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What is Accreditation?

Accreditation is the process by which higher education institutions and their programs are reviewed and evaluated in order to determine whether they meet acceptable levels of quality. This includes institutional accreditation, which considers an institution as a whole, as well as specialized (or programmatic) accreditation, which considers particular programs, often within professional disciplines.

Institutional accreditation is conducted by non-governmental organizations referred to as institutional accreditors, along with support and oversight from the federal government and some state agencies. In particular, the U.S. Department of Education, in partnership with the Council on Higher Education Accreditation, recognizes and approves institutional accreditors, who in turn, draw on their member institutions to conduct peer-evaluations of other colleges and universities. These evaluations not only look at institutions’ educational programs, but also their missions, services, resources, finances, and facilities. A key motivation for participating in these evaluations is that institutions must be accredited in this manner in order for their students to receive federal financial aid.

ISU’s institutional accreditor is the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU), which has historically served institutions in the Northwest United States, but which now also serves institutions across the country and internationally. In line with NWCCU standards and policies, ISU participates in an ongoing seven-year cycle of accreditation that includes the submission of Annual Reports as well as more extensive Self-Study Reports in years Three (Mid-Cycle Report), Six (Policies, Regulations, and Financial Resources Report), and Seven (Evaluation of Institutional Effectiveness Report). These Self-Study Reports, as well as corresponding reports produced through accompanying peer-evaluation visits, are then reviewed by NWCCU staff and its Board of Commissioners. As the NWCCU explains, these processes seek to confirm that an institution “is working to fulfill its mission, addressing problems identified previously, continuously improving, offering high quality education, and supporting student success and closing equity gaps.”

NWCCU Standards, ISU’s Mid-Cycle Report, and Response to the 2021 Peer-Evaluation Report Recommendations

The NWCCU 2020 Standards include two overarching standards: Standard One – Student Success, and Institutional Mission and Effectiveness; and Standard Two – Governance, Resources, and Capacity.

ISU is currently writing its Mid-Cycle Self-Evaluation Report, which will be submitted by Summer 2024 in preparation for a peer-evaluation visit in October 2024. This Mid-Cycle Report focuses on NWCCU Standard One and especially addresses Mission Fulfillment and Student Achievement.

Mission Fulfillment

Mission Fulfillment is the extent to which an institution achieves the essential elements of its mission. It is a process of continual development, evolution, and improvement, and thus Mission Fulfillment is never fully achieved because as goals are reached, they are replaced or reset to a higher level. Mission Fulfillment drives all decision-making at all levels at ISU and is the basis of both academic and non-academic unit planning and alignment efforts

Student Achievement

Within the context of its mission, Student Achievement measures an institution’s success across indicators such as student persistence, completion, retention, and post-graduation success. NWCCU Standard One requires that the measures “be used for continuous improvement to inform planning, decision making, and allocation of resources.’

Programmatic Assessment (Student Learning)
Programmatic assessment measures student learning through identifying learning outcomes with "appropriate content and rigor" that allow for the effective evaluation of program quality consistent with an institution's mission. Results from these efforts "inform academic and learning-support planning and practices to continuously improve student learning outcomes."

Recommendation from the NWCCU Peer-Evaluation Report (2021)

In addition to the material in the self-study addressing Mission Fulfillment and Student Achievement, ISU’s Mid-Cycle Self-Evaluation Report will also respond to two specific recommendations from the 2021 NWCCU Peer-Evaluation Report. In particular, the Peer-Evaluation Report recommended that ISU “consistently disaggregate all of its indicators for student achievement and that ISU transition to a more aspirational strategic plan.” Since receiving those recommendations in 2021, ISU has made substantial progress in both areas, which will be detailed in the Mid-Cycle Self-Evaluation Report.


Specialized Accreditation

Alongside institutional accreditation, many professional programs are also overseen by specialized accreditors, who delineate standards of quality within particular fields and disciplines, including many of the health sciences as well as in programs related to business, education, science, engineering, and technology. Over 80 ISU programs are currently accredited in this manner.

Specialized Accreditation Schedule - updated April 2023

View List of Specialized Accrediting Entities 



For more information about ISU's Accreditation Program please contact:


Vice Provost for Institutional Effectiveness and Initiatives and ALO

Cindy Hill, Ph.D.

Office: Admin Bldg 323 A

(208) 282-4945



Management Assistant and Substantive Change Delegate


Ann Medinger, BBA

Office: Admin Bldg 315 D

(208) 282-2493



Provost Fellow for Accreditation

Jeremy Thomas

Jeremy Thomas

Professor of Sociology

 Office: C.H. Kegel Liberal Arts 306

 (208) 282-2170



Project Coordinator

Michelle Franklin, BS

Office: Admin Bldg 315 C

(208) 282-6311