Frequently Asked Questions for Institutions Seeking Accreditation
Please note that this FAQ sheet provides summarized content only. Please refer to the DEAC Accreditation Handbook for a complete listing of all DEAC processes, procedures, standards and policies.
What is the first critical step in the accreditation process?
A key person at the institution must obtain a copy of the DEAC Accreditation Handbook and complete the Preparing for DEAC Accreditation tutorial (available via the DEAC Online Training Center) to qualify as a Compliance Officer. This course must be completed before submitting the Application for Accreditation and before writing the Self-Evaluation Report. DEAC will not accept an application for Accreditation without a copy of the Certificate of Completion provided by the Compliance Officer.
When will the Application for Accreditation receive approval?
Before DEAC will officially accept an institution's initial Application for Accreditation, the institution must demonstrate that it meets all of the eligibility requirements set forth on pp. 10‒12 in the DEAC Accreditation Handbook.
How long is an application for accreditation valid?
An application for accreditation is valid for one year from the date it is received by the Commission.
As a new applicant, how soon is a draft of our Self-Evaluation Report (SER) required for submission?
Preparing the Self-Evaluation Report may take only a few months for a small institution or as many as nine months to a year for a large institution. Please contact DEAC regarding a submission timeframe. After DEAC receives the SER, the DEAC staff will schedule a Readiness Assessment by an expert evaluator. The evaluator will review the SER to determine if the institution is prepared to undergo a full onsite examination by an examining committee.
What is a readiness assessment?
First time applicants for accreditation are required to undergo a Readiness Assessment by an independent DEAC-appointed evaluator to assist the applicant in preparing for a full on-site examination. As stated in the DEAC Accreditation Handbook, page 13: The first purpose of the assessment is to provide a mechanism for DEAC to ascertain if the applicant's Self-Evaluation Report provides sufficient evidence and information for a successful on-site committee review. Another purpose is to provide the applicant with guidance on what actions to take to get the institution ready for an accreditation review. The third purpose is to ensure that the applicant meets a minimum level of eligibility qualifications for DEAC accreditation that would justify the commitment of Commission resources in carrying out a full accreditation examination." As part of the Readiness Assessment, both an evaluator and an experienced DEAC staff member read and make notations in the institution's SER indicating if an institution did not understand the intent of the statement or its answers were not comprehensive enough. The Readiness Assessment Report and the annotated SER are returned to the institution. For first time applicants, the Readiness Assessment provides an intensive, constructively critical, informative review process of the institution's SER.
How long does the accreditation process take?
Generally, it can take about 18-24 months for the entire procedure. A smaller institution may be able to prepare for accreditation in as few as 18 months. The Accrediting Commission meets in January and June, so prospective applicants are advised to initiate the process at least 12 months before the meeting they wish to have their application considered.
From whom may one seek advice in preparing to undergo an accreditation review?
The Accrediting Commission staff in Washington is available for consultation by mail, phone, e-mail, or personal visit regarding any questions about the accrediting process, procedures, or standards. Please contact the Commission offices for assistance.
As an applicant, may an institution refer to seeking accreditation from the DEAC Accrediting Commission or refer to an applicant status in its literature or promotional materials?
No. This is inappropriate and has the potential to mislead the public about an institution's affiliation with DEAC.
Must a distance study institution be in the United States to qualify?
No. Distance study institutions outside of the U.S. may apply for accreditation. The Commission has a special policy for non-U.S. institutions beginning on page 50 of the DEAC Accreditation Handbook.
If an institution offers a Doctoral-level degree program, may it apply for accreditation?
Yes. The Commission will accept applications for accreditation from institutions offering a Doctoral degree program, so long as it is a Professional Doctoral degree, e.g. a Doctor of Business Administration or a Doctor of Education. If there is doubt about what qualifies as a professional doctoral degree it is best to check with the Commission staff before applying for accreditation.
Must the institution be in operation two years before it may apply for accreditation?
At the time of application the institution must have been enrolling students continuously for the preceding two consecutive years under the present ownership and with its current programs. It must also demonstrate that it will operate continuously thereafter. The two-year period begins with the date of the first student enrollment.
However, if an institution's parent company is currently accredited by another recognized accrediting agency, then the institution must only have 12 months of continuous operation as a distance study institution before it may be accredited. Institutions may initiate an application near the end of its appropriate waiting period.
Can an accredited institution transfer its accreditation or the benefits of its accreditation to another institution or individual by sale, contract, franchise, or other arrangement?
No. Accreditation by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission is institutional and is extended only to the accredited institution and its approved programs. Accreditation cannot be transferred in any way to an entity not under the ownership, management, and control of the accredited institution. All distance study programs and distance study-related activities under the ownership, management, and control of the accredited institution must be included in the accreditation, or none can be accredited. When an accredited institution undergoes a change in ownership, management, or control, the institution must undergo a complete accreditation review.
Will course material be returned to the institution after subject specialists review the material?
No. All course materials including kits, tools, textbooks, and hardware are thoroughly vetted in the course review process and are not returned to the applicant institution.
What does the Examining Committee process entail?
As described in the DEAC Accreditation Handbook, beginning on page 18, an examining committee is comprised of a Chair, an Educational Standards Evaluator, and a Business Standards Evaluator. Subject Specialist Evaluators are also appointed to Examining Committees for all institutions offering degree programs, for institutions offering numerous courses and programs at a non-degree level, and for any institution offering a required residency component. Other Subject Specialist Evaluators review the curriculum of all institutions applying for initial or re-accreditation on an off-site basis before the on-site review.
A DEAC staff representative accompanies every visiting committee to coordinate the on-site logistics and serves as a resource regarding accrediting standards. In addition, DEAC always invites a representative of the local state licensing agency to observe the on-site evaluation process, and, to the extent possible, partners with these officials to inform institutions of compliance issues.
The evaluators use various rating forms that tie to DEAC's standards as tools to assist them with the on-site reviews. The Chair, the Educational Standards Evaluator, and the Business Standards Evaluator use the appropriate sections of the Rating Form during this process.
The amount of time scheduled for an on-site visit is impacted by the number of enrolled students and number of programs offered by an institution. Typically, since most of the work may be done before the visits, and there are no students on site and no traditional campus, on-site visits are typically one or two days. During the on-site evaluation, the committee members, having thoroughly read the institution's SER, subject specialists' reports, and student surveys, engage in a variety of activities to develop a thorough understanding of the institution, to verify the information in the materials, and to verify compliance with accrediting standards. Those activities include interviewing key staff and faculty, and students (by phone); reviewing records and files, and verifying outcomes data presented in the SER. The Chair informs the institution of the opportunity to present additional or clarifying information to the committee.
Do outside observers serve on visiting examining committees?
The Commission routinely extends an invitation to the appropriate state licensing agency to participate on the examining committee as an observer. As needed, representatives from the U.S. Department of Education may participate as observers. The Chair's Report and the Institution's Response to the Chair's Report are shared with state or federal observers who attended the on-site visit.
Do "competitors" serve on visiting Examining Committees?
No. Evaluators known to have competing interests with the applicant institution are not appointed to serve on an Examining Committee. As part of the on-site evaluation process, DEAC examining committees include experienced educators who have advanced backgrounds in education and are charged with performing the educational reviews of any institution seeking accreditation or reaccreditation. In addition to the on-site evaluations, DEAC also uses independent subject specialists drawn primarily from regionally accredited institutions to review the courses/programs of applicants for accreditation or reaccreditation, as well as in evaluating any new programs.
Is reimbursement for travel expenses for visiting examining committees required in addition to the on-site examination fees?
No. The on-site examination fee is a "flat fee" which includes the cost of travel for the Examining Committee members (except for non-U.S. institutions).
How much does the accreditation visit cost?
The fees for an on-site review vary according to the size of the institution and the number of its courses and site locations. An institution with one course seeking initial accreditation can expect the fee to range between $8,000 and $15,000. Larger institutions with many courses can expect a higher fee.