mutually convenient on-site examination date is coordinated with
the institution. On-site visits are from one to two days, depending
upon the size of the institution (see Appendix J. 7 for Guidelines).
In cases where resident training is provided as a required or
as an optional part of a distance education course, the training
facilities are examined to make sure that outcomes of resident
training contribute to the total course objectives.
Students Surveyed: The names
and addresses of the first 100 students consecutively
enrolled with the institution beginning on the first day
of the 18th month preceding the date of the application
must be submitted on self-adhesive mailing labels. If you have
fewer than 100 students, submit all the names and addresses. Insofar
as possible, the number of students must reflect the same proportion
of the enrollments for each of the institution’s major course
offerings. For example, if you have 100 students enrolled in two
separate courses, then approximately one-half of the students
on the mailing labels should be from each respective course. These
students are asked to complete a survey form (see Appendix J.
1) which contains questions about enrollment practices, lessons,
student services, and student satisfaction with the course(s)
and the institution. A self-addressed stamped envelope is mailed
with the survey to encourage the student to return the survey
to the Commission.
In addition, the Commission staff also surveys
Better Business Bureaus, Chambers of Commerce, various consumer
protection agencies, accrediting associations, and federal and
state regulatory agencies, such as the Department of Veterans
Affairs, the Federal Trade Commission and the U.S. Department
of Education, for information on the educational services, business
ethics, and general reputation of all applicant
5. Submit SER, Receive Subject Specialist Reports, and Respond
Institution Submits SER: The
Compliance Officer completes and submits the institution’s
SER. This should be done at least 10 weeks before the on-site
visit. If an applicant institution is deemed ready for a full
on-site review, it must revise the draft of its SER by incorporating
the improvements made since the Readiness Assessment.
As instructed by the DETC staff, the institution
must submit the required number of Self-Evaluation Reports by
a specified date. In addition, the institution must provide the
appropriate instructions and passwords for full access to the
institution’s web site and/or online courses. This will
allow members of the examining committee to review the appropriate
items/content before the on-site visit. Once the Accrediting Commission
receives the SER, the Commission staff reads it to make certain
it is complete and all appropriate materials are included. If
material is missing, staff will contact the institution and request
that the missing information is sent to the Commission right away.
Usually, an institution will submit 10 copies of the SER.
Examining Committee is Selected:
The Examining Committee is not limited in size, but usually
includes a Chair, an Educational Standards Examiner, a Business
Standards Examiner, Subject Specialists for each subject area
(who may or may not visit the institution), and an Observer for
the Accrediting Commission (see “The Organization of the
Examining Committee” on page 26). An Examining Committee
is appointed to visit the institution for the purpose of verifying
the information in the Self-Evaluation Report, and to gather additional
facts for the Accrediting Commission (see Appendix J. 2). Once
the examiners are selected, their names are submitted to the institution.
The institution may object, with an adequate reason, to a specific
examiner and request that another examiner is chosen.
Examiners, who are also called evaluators,
are selected from among educators, executives, and practitioners
in business, technical, and service fields (see Appendix J. 3).
To become a qualified examiner, one must complete
the distance education course entitled “DETC Evaluator Training
Program” and receive a certificate of completion. One must
also serve as an “Examiner in Training”
on at least one on-site visit. The Commission develops and maintains
a record of the qualifications of people who have been trained
as examiners. The Commission strongly stresses to each examiner
the need for confidentiality before, during, and after the on-site
visit (see Appendix J. 5). Evaluators known to have competing
interests with an applicant institution are not appointed to serve
on the applicant’s examining committee.
State Observers are Invited:
Representatives from state licensing bodies and from
federal agencies are notified of forthcoming visits and are invited
to participate as observers in the process. They are encouraged
(but not required) to submit written reports to the Chair at the
conclusion of the visit.
DETC Sends Subject Specialist Reports
and Student Surveys to the Institution: The DETC staff
will send the Subject Specialist Reports and Student Surveys received
to the institution 3-4 weeks prior to the Examining Committee’s
visit so that institutional representatives can prepare for questions
from the visiting committee. If there are any “B”
or “C” ratings, the institution must respond in writing
as to what has been done to correct the problem..
Institution addresses any “B”
or “C” comments from subject specialists, as well
as any complaints from DETC: The institution will received
a copy of each of the Subject Specialist Reports before the visit.
The institution must write a response to any “B” or
“C” ratings it receives. The institution’s response
should be sent to DETC two weeks after receiving the Subject Specialists
Reports. The written responses should also be given to the Educational
Standards Evaluator when he/she arrives at the institution. He/she
will review the responses to determine if the courses deficiencies
have been corrected, and if the course is now approved. If appropriate,
the Educational Standards Evaluator may work with the on-site
Subject Specialist to determine if the course meets standards.
Examiners Receive and Review SER, Subject
Specialist Reports and Student Surveys: A copy of the
SER, along with any Subject Specialist Reports and Student Surveys
received, are sent to each member of the visiting Examining Committee
prior to the on-site visit to the institution. When special examinations
are ordered, SERs are also required before the on-site visits
(see Appendix B. 7). While on-site visits are required for all
institutions seeking accreditation or reaccreditation, they may
or may not be required for institutions submitting interim progress
Whenever possible, the SER is sent to each
examiner one month prior to the on-site visit. Each examiner reads
the SER carefully and uses the “Examiner’s Rating
Form for All Institutions” (see Appendix D. 1) to consider
the institution’s responses to each question. The examiners
make notes of any questions not answered in the SER or areas in
which they may have concerns. The examiners use their notes to
form their list of questions to be asked or items to be checked
at the on-site visit. The examiners are not limited to the questions
on the rating form, and are encouraged to ask their own questions
as they confirm an institution’s compliance with the standards.
Complaint Summary is Prepared: The
Accrediting Commission has a formal procedure for handling complaints
lodged against an accredited institution (see Appendix H. 3).
A summary of any complaints received on an institution that is
undergoing reaccreditation is compiled and the summary is presented
at the executive breakfast meeting on the day of the on-site visit.
6. Institution Undergoes On-Site Visit and Examiners Write Reports
Institution undergoes the on-site visit:
During the visit, the questions asked by the examiners and the
methods of inquiry help safeguard impartial judgment. Each examiner
develops a comprehensive picture of the institution’s operations
before the visit by doing a thorough review and study of the SER.
Information provided in the report is verified at the time of
the visit. The Examiner’s Rating Form directs Examining
Committee members in their inquiries. Also, the presence of an
Accrediting Commission observer helps ensure objectivity, impartiality,
uniformity, and adherence to established procedures.
At the time of the on-site visit, it
is vital that all key staff members are present or available,
including faculty, principal managers, outside accountants and
instructors. Members of the Examining Committee will want to interview
many of the key staff members during the on-site visit. School
representatives, the Educational Standards Evaluator (and possibly
the Chair) will want to discuss the Subject Specialist Reports
and student survey results (if previously forwarded) during the
Evaluators test and verify information
in the SER: Below are details for the on-site visit.
Basically, the Committee members will work in their area of expertise
during the examination. They will interview staff and examine
files, review records, verify data, and assemble relevant information
to aid in preparing their individual reports.
Chair informs the institution when
to expect the Chair’s Report: At the end of the
visit, the Chair will meet with the CEO/President and tell him/her
when he/she may expect to receive the Chair’s Report (typically
it is one month after the visit).
Evaluators write reports and send them
to the Chair: Each examiner completes the appropriate
sections of the “Examiner’s Rating Form for All Institutions”
and transfers his or her ratings to the “Summary of the
Examiner’s Rating Form” (see Appendix D. 1), along
with his or her narrative commentary stating their findings and
recommendations and expanding on or explaining any “No”
ratings (see Appendix E. 2). The “Summary Rating Form”
and comments are sent to the Committee Chair. Once again, the
examiners are not limited by the questions on the rating form.
They are encouraged to explore any related characteristics and
activities that help to determine if the institution meets each
of the 12 Standards.
Observer’s and CEO’s comments
are solicited: Any observers/representatives from state
licensing bodies and/or federal agencies are strongly encouraged
to send their comments to the Commission and the Chair. Their
comments should address any issues concerning the institution’s
compliance with state or federal regulations or the accrediting
process itself. The CEO’s comments are solicited immediately
following the on-site visit and prior to the receipt of the Chair’s
Commission surveys on-site evaluators:
After the on-site visit, the Commission surveys the examiners
for any comments they may have on the institution’s SER,
the on-site visit, and the accreditation process (see Appendix
J. 6). If a state observer went on the on-site visit, the Commission
normally sends the observer a copy of the Chair’s Report
and the institution’s response to the Chair’s Report.
7. Chair Writes & Submits Report and Institution
Chair writes report and sends
it to DETC: Once the Chair receives all of the examiner
reports, the Chair then prepares a Chair’s Report. The purpose
of the Report is to present to the Accrediting Commission a thorough,
succinct, and accurate statement of the findings of the Examining
Committee. It presents a composite view of the findings of Committee
members and subject specialists on the policies, conditions, and
practices of the institution as measured against the published
standards for accredited institutions. The Chair’s Report
also summarizes the findings and recommendations of the Subject
Specialist reports and the institutions comments about them. The
Guide provided to the Committee Chair for preparation of the Chair’s
Report may be found in Appendix E.1.
In the Report, the strengths and the deficiencies
of the institution are noted. The Report lists Committee findings
and presents Committee recommendations on how an institution might
take action to bring existing policies, practices, materials,
or services into accord with specific standards. The Chair’s
Report does not, however, make any recommendation to the Accrediting
Commission as to the overall approval or disapproval of the institution’s
application for accreditation. The Chair sends his/her report
to the Executive Director of the Commission. The Executive Director
does not edit or make changes to the Chair’s Report.
DETC sends the Chair’s Report
to the institution for comment: A copy of the Chair’s
Report is forwarded, approximately 4 weeks after the on-site visit,
to the CEO of the applicant institution by the Executive Director
for comment and response before the Accrediting Commission takes
action. This procedure provides the institution with the opportunity
to respond to Committee findings as well as to report on any corrective
actions taken subsequent to the visit.
Institution responds to Chair’s
report: The institution has 14 days from the receipt
of the Report to comment on the Report and to submit additional
written materials which it desires to place before the Accrediting
8. Commission Reviews, Takes Action and Announces
Commission reviews surveys, Chair’s
report and the institution’s response to the Chair’s
report: The Accrediting Commission usually meets twice
a year, in January and in June, to take action on schools’
applications for accreditation. At each meeting, the Commission
reviews information and documentation on the various applications
for initial accreditation or reaccreditation. The Commission looks
at the Chair’s Report; the school’s response to the
Chair’s Report; student surveys; any complaints from the
public; information gathered from Better Business Bureaus, Chambers
of Commerce, consumer agencies, accrediting associations, and
federal and state regulatory agencies; any responses to the public
notices; school’s advertisements and catalog; any communications
between the school and the Accrediting Commission; and other relevant
documentation from various sources.
Commission makes decision and informs
institution: The Commission can take one of four courses
- accredit a new applicant institution, or
continue an institution’s accredited status;
- accredit, or continue accreditation, with
conditions that an institution must agree to meet within a period
not to exceed one year. (Note: the Commission will initiate
adverse action against an institution if it fails to meet all
of the stipulations within the specified time unless the Commission
decides the time period should be extended for a good cause.);
- defer a decision for a period not to exceed
one year pending receipt of a Special Report, or submission
of additional information and, possibly, a follow-up on-site
- deny accreditation to an applicant, or
withdraw accreditation from an accredited institution.
If the Commission determines there is a “good
cause,” it may grant an extension of time on a deferral
and/or accreditation with stipulations.
After a final decision is made, the Commission
will notify the institution within 10 days of its decision. If
the Commission votes to deny or withdraw accreditation, the institution
is sent a statement of the reasons for denial and the institution
may appeal or request reconsideration of the decision of the Commission
(see Appendices H. 1 and G. 5). The Commission will hear the appeal
at the earliest practical time (see “Right to Appeal or
Reconsideration” below). If an institution is denied accreditation
or if accreditation is withdrawn, the institution must wait one
year from the date of the Commission’s decision before making
application for accreditation again.
All judgments of the Accrediting Commission
are final. They are not subject to review or veto by DETC members.
Commission announces decision: After
a final decision is made, the Accrediting Commission
notifies other appropriate recognized accrediting agencies and
state and federal agencies and the public about accreditation
status of institutions and any adverse actions taken. Announcements
of accreditation, reaccreditation, denial, and/or withdrawal of
accreditation are made in DETC publications (DETC News, DETC Bulletin,
Washington Memo, etc.) After the final decision is announced,
the Commission purges its files and keeps only the reports and
information specified in its file retention policy (see Appendix
Webinar on Initial Accreditation
You can click here to view the archived version of the DETC's Webinar on Initial Accreditation. Please contact Nan Bayster Ridgeway, DETC's Director of Accreditation, or Lissette Hubbard, DETC's Accrediting Coordinator, with any questions.
Benefits of Accreditation
For more than a century, DETC institutions
have been leaders in the field of distance education. Accreditation:
• provides a reliable indicator of institution
quality for counselors, employers, educators, governmental officials,
and the public.
• is an expression of confidence in
the educational program, the policies, and the procedures of
the institution by its peers—a lasting source of pride
to the institution.
• is an external source of stimulation
to improve services, programs, and staff through periodic self-studies
and evaluations by an outside agency.
• is an assurance of high standards
and educational quality through the institution’s adherence
to established criteria, policies, and standards.
• brings the institution recognition
through the extension of special status by several states under
their legislation and regulations, as well as recognition given
by federal, state, and local agencies in referring students
to accredited institutions.
• allows an institution and its courses
to be listed in the DETC Directory of Accredited Institutions
available on DETC’s web site.
• enables the institution to qualify
to participate in the voluntary education tuition assistance
program administered by the Defense Activity on Non-Traditional
Education Support (DANTES) for most of the U.S. military services.
• by federal law, provides eligibility
for certain benefits. For example, only accredited distance
education institutions are eligible to participate in the Montgomery and Post-9/11
G.I. Bills and, as mentioned above, the DANTES tuition assistance
program. DETC degree-awarding “distance education” (as defined under Federal law) institutions
are eligible to apply the U.S. Department of Education
to participate in the Title IV federal student aid programs.
• permits an institution to be listed
in the directory, Accredited Institutions of Postsecondary
Education, which is published annually by the American
Council on Education.
• permits an institution to be listed
on the institution databases of the Council for Higher Education
Accreditation and the U.S. Department of Education’s web
• authorizes an institution to obtain
the coveted “.edu” e-mail and web site addresses.
• allows the use of the DETC seal and
reference to accreditation by the Accrediting Commission of
the Distance Education and Training Council.
• allows students to qualify for tuition
reimbursement under certain state, industry, corporate, or union-sponsored
tuition assistance plans requiring enrollment with an accredited
institution, such as that administered by the state of Ohio’s
Workforce Development Program.
• brings eligibility for participation
in the academic credit evaluation procedure conducted by the
American Council on Education’s College Credit Recommendation
• expedites acceptance of advertising
by newspapers, electronic newsletters, magazines, radio and
television stations, and other advertising media.
• helps facilitate, but does not guarantee
acceptance of credits and degrees by other academic institutions.
• provides a unique professional development
opportunity for the institution’s staff members to serve
on accrediting examining committees visiting other institutions.
Experts' Views on DETC Institution Curricula Quality
In May 2008 DETC conducted an online survey with DETC subject-specialist evaluators*:
- 83% find DETC material comparable to similar degree programs at regionally accredited universities
- 100% note outstanding strengths in DETC institutions’ academic programs they would highlight for other institutions to emulate
Evaluators' comments on the quality of the DETC accreditation process:
- I find my team members to be wise scholars who take the task of accrediation very seriously. Their expertise matches, and in many cases, exceeds the team members of the regionals.
- DETC accrediting process has depth and rigor attached. I have always been serious about my responsibilities when asked to review or to be on a team. I always consider the rigor and try to compare the courses to what is offered at my own institution. In my opinion, DETC offers depth and thoroughness to any regional accrediting agency.
- In some notable cases, the academic quality of the DETC programs that I have evaluated appears equal or superior to that of traditional programs that I have monitored or reviewed.
- I believe the quality of the academic programs at institutions accreditated by the DETC are excellent. I would feel comfortable approving transfer credits for equivalent courses.
- I would not hesitate to accept transfer credits from programs that I have evaluated for DETC which the agency has accredited.
- DETC accredited programs are comparable to those programs I have reviewed and recommended for approval for Regionally Accredited institutions. Course design, rigor; quality and faculty qualifications are in harmony with Regional Accrediting standards.
- I have worked with the DETC review process for about two years. I respect the process and the systems in place to assure a quality standard by which to review schools and their programs. My colleagues are respectable in their adherence to standards, such that I have no reservation recommending DETC accreditation to anyone who wants to assure academic rigor and performance of their school's programs. DETC is a brand and stamp of approval to be proud of.
*DETC evaluators are specialists in their field; most evaluators work or have worked as professors in their field at regionally accredited institutions.
Eligibility & Standards
Before the Commission will officially accept an institution’s initial “Application for Accreditation,” the institution has the burden of proof in demonstrating that it meets the following eligibility criteria:
The institution must be a “bona fide” distance education institution and/or training provider, which is defined by the Accrediting Commission as “an educational institution or organization whose primary purpose is providing education or training which (1) formally enrolls students and maintains student records; (2) retains a qualified faculty to service students; (3) transmits to students organized instructional materials; (4) provides continuous two-way communication on student work, e.g., evaluating students’ examinations, projects, and/or answering queries, with prompt feedback given to students; and (5) offers courses of instruction which must be studied predominantly at a distance (51% or more) from the institution or organization.” That is, distance education should be the primary method of study for the majority of students, and distance education courses should comprise the majority of curricula offerings of the institution.
The institution must be properly licensed, authorized, exempted, or approved by the applicable state educational institutional authority (or its equivalent for non-U.S. institutions). The institution must also be in compliance with all applicable local, state, and federal requirements. Exemptions from state law must be supported with State-issued documentation.
At the time of the initial application, the institution must have been enrolling students in the current programs for two consecutive years under the present ownership.
The applicant institution must be able to document—via an audited or reviewed comparative financial statement that covers its two most recent fiscal years—that it is financially sound and that it can meet its financial obligations to provide instruction and service to its students.
The applicant must show that the name being used by the institution is free from any association with any activity that could damage the standing of the Commission or of the accrediting process, such as illegal actions, unethical conduct, or abuse of consumers.
The institution, the institution’s owners, governing board members, and administrators possess sound reputations and show a record of integrity and ethical conduct in their professional activities, business operations, and relations. The owners, board members and executive staff must have records free from any association with any misfeasance, including, but not limited to, owning, managing or controlling any educational institutions that have entered bankruptcy or have closed with students having been disadvantaged as a result.
The institution agrees that as part of the application process, its owners, officers and managers may be subject to a background check by DETC, which may include, but not be limited to, DETC surveys of State educational oversight agencies, Federal departments and agencies, consumer protecting agencies, checks on the credit history, prior bankruptcy, criminal background, debarment from Federal Student Aid Programs, the closing of educational institutions in which they were owners, managers or principals, or the loss of accreditation or state approval to operate an educational institution. The costs of such background checks will be borne by the Applicant.
The institution’s “Application for Accreditation” must be complete in all respects.
The institution has the burden of proof in showing that its curricula are within the Accrediting Commission’s recognized scope of authority. The Accrediting Commission reserves the right to limit its reviews to the kinds of institutions and types of programs that fall within its recognized scope and decline to consider institutions and programs for accreditation which fall outside the Accrediting Commission’s scope, competence or where it is felt that there is a lack of adequate standards to permit a meaningful evaluation.
The Commission may not accept an application from an institution, if the institution is unable to show, as a threshold matter, that it can meet DETC’s standards concerning the qualifications of the institution’s owners, governing board members and administrators under Standard VI. A. or financial responsibility under Standard IX. In the event the Accrediting Commission does not accept an application for one or both of these reasons, the decision would be appealable pursuant to D.2 Appealing Commission’s Adverse Decision.
In addition, the Commission reserves the right to not accept an application from an institution, otherwise qualified, if travel conditions or security concerns in that country are perceived by the Commission to be unsafe. This decision would not be appealable under DETC’s D.2. Appealing Commission’s Adverse Decision.
The Commission also requires that all distance education courses, programs, divisions, and/or affiliates of the ownership undergo the accreditation process. The failure of one distance education program and/or division to apply for or achieve accreditation within a time frame set by the Commission renders all distance education programs or divisions ineligible for accreditation. In addition, if one distance education course, program, division, and/or affiliate of the ownership is ineligible to apply for accreditation, including ineligibility due to the limits on DETC’s scope of activity, then all “divisions” of that ownership will be deemed to be ineligible to apply for accreditation.
Grants of Initial Accreditation
The Commission will extend a grant of accreditation to initial applicants for a maximum of three years, with the condition that a new Self-Evaluation Report, using B.2. Guide to Self-Evaluation Report for 5 Year Review, be submitted and an examining committee visit the institution to verify the SER and gather additional information. The normal five year reaccreditation review procedures will be applied for this three year renewal of accreditation, with the exception that curricula reviews will not be required. The Commission retains the right to make exceptions to this Policy.
The Standards for Accreditation
In order to implement the process of accreditation,
the Accrediting Commission published accreditation standards.
These 12 standards are used by the Commission to measure the educational
quality, financial responsibility, administrative competency,
and general worthiness of an institution. These standards are
the key tenets of the DETC accreditation process. They are the
stated criteria that characterize quality and excellence in distance
Briefly, the standards require an institution to:
- have a clearly defined and stated mission,
goals, and objectives;
- state its educational objectives clearly,
and offer sufficiently comprehensive, accurate, up-to-date,
educationally sound instructional materials, and methods to
meet its educational objectives;
- provide adequate student services;
- provide adequate examination services and
attention to individual student differences;
- have students who express satisfaction
with the instruction and services received, and have an outcomes
- have a qualified faculty;
- enroll only students who can be expected
to benefit from the instruction;
- be honest in its advertising and promotional
- show financial resources that are adequate
to carry out all obligations to students;
- use fair and equitable tuition and refund
policies that meet the minimum DETC tuition cancellation policies;
- have adequate facilities, equipment, and
record protection; and
- conduct continuous research and self-improvement
To become accredited, each institution must
have made an intensive study of its own operations, opened its
doors to a thorough inspection by an outside examining committee,
supplied all information required by the Accrediting Commission,
and submitted its instructional materials for a thorough review
by competent subject matter specialists. The process is repeated
every five years.
For a copy of the complete Accreditation Standards,
see the DETC Accreditation Handbook.
Powers and Responsibilities
The powers and responsibilities of the Commission
- establish and promulgate criteria for the
evaluation and accreditation of distance education and independent
- establish its operating budget and provide
for a schedule of reasonable fees which will assure the financial
stability of the Commission;
- receive applications from institutions
- appoint qualified evaluators and provide
for a comprehensive evaluation procedure;
- review the Chair’s reports and all
other pertinent material and accredit or withhold accreditation
from applicant institutions.
- issue a directory of accredited organizations
(DETC Directory of Accredited
Institutions) and maintain a web site in which institutions
will be identified in a manner which indicates their program
- make available to the public current information
covering the criteria for accreditation and the operation of
- re-evaluate at reasonable intervals the
accredited organizations’ programs, organization, and
courses of study; and
- exercise such other powers as are necessary
to carry out the function of a reputable, nationally recognized
The Accrediting Commission is recognized by the U.S. Secretary
of Education to accredit distance education institutions. The
Commission is listed (and has been since 1959) by the U.S.
Department of Education as a "nationally recognized accrediting
agency." Like regional accrediting agencies, the Accrediting
Commission is reviewed periodically by the USDE to make certain
that it meets the criteria for federal recognition as published
in Title 34 of the Code of Federal Regulations. The Commission’s
next review by USDE will be in 2012.
The Accrediting Commission is also a charter member of the Council
for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), the leading non-governmental
recognition for accrediting associations. The Commission’s
recognition by CHEA was renewed in 2001 for ten years.
Recognition by the U.S. Department of Education enables
DETC-accredited degree-awarding institutions to participate in Higher Education
Act (HEA) programs, i.e., Title IV federal student loans, Pell
Grants, Lifelong Learning Tax Credits, and Hope Scholarships.
USDE recognition does, however, allow DETC-accredited institutions
to participate in the Post-9/11 and Montgomery
G.I. Bills and the Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education
tuition assistance program, as well as many corporate and state
approved programs. DETC’s degree granting institutions are
also members of CHEA and they are listed in the American Council
on Education’s directory, "Accredited Institutions of
The Accrediting Commission's recognition by the U.S.
Department of Education and the Council
for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) is for postsecondary
program purposes only.Since the authority of the U.S. Secretary is statutorily limited to postsecondary institutions in the United States, this federal recognition encompasses only DETC accreditation in the U.S.A.
DETC does not extend accreditation to “certification programs,” but only to distance learning courses and programs that prepare individuals to sit for independently-administered certification examinations.
For more information about the courses and programs offered, please contact the institutions directly or visit their Web site.
Presently, the Commission's scope of recognition
extends only through the first professional degree level with
CHEA and through professional doctoral degrees with U.S. Department
For the Commission's scope of recognition,
please see Quick Facts.
Please visit the Public Notice of DETC Accrediting Commission Actions page for details about actions taken during the most recent meeting of the DETC Accrediting Commission.
Final Approval of Standards, Procedures and/or Policies and Call for Public Comment
A list of newly-adopted standards, policies and procedures and a list of documents out for public comment can be found on the Public Notice of Commission Actions page of the DETC website.
Applications for Accreditation and Re-accreditation
The Public Notice of Commission Actions page of the DETC website includes a list of all institutions that have applied for initial accreditation or reaccreditation with DETC.
The 2012-2013 DETC Directory of Accredited Institutions is now available. Please note, this printed directory is updated in June of each year. For the most current list of DETC accredited institutions, please visit the institution search page.
The next meeting of the Accrediting Commission will be June 2013. All matters should be brought to the attention of Nan Bayster Ridgeway, Director of Accreditation (firstname.lastname@example.org) by no later than May 1, 2013.
The Accrediting Commissioners
The DETC Accrediting Commission has nine members
and its makeup includes persons possessing either academic or
administrative expertise or both. Four of the Commissioners are
from outside the field and are considered in every sense to be
representatives of the public, and five Commissioners are from
DETC member institutions.
For the academic and professional qualifications,
and employment and organizational affiliations of the Commissioners,
Current Members of the Accrediting Commission:
The following individuals are the current members of the Accrediting
Chair, Director, Off-Campus Programs at Cincinnati State Technical and Community College*
Vice Chair, President, American Sentinel University
||Josette P. Katz,
Professor, Atlantic Cape Community College*
||Robert Mayes, Jr.,
President, Columbia Southern University
Provost, Global University
Assurance Partner, PricewaterhouseCoopers LLP (Retired)
President, Weston Distance Learning
Senior Instructor, Fontbonne University
||Judith A. Turner,
Vice Preisdent, Director of Education, Art Instruction Schools
* Public Commissioners
DETC Appeal Panel Volunteers
The following individuals are qualified and have made themselves available to serve on Appeal Panels when any institution might elect to appeal an adverse decision of the Accrediting Commission. DETC Appeal Panels are comprised of three people who meet the requirements set forth in D.2, Appealing Commission’s Adverse Decision. Biographic information and organizational affiliations of these individuals are available upon request.
Dr. William Anthes
President, WLA Consulting
Mr. David Boyd
President, The Taft University System
Mr. Juan Henriquez
Director of Academic Computing, University of New Orleans
Mr. Paul McDonald
President, American Graduate University
Ms. Nancy Moreno-Derks
President, Accreditation Experts
Dr. Marianne Mount
President, Catholic Distance University
Dr. Wanda Nitsch
President & Chief Academic Officer, University of St. Augustine for Health Sciences
Mr. Fred Roberts
President, Performance Design Consultants, LLC
Dr. Robert Roggio
Professor of Computer & Information Sciences, University of North Florida
Dr. Caroll Ryan
President, California Southern University
Dr. Mink Stavenga
Dean of Instructional Support Services and Accreditation Liaison Officer, Southwestern College
Ms. Erika Yigzaw
Chief Institutional Officer, American College of Healthcare Sciences
Equally valuable in this process is the Commission’s
staff, which assists the Commission in carrying out its mission.
The staff provides counsel to applicants seeking accreditation,
training for members of the Examining Committees, and continuous
communication with states, including the U.S. Department of Education
and other relevant agencies. Accrediting Commission staff members
serve as observers on Examining Committees; appoint Examining
committee members; arrange logistics for visits and Commission
meetings; and serve as the central communications link between
the public, applicants, other accrediting associations, and the
The Executive Director is the day-to-day administrator of the
Commission and the staff, and she manages and supervises the accreditation
process. The Executive Director is responsible for liaison between
and among the Commissioners, the Examining Committees, and the
institutions participating in the accrediting process. Collectively,
the DETC staff has nearly 60 years of experience with Council.
For the academic and professional qualifications,
and employment and organizational affiliations of the Staff, click
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