According to the U.S. Department of Education, "Institutional accreditation applies to an entire institution, indicating that each of an institution's parts is contributing to the achievement of the institution's objectives. The regional and national accreditors perform institutional accreditation."
Additionally, "The goal of accreditation is to ensure that education provided by institutions of higher education meets acceptable levels of quality."
Western Michigan University has been continuously accredited by the Higher Learning Commission since 1915.
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Specialized Program Accreditation
According to the U.S. Department of Education, specialized or programmatic accreditation normally applies to programs, departments, or schools that are parts of an institution. The accredited unit may be as large as a college or school within a university or as small as a curriculum within a discipline. Most of the specialized or programmatic accreditors review units within an institution of higher education that is accredited by one of the regional or national accreditors.
Certification and Licensure
Certain programs and facilities require certification or licensure by federal, state or other regulatory agencies. For example, the NCAA certifies WMU to provide Division I athletics. The FAA certifies and MDOT licenses WMU facilities for pilot training.
Recognition of Academic Programs
A primary function of accreditation is the establishment and approval of criteria for professional certification and licensure. Some professions like teaching, nursing and social work require individuals to pass certification or licensure exams in order to proceed in the profession. Typically, students wishing to become certified or licensed, must come from accredited programs whereby curricula is approved by a specialized program accreditor. Certain academic programs are recognized by professional agencies for the purpose of establishing eligibility for graduates of an academic program to sit for certification or licensure tests.