No standard college accreditation requirements exist. Accreditation is a voluntary, non-governmental process that varies by state and accrediting agencies. Accrediting agencies are private educational associations that set their own arbitrary standards of quality based on their criteria and areas of expertise.
The U.S. Department of Education does not accredit institutions of higher learning or specific programs. However, it is required by law to publish a list of nationally recognized accrediting agencies that the Secretary of Education determines are reliable authorities on the quality of education at particular specified institutions.
Some accrediting agencies establish the quality of education criteria for certain types of educational institutions such as vocational training, medical or other specialized fields as well as general education standards. These accreditation requirements can vary depending on state laws and licensing for some professions or federal funding and grant obligations.
Many accrediting agencies have higher or lower standards than others. As a result, some are considered to include or accredit more prestigious learning institutions that can carry more weight with future employers.
Typically an in-depth process is required for colleges to become accredited by a recognized agency. Accreditation requires significant documentation about the college as well as continual oversight of its program operation.