For many people, regional accreditation is an unfamiliar concept – what it is, what it means, and how institutions achieve regional accreditation. As NPRC moves through the development of the college and process of accreditation, the needs of students are first and foremost. This value drives all college decisions, including the process of accreditation.
Accreditation is important to students for three primary reasons:
The following outlines the steps required to achieve regional accreditation and the benefits to students, families, and institutions.
The road to accreditation is a multistep, peer-reviewed process that all colleges must complete. Once a proposal for a college is approved legislatively, a governing board (Board of Trustees) must be established. This group develops the plan and framework for the college. Once that is written and then approved by the PA Department of Education (PDE), the college must complete a second comprehensive application to the PDE to become a degree-granting institution in the state. Finally, only after that approval, can the college begin to apply for regional accreditation.
The process of regional accreditation is neither swift nor simple and involves developing policies and procedures, curricula, and administrative organizational structure. It is a multi-year process broken into three parts: pre-candidacy, candidacy, and accreditation.
Pre-candidacy. To apply for pre-candidacy, institutions must complete a comprehensive application that includes data on curriculum, finances, student outcomes, and other institutional processes.
Candidacy. To apply for candidacy, institutions must have students enrolled in and graduated from its own programs, complete a second substantial application, and host a peer review site visit from the accrediting body. Once approved for candidacy, enrolled students may apply for federal grants and loans. According to federal guidelines, once candidacy is established, the institution has a maximum of five years to achieve full accreditation. During that timeframe, the institution must complete a comprehensive self-study demonstrating that all functions and programs meet quality standards, are regularly evaluated to ensure continuous improvement, and host a second peer review site visit from the accrediting body.
Accreditation. Once accredited, institutions are regularly revisited by peer review teams on an eight-year cycle involving comprehensive self-studies and site visits.
All new institutions seeking accreditation are held to the same process of seeking authorization and must demonstrate success at all stages. There are no shortcuts in the process, nor does approval at one stage guarantee success in the next stages.
In agreement with their legislation, NPRC partnered with an accredited institution, Gannon University, when they began offering classes. This was so that all courses would be offered under that institution’s accreditation umbrella and provided students with all the benefits of accreditation. As the educational partner, all curriculum and courses were Gannon’s and all instructors were approved as Gannon faculty and hired by Gannon. This allowed the NPRC to build essential college infrastructure and curricula while offering accredited courses and demonstrating its success in using the NPRC model.
NPRC received authorization from PDE to award associate degrees and workforce development training certificates on May 28, 2019. In September 2019, NPRC applied for pre-candidacy and is currently awaiting a decision from the accrediting body. In December, NPRC ended its agreement with Gannon. This month, the NPRC is operating as an independent organization and will be eligible to apply for candidacy. Once the pre-candidacy application is approved, NPRC will move as quickly as possible to achieve candidacy and then full accreditation. Faculty and staff at NPRC have worked tirelessly to prepare the college for the accreditation process and the college is well-positioned to achieve that goal.