Seeking Accreditation with the Council on Occupational Education
To be eligible to apply for COE accreditation a school must meet the following criteria:
Offer associate degree and/or non-degree postsecondary instruction exclusively in career and technical education at all campuses.
Have produced a graduate from the longest program offered by the institution where the graduate has completed 100 percent of the program’s required hours at the institution (no hours transferred in and no CLEP hours awarded).
Utilize a campus-based instructional delivery system with at least 50 percent of the institution’s total FTE (Full-Time Equivalency) being derived from enrollments in traditional (bricks and mortar) and non-VESL (Vocational English as a Second Language) programs.
Have an institutional enrollment of no fewer than 10 FTE.
Be legally authorized to operate within the jurisdiction in which it is located for a minimum of one year.
Have been in possession of current and applicable licensure/authorization for a minimum of one year.
Have been in continuous operation and providing instruction at a main campus and under the same ownership for a minimum of one year.
Have the on-site administrator or other full-time employee at the main campus attend a Candidate Academy within 12 months prior to submitting an application for candidate status.
Demonstrate that it has the administrative capabilities (including, but not limited to, financial) to support the educational programs offered.
Demonstrate that it meets the financial stability requirements for the most recent completed fiscal year as state in Standard 7 – Financial Resources.
- Be in compliance with all Federal requirements applicable to accreditation.
- Agree to comply with all requirements of the Council.
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 and include a request for Candidate Academy information.
2. Attend a Candidate Academy
There are three Academy workshops each year: in March, July, and November. Registration information is generally 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 earlier than 18 months before the estimated date of the school’s accreditation visit.
3. Submit a Candidate Application
Included with the completed application the school should send a copy 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 in the Documents section of this site for the dues table), and (for non-public institutions) the candidate site visit deposit ($3,000.00).
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 ten 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 three to four days. (The size of the team and duration of the visit depend 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 $5,000.00 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. (IMPORTANT: A moratorium will be placed on the acceptance of, processing, and approval of ALL substantive changes beginning 6 months prior to the scheduled dates of accreditation team visits through the date the Commission grants initial accreditation or reaffirmation of accreditation.)
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 available to institutions through the Council’s accreditation management system. The deadline for the annual report is 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.
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.