What Is Accreditation?
Accreditation in higher education is a process of peer review for colleges, universities, and educational programs. In the United States, accreditation is carried out through private, nonprofit organizations rather than the federal government. Cornell is accredited through the Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Accreditation is voluntary but it is required in order for students to gain access to federal funds, including student grants and loans. Non-accredited institutions are not eligible to receive federal financial aid.
Cornell University’s accreditation review covers the breadth of the university, including Weill Cornell Medicine in New York City and instructional activities around the world.
Types of Accreditation
- Institutional accreditation: Institutional accreditors review entire institutions. Cornell University has been accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education since 1921 and was most recently reaffirmed in 2021. Inquiries may be directed to them at 3624 Market Street, Suite 2 West, Philadelphia, PA 19104. Cornell’s official Statement of Accreditation Status is maintained on the Middle States website.
- Specialized and Professional Accreditation: Specialized and professional accreditors operate throughout the country and review programs and some single-purpose institutions. At Cornell, there are many programs that have specialized or professional accreditation.
Accreditation typically requires a thorough self-study by the institution or program under review followed by a review by peers who visit campus. Accreditation judgments are based on standards of quality developed by the accrediting organization in consultation with the higher education community. Additional information can be found on Cornell University’s accreditation site.
All departments, degree-granting graduate fields, and centers are reviewed every 7 to 10 years. The Faculty Committee on Program Review (FCPR), a university-wide professorial faculty committee, oversees the review process.
Academic program reviews were initiated in 1995 and serve as the primary mechanism used to evaluate and continuously improve academic programs at Cornell. The evaluations made by program reviews are oriented within the context both of disciplinary norms and unit, college, and university missions. External review teams identify program strengths, weaknesses, and opportunities, and offer specific recommendations to assist programs in their efforts to improve.
An academic program review consists of two phases: a self-study by the department faculty and an evaluation by an external review team.