What is the Higher Learning Commission?

In the United Sates, accreditation is voluntarily sought by institutions and is conferred by non-governmental bodies.  There are two types of educational accreditation:  institutional and specialized.

An institutional accrediting agency evaluates an entire institution in terms of its mission and the agency's standards or criteria.  It accredits the institution as a whole.  It assesses the formal educational activities of the institution and also evaluates governance and administration, financial stability, admissions and student personnel services, institutional resources, student academic achievement, institutional effectiveness, and relationships with constituencies inside and outside the institution.

Institutional accreditation is provided by regional associations of schools and colleges (each named after the region in which it operates Middles States, New England, North Central, Northwest, Southern, Western) and by several national associations that limit their scope to particular kinds of institutions.  While independent of one another, the regional associations cooperate extensively and acknowledge one another's accreditation. 

A specialized accrediting body evaluates particular units, schools, or programs within an institution.  Specialized accreditation, also called program accreditation, is often associated with national professional associations such as those for engineering, medicine, and law, or with specific disciplines such as business, teacher education, psychology, or social work.

The North Central Association

The North Central Association of Colleges and Schools was founded in 1895 for the purpose of establishing close relations between the colleges and secondary schools of the region.  Throughout its history the Association has been committed to the improvement of education at all levels through evaluation and accreditation.

Today, the Association is a membership organization of colleges and schools in 19 states; Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming and Department of Defense schools and Navajo Nation Schools.

Two independent corporations also hold membership in the Association:

The Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement, with its office in Tempe, Arizona, accredits schools offering K-12 as well as non-degree granting post-secondary institutions.  This Commission works extensively through state committees throughout the region.

The Higher Learning Commission, with its office in Chicago, accredits degree-granting institutions of higher education.  The mission of the Higher Learning Commission is included below.


Serving the common good by assuring and advancing the quality of higher learning



Saint Mary's University of Minnesota

Page Last Updated: January 9, 2005