Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)

The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) evaluates and accredits education institutions in the states of Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington. It is one of the six non-profit accrediting agencies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).

Established in 1952, the NWCCU is a peer-based, non-profit organization which assesses the quality and efficacy of higher education institutions and their programs. The organization has created a system of criteria and protocol by which the institutions throughout the region may be evaluated and accredited.

The NWCCU is responsible for a comparatively small number of schools--a total of 156 universities, colleges, and vocational-technical institutions. The board of the NWCCU consists of 26 representatives of the educational community. These representatives are the decision makers of the organization who determine the accreditation status of all institutions in the region.

For institutions, accreditation through the NWCCU is an intensive process. Before becoming fully accredited, the school must first apply for Accreditation Candidacy. Candidates for Accreditation are institutions which are not yet accredited, but which fulfill the criteria for eligibility and are making positive progress towards accredited status.

The NWCCU has established a list of criteria for eligibility for Candidates for Accreditation. This criteria includes:

  • Operational Status - An "operational" institution is one which has completed at least one year of education programs, has graduated at least one class of students in those programs, and has a consistent student base currently working towards degrees.
  • Authority - The institution is recognized by the proper governmental organizations and agencies, and has legal authority to offer programs and award degrees.
  • Mission and Core Themes - The institution has a clearly defined mission statement, and has presented that statement to the student body and to the public.
  • Operational Focus and Independence - The institution demonstrates its ability to provide educational programs and to meet the Commission's requirements for eligibility.
  • Non-discrimination - The institution exhibits respect for all individuals, and details this non-discrimination policy in its charter, core themes, and mission statement.
  • Institutional Integrity - The business aspect of the institution complies with the ethical standards established by the Commission.
  • Governing Board - The institution has a governing board comprised of at least 5 members. Of these 5, only 2 may have an employment/contractual relationship with or financial investment in the institution. This board is responsible for overseeing the quality of the institution's programs and the integrity of its operations.
  • CEO - A chief executive officer (CEO) has been appointed for full-time duty by the governing board.
  • Administration - The institution has an adequate administrative staff whose work supports the institution's operations, core themes, and mission statement.
  • Faculty - The institution has a sufficient number of qualified faculty members whose work supports the institution's commitment to quality education.
  • Education Program - One or more education programs are provided by the institution. The content and intensity of these programs must align with the institution's core themes and mission statement.
  • General Education and Related Instruction - General education has been made a key component of the institution's programs, and/or a significant measure of general education (such as a high school diploma or its equivalent) is a prerequisite for degree programs.
  • Library and Information Resources - The institution offers students library access and other information resources which are sufficient to support its programs and operations.
  • Physical and Technological Infrastructure - The institution's physical infrastructure (campus, facilities, etc.) and technological infrastructure (website, online presence) are adequate to fulfill its mission.
  • Academic Freedom - Students and faculty are free to pursue and test any knowledge relevant to their field of study.
  • Public Information - Through publications, websites, and catalogs, the institution informs the public of its mission statement, core themes, general policies, admissions requirements, and program details.
  • Financial Resources - The institution is financially stable, and can support its own programs and operations.
  • Financial Accountability - The institution is audited by an external agency on a yearly basis.
  • Disclosure - Throughout the course of the Commission's evaluation, the institution must quickly and accurately provide any and all requested information.
  • Student Achievement - The institution's programs have clearly defined learning outcomes by which student progress can be monitored and evaluated.
  • Scale and Sustainability - The institution demonstrates a scale in operations which is sufficient to fulfill its mission for years to come.

The Institutional Self Evaluation is the most critical part of the accreditation process. This is a process by which institutions can assess their own standing and report their findings to the NWCCU. The Self Evaluation prompts institutions to assess their own resources, student achievements, and educational offerings. The institution must demonstrate an ability to fulfill its mission statement, provide students with quality education, and continually improve into the future.

More information regarding the NWCCU and its process for accreditation can be found at www.nwccu.org. The website offers a list of accredited institutions on the "Directory of Institutions" page.

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