Seeking Accreditation

Seeking Accreditation with the Council on Occupational Education

To be eligible to apply for COE accreditation a school must meet the following criteria:

  1. Be licensed to operate as a postsecondary institution by the higher education authority of the state where it is located, or possess a federal license (where applicable).
  2. Have a one-year history of enrollment under the license mentioned above.
  3. Offer exclusively occupational programs at the certificate, diploma and/or associate degree level. COE does not accredit institutions offering bachelor’s or graduate programs.
  4. Meet the financial stability requirements of the Commission (refer to Standard 7, Criteria 12-15, Handbook of Accreditation, 2012 Edition, p. 57 found in the Documents section of this website) as documented by an audited financial report prepared by an independent certified public accountant.

Institutions seeking accreditation with COE must not have been denied accreditation, dropped from accreditation, or on adverse status by a regional or national agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.

Institutions meeting the above eligibility requirements may apply for candidacy with the Council. Candidacy and accreditation are achieved through the following process:

1. Submit a Letter of Intent to Seek Candidacy with COE

The letter should simply state the name, address and chief administrative officer of the institution and include a request for a candidate application.

2. Attend a Candidate Academy

There are three Academy workshops each year: in April, July and November. Registration information is available on the Council’s web site beginning two months in advance of the workshops. A school must send a representative to the Candidate Academy before it submits an application for candidacy. The Academy must be attended no later than six months and no earlier than 18 months before the date of the school’s accreditation visit.

3. Submit a Candidate Application

Included with the completed application, the school should send copies of the audited financial report representing the institution’s most recent fiscal year and a check covering the application fee ($1,500.00), annual dues (see Handbook of Accreditation, 2012 Edition, p. 21 in the Documents section of this site for the dues table), and (for non-public institutions) the candidate site visit deposit ($2,000.00).  

4. Host a Candidate Team Visit

A two-person team will visit the institution for a period of two days. During this visit the two Council representatives will meet with school faculty and staff to review preparations required for the institution’s Self-Study Report and accreditation compliance. The team will submit a report of its findings to the Commission.

5. Candidacy Approved by the COE Commission

There are four times during the year when the Council’s 20-member Commission may vote an institution into candidate and accredited status: February, June, September and November. Application deadlines for appearing on each meeting’s agenda are listed in the Events Calendar in the News and Events section of the Council’s web site. Applications must be received in the COE office in Atlanta by these deadline dates. The Council’s deadlines are firm. An institution may be in candidate status for up to three years, but must host its accreditation visit within 24 months of the date that candidacy was awarded by the Commission.

6.  Prepare the Self-Study Report

The report describes how the institution complies with the Conditions and eleven Standards of COE accreditation. A Self-Study Workshop—included in the Candidate Academy—informs representatives of the school about specifications for the Self-Study Report. Schools should plan on six months to one year to prepare this report, the final draft of which is due at the accreditation team leader’s preliminary visit.

7. Host a Preliminary Visit

Approximately 30 days before the scheduled accreditation visit, the team leader assigned to the school will visit the institution. The purpose of the preliminary visit is to confirm the preparations of the school and to finalize the agenda for the accreditation visit. During this visit the team leader will also approve the final draft of the school’s Self-Study Report.

8. Host the Accreditation Team Visit

A team of two to eight representatives of the Commission will visit the school for four days. (The size of the team depends on the number of programs and campuses of the institution.) During this time the team will review all programs and services offered by the institution and verify that they comply with accreditation requirements. The team leader will submit a report to the Council indicating the team’s findings. The Council will send a copy of the team report to the institution. In advance of the accreditation visit, non-public institutions submit a $4,000.00 deposit to the Council to off-set the travel expenses of the visiting team. All institutions also pay, in advance, a $1,000.00 initial accreditation fee.

9. Prepare and Submit an Institutional Response to the Team Report

The institution prepares a formal response to the accreditation team report to send to the Commission. The response should indicate how the school addressed and rectified any recommendations made by the visiting team.

10. Initial Accreditation Awarded by the Commission

The Commission reviews the institution’s Self-Study Report, accreditation visit team report, and institutional response. Based on this review, the Commission votes to grant accreditation to the institution. At the same time, the Commission determines the institutions re-affirmation cycle: the amount of time before the institution must once again attend a Self-Study Workshop, prepare a Self-Study Report, and host an accreditation team. The maximum period of the re-affirmation of accreditation cycle is six years. While the Commission determines an institution’s re-affirmation cycle at the time that initial accreditation is awarded, accreditation is renewed annually through the Council’s Annual Report—an electronic document sent to institutions in September and submitted by the school to COE in December each year. It typically takes one year to eighteen months from the time an institution is voted into candidacy to the date that accreditation is awarded by the Commission.

The Alternate Procedure for Accreditation is an option available to institutions that are currently accredited and in good standing with another accrediting agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Obtaining accreditation via the alternate procedure is identical to doing so with the candidate application, except there is no candidate visit and a different application is used. It is important to note that schools seeking accreditation using the alternate procedure do not go through a candidacy period; these schools do not have any official status with COE until the Commission grants full accreditation after the Self-Study Report has been prepared and the accreditation visit has taken place. For this reason, institutions seeking COE accreditation using the alternate procedure must maintain their accredited status with their current agency at least until the anticipated date of the COE Commission’s vote on the school’s accreditation.

Federal (Title IV) student financial aid may be available to institutions that are accredited by COE. However, accreditation alone does not entitle a school to offer this aid. Institutions interested in offering federal financial aid to their students must apply for a Program Participation Agreement with the U.S. Department of Education.