Overview of Accreditation
There are four phases throughout the NASPAA Accreditation process: Prerequisite, Eligibility, Self-Study, and the Accreditation Cohort. A program should expect to spend at least 23 months in the accreditation process, varying by program, beginning with the submission of the eligibility application and culminating with the final accreditation action two years later. The first step to seeking NASPAA Accreditation is to become a member of NASPAA. Only NASPAA members are eligible to apply for accreditation. If your program is not yet a NASPAA member, please see the NASPAA Membership page for more information.
Once a program is a NASPAA member, it is free to pursue accreditation. However, because NASPAA Accreditation is an intense, self-evaluative process, there are several steps to complete before submitting anything to COPRA:
- Build faculty and administrative support for accreditation within the program and institution prior to self-study submission.
- Attend at least one Accreditation Institute or workshop (at the NASPAA conference, electronically, or at a regional venue) in the two year period prior to submitting the Self-Study Report. Accreditation Institute sessions help orient programs to the NASPAA Standards and provide programs with an opportunity to learn directly from COPRA and their peers. Programs that have participated in these sessions in the past tend to have a higher level of success in communicating conformance to the standards.
- Look toward the self-study report phase and the required data points and assessment processes necessary to complete the Self-Study Report. Accreditation self-study report templates ask for three or more years worth of data on certain accreditation standards.
- Notify NASPAA staff of intent to apply. Staff will help ensure you program has access to the online application and any relevant information you may need.
A program enters the eligibility phase of accreditation by submitting its eligibility application and eligibility fee by one of the two annual deadlines: April 15 or August 15. The eligibility application is submitted online, through the NASPAA Data Center. Once an application is received and locked, it is reviewed by the Eligibility Committee. The Committee makes a recommendation to COPRA, who in turn recommends whether or not the program move forward to Self-Study. COPRA also provides feedback to the program to help guide the program through the self-study process and ensure the Self-Study Report is thorough.
For more information on the Eligibility Application, click here.
After a program has passed successfully through eligibility, it may immediately begin work on its Self-Study Report.* A program has up to 3 years after the eligibility application is reviewed to submit its Self-Study Report. This gives programs the opportunity to gather the self-study year data needed for the report and address any items of feedback from the Commission. Programs also have the option to request a mentor from NASPAA – someone outside of the evaluative process to assist with questions that arise during the drafting of the Self-Study Report.
Accreditation Cohort Phase
Once a program has successfully submitted its Self-Study Report, it is considered part of the current accreditation cohort (termed for the academic year immediately following the Self-Study Report submission). There are several final steps to complete prior to an accreditation action, 11 months later:
- COPRA reviews self-studies, writes interim reports, and recommends site visits (fall of cohort year).
- Programs respond to interim reports* (winter of cohort year).
- Programs work with NASPAA and site visit team to plan for a spring site visit (winter of cohort year).
- Programs host site visits* between January and March of the cohort year.
- Site Visit Teams prepare site visit reports (spring of cohort year).
- Programs respond to site visit reports and provide COPRA with any final information* (spring of cohort year).
Final Accreditation Action
COPRA meets to complete its final review of cohort programs in June of the cohort year. After the meeting, the Commission drafts final decision letters, working to provide individual, formative feedback to each program. These letters are finalized by the end of July, uploaded to the online system, and mailed to the program. The university chief academic officer is also notified of the decision.
Still have questions? See the Frequently Asked Questions page.