While the United States does not have a federal accreditation authority for colleges and universities, there are private educational associations that perform peer-evaluated reviews. The process of accreditation generally includes a self-review from the college, an on-site evaluation from a board of experts, and continuing re-evaluation by the accrediting agency.
The steps to becoming a nationally accredited college, while varying between accrediting institutions, follow the same basic steps. The first step in accreditation is for the accrediting agency to establish standards which the colleges and universities must meet or exceed. Once standards have been established, the college seeking accreditation performs a self-study. This self-study allows the institution to make an in-depth comparison between current performance and the standards set forth by the accrediting agency.
Once the academic institution completes the self-study, the accrediting agency sends a team to the college to perform an on-site evaluation. This allows the accrediting agency to see first-hand whether or not the college meets the required standards.
Upon completing a successful on-site evaluation, the accrediting agency officially grants accreditation by listing the college in an official publication. To ensure that accredited institutions continue to meet or exceed the accrediting agency's standards, the agency monitors the college and requires that the college undergo re-accreditation periodically.