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NASPAA Accreditation is a voluntary process for programs in public administration, public policy and public affairs. Note that NASPAA accredits degree programs, not schools or universities. 

Why pursue an MPA|MPP degree?

1. Why Should I Choose a NASPAA Accredited Program?

NASPAA Accreditation indicates that the program has undergone a rigorous peer review process and has been judged to be a quality program. Programs seeking accreditation must be in substantial compliance with the Standards of education for the field. The accreditation process is designed to foster continuous assessment and improvement even after accreditation has been achieved.

The benefits of graduating from an accredited program when seeking employment are that your prospective employer is assured that your degree has come from a program that is recognized as meeting a standard of quality and that you have been adequately prepared for the profession. This is particularly useful if the prospective employer is not familiar with the institution from which you receive your degree. Additionally, in some cases the employer may require that your degree come from an accredited program to be eligible for tuition reimbursements.

2. What Does it Mean if a Program is Not Accredited?
Unaccredited programs are not necessarily poor quality programs. There are a number of reasons why a program may choose to not seek accreditation. If you are considering a program that is not accredited you should find out as much information about the program as possible before enrolling. Questions to consider: is the institution itself accredited by a regional or national accreditor*, where are the graduates of the program finding jobs, what do the alumni of the program think of its rigor and quality. 

One type of unaccredited program to be explicitly aware of is a “diploma mill” or “degree mill”. These types of programs detract from educational quality by allowing students to purchase or obtain a degree with little to no work. More information about how to avoid a degree mill can be found here.

3. What is the difference between having NASPAA membership and being accredited by NASPAA?
NASPAA is a membership organization that programs in the field of public administration, public policy, and public affairs may apply to join. NASPAA members have all agreed to a code of good practice. However, not all NASPAA members are accredited by NASPAA. In order for a program to be accredited it must submit to a peer review process and be judged to be in compliance with NASPAA Standards. All NASPAA accredited programs are NASPAA Members, but not all NASPAA members are accredited programs.

4. What is the difference between institutional accreditation and NASPAA accreditation?*
NASPAA Accreditation focuses solely on Masters Degree programs in the fields of public administration, public policy, and public affairs. Its purpose is to ensure that these programs are in compliance with the Standards set by the field. Institutional accreditation granted by regional and national accreditors focuses on the Institution as a whole and ensures that the University is meeting a level of quality set forth by their accreditor.

Whether an institution is accredited by a regional or national accreditor is particularly important due to the fact that students are only able to obtain federal financial assistance if the institution they are attending has achieved accreditation from an accreditation organization recognized by the US Department of Education. NASPAA Accreditation requires that the institution be accredited by a regional or national accreditor.

As with degree mills, it is also important to be alert to programs holding accreditation from “accreditation mills”. These accreditors operate similarly to diploma mills by allowing universities and programs to purchase or easily obtain accreditation without rigor and transparency. More information about how to ensure the program you are interested is legitimately accredited can be found here.

5. If I attended a program that was recently awarded accreditation can I say I attended an accredited program?
NASPAA Accreditation is effective September 1 of the year accreditation is awarded. If you graduate from the program after September 1 of that year you are considered to have graduated from an accredited program. Accreditation is not retroactive.

6. If I am attending a program that has recently lost its accreditation, what does this mean for me?
If a program has been denied reaccreditation it will be removed from the Accreditation Roster effective September 1 of that year. If you graduate before September 1 you are considered to have graduated from an accredited program, if you do not graduate by that date you are not considered to have graduated from an accredited program.

7. What Process Does a Program go Through to be Accredited?
Programs that seek NASPAA accreditation go through a rigorous peer review process. Programs begin by conducting a year-long Self Study Report with regards to NASPAA Standards. They submit their report at the conclusion of the Self Study year to the Commission on Peer Review Accreditation (COPRA). COPRA is made up of 11 of their peers and a practitioner public member. The Commission reviews the program’s Self Study Report and provides initial feedback asking for clarification on issues of concern. The program then hosts a three member Site Visit Team of trained volunteers that consists of two academic members and a practitioner. The team reviews the program’s Self Study Report as well as the initial feedback from COPRA. They act as the Commissions “eyes and ears”, meeting with program faculty, students and alumni, as well as key administrators at the institution over a three day period. The Site Visit team then writes a report to COPRA. Throughout the process the program has an opportunity to respond to concerns and provide additional information. The Commission reviews all of the information they have on the program and makes a decision regarding accreditation. Programs can be accredited for a maximum of seven years at the end of which they may apply for reaccreditation.

8. What do I do if I have a complaint against an accredited program?
If you have a complaint against an accredited program please contact NASPAA staff at The complaint must relate to the NASPAA Standards; COPRA is an accrediting body, not a regulator or an appellate tribunal for student or faculty grievances. For more information on complaints please see our Policies and Procedures.


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