Accreditation FAQs

What is accreditation and why is it important? 

In the United States, schools and colleges voluntarily seek accreditation from nongovernmental bodies. Accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) is intended to assure constituents and the public of the quality and integrity of higher education institutions like the University of Notre Dame and the programs offered, and to help those institutions and programs improve. These outcomes are achieved through rigorous internal and external review processes during which the institution is evaluated against a common set of standards. Each institution is asked to demonstrate it meets the Commission’s clearly stated criteria, common institutional practices and obligations, and that there are reasonable grounds for believing that the University will continue to meet them in the future.

Only accredited institutions are eligible to receive federal funds for higher education, including student financial aid and research funding. Accreditation also ensures students the ability to transfer credits between accredited schools, and some graduate schools only accept students with degrees from accredited schools.

Who is the Higher Learning Commission / North Central Association?

The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) is an independent corporation and one of two commission members of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA), which was founded in 1895 as one of six regional institutional accreditors in the United States. The Higher Learning Commission accredits, and thereby grants membership in the Commission and in the North Central Association, degree-granting post-secondary educational institutions in the North Central region. You will often see the interchanged use of the acronyms HLC and NCA within institutional documents related to accreditation.

What happens if an accredited institution doesn’t meet accreditation standards? 

Institutions that do not demonstrate that they meet accreditation standards may be asked for monitoring reports, placed on the public sanctions of “Warning” or “Probation,” or dropped from status as a candidate or an accredited institution.

What is the difference between institutional accreditation and program accreditation?

Institutional accreditation speaks to the overall quality of the institutions without making judgments about specific programs. Institutional accreditation is accreditation of all programs, sites, and methods of delivery. The accreditation of individual programs, such as those preparing students to practice a profession, is carried out by specialized or program accrediting bodies that apply specific standards for curriculum and course content. The Commission does not maintain lists of programs offered by its accredited institutions. Each specialized accrediting body publishes a list of programs it accredits.

How long has the University of Notre Dame been accredited and when did ND last undergo accreditation?

The University of Notre Dame first earned accreditation from the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association in 1913. Since that time, the University has maintained a history of accreditation and engagement with the NCA/HLC. Our accreditation has been continually reaffirmed, most recently in July 2014.