Seeking Accreditation with the Council on Occupational Education
Candidacy is the first step toward accreditation. To be eligible for consideration for candidacy, an institution must meet the following criteria:
- Offer postsecondary instruction exclusively in career and technical education at all campuses.
- Offer credentials no higher than an applied associate degree.
- Have produced a graduate from the longest program offered by the institution where the graduate has completed 100 percent of the program’s required hours at the institution (no hours transferred in and no CLEP hours awarded).
- Utilize a campus-based instructional delivery system with at least 50 percent of the institution’s total FTE being derived from enrollment in traditional (bricks and mortar) programs.
- Maintain at least 50% FTE enrollment at each campus in non-VESL programs.*
- Have an institutional enrollment of no fewer than 10 FTE (at the time of applying for candidacy).
- Be legally authorized to operate within the jurisdiction in which it is located for a minimum of one year.
- Have been in possession of current and applicable licensure/authorization for a minimum of one year.
- Have been in continuous operation and providing instruction at the main campus and under the same ownership for a minimum of one year.
- Have the on-site administrator or other full-time employee at the main campus attend a Candidate Academy – Part 1 within 12 months prior to submitting an application for candidate status.
- Demonstrate that it has the administrative capabilities (including, but not limited to, financial) to support the educational programs offered.
- Demonstrate that it meets the financial stability requirements for the most recently completed fiscal year as stated in Standard 7 – Financial Resources.
- Be in compliance with all Federal requirements applicable to accreditation.
- Agree to comply with all requirements of the Council.
* Institutions in candidate or accredited status as of November 4, 2016 whose VESL enrollment is in excess of 50% of the institution’s total enrollment as of that date are exempt from this limitation.
Institutions with non-main campus sites (branches, extensions, extended classrooms, instructional service centers) must meet additional eligibility requirements applicable to those locations.
Institutions seeking candidate status with the Commission that have non-main campus sites must:
- Demonstrate that the ownership of all non-main campus sites (branches, extensions, instructional service centers, etc.) is identical to that of the main campus.
- Demonstrate that the local administrators of all non-main campus sites report to the chief administrative officer of the main campus.
- Demonstrate that duplicate records on personnel, financial matters, student attendance, and educational progress for all non-main campus sites are kept at the main campus. (NOTE: Institutions capable of maintaining and accessing records electronically may keep all records previously mentioned at the main campus.)
- Demonstrate that names of non-main campus sites are identical to that of the main campus. (Names of non-main campus sites may be expanded, with Commission approval, to identify different locations or specific programs.)
- Demonstrate that all non-main campus sites, and their respective program offerings, are described in the main campus catalog.
Institutions seeking accreditation with COE must not have been denied accreditation, dropped from accreditation, or on adverse status by a regional or national agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
1. Submit a Letter of Intent to Seek Candidacy with COE
The letter should simply state the name, address and chief administrative officer of the institution and include a request for Candidate Academy information. The email address of the chief administrative officer should be included in the letter of intent. The letter of intent may be emailed to the Council at firstname.lastname@example.org.
2. Attend Candidate Academy – Part 1: Seeking Candidacy
Candidate Academies are offered twice a year: in July and November. Registration information is generally available on the Council’s web site beginning two months in advance of the workshops. An eligible institutional representative must attend Candidate Academy – Part 1 before an application for candidacy will be accepted. The Academy must be attended no more than 12 months before submission of the candidate application. (Specific information about persons who are considered to be “eligible representatives” is provided in the Handbook of Accreditation.) Candidate Academy – Part 1 focuses on eligibility requirements and activities leading to candidacy.
3. Submit a Candidate Application
A check for the application fee ($1,500) and the first year’s dues (based on enrollment) must be submitted with the application. Non-public institutions must also submit a $3,000 deposit to be applied toward the cost of the candidate site visit. (Annual membership dues can be found on this site under Accreditation/Annual Membership Dues.)
4. Host a Candidate Team Visit
A two-person team will visit the institution for a period of two days. During this visit, the two Council representatives will meet with school faculty and staff to review the institution’s candidate eligibility requirements. The team will submit a report of its findings to the Commission.
5. Candidacy Approved by the COE Commission
The Council’s Commission or Executive Committee may vote an institution into candidate or accredited status. These meetings most commonly occur in February, June, September and November. Application deadlines for appearing on each meeting’s agenda are listed in the FAQ section of this website under the Accreditation tab. Applications must be received in the COE office in Atlanta by these deadline dates. The Council’s deadlines are firm. An institution may be in candidate status for up to three years, but must host its accreditation visit within 24 months of the date that candidacy was awarded by the Commission.
6. Attend Candidate Academy – Part 2: Accreditation Prep
Once an institution is granted candidate status by the Commission, a full-time representative of the school must attend the Candidate Academy – Part 2. The school representative must attend Part 2 within twelve months of the date candidacy was awarded. Like Part 1, these sessions are held each year in July and November. The workshops in Candidacy Academy – Part 2 focus on the Self-Study Report, the accreditation visit, and activities required for institutional accreditation.
7. Prepare the Self-Study Report
The report describes how the institution complies with the Conditions and ten Standards of COE accreditation. A Self-Study Workshop—included in Candidate Academy-Part 2—informs representatives of the school about specifications for the Self-Study Report. Schools should plan on six months to one year to prepare this report, the final draft of which is due at the accreditation team leader’s preliminary visit.
8. Host a Preliminary Visit
Approximately 30 days before the scheduled accreditation visit, the team leader assigned to the school will visit the institution. The purpose of the preliminary visit is to confirm the preparations of the school and to finalize the agenda for the accreditation visit. During this visit, the team leader will also approve the final draft of the school’s Self-Study Report.
9. Host the Accreditation Team Visit
A team of two to eight representatives of the Commission will visit the school for three to four days. (The size of the team and duration of the visit depend on the number of programs and campuses of the institution.) During this time, the team will review all programs and services offered by the institution and verify that they comply with accreditation requirements. The team leader will submit a report to the Council indicating the team’s findings. The Council will send a copy of the team report to the institution.
In advance of the accreditation visit, institutions must submit an initial accreditation fee of $1,000. Non-public institutions must also submit a $5,000 deposit to offset the travel expenses of the visiting team.
An institution may not host its accreditation visit within the first 6 months following Candidate Academy – Part 2 attendance. It must host its accreditation visit within 24 months of the date candidate status is awarded by the Commission.
10. Prepare and Submit an Institutional Response to the Team Report
The institution prepares a formal response to the accreditation team report to send to the Commission. The response should indicate how the school addressed and rectified any findings of non-compliance cited by the visiting team.
11. Initial Accreditation Awarded by the Commission
The Commission reviews the institution’s Self-Study Report, accreditation visit team report, and institutional response. Based on this review, the Commission votes to grant accreditation to the institution. At the same time, the Commission determines the institution’s re-affirmation cycle: the amount of time before the institution must once again attend a Self-Study Workshop, prepare a Self-Study Report, and host an accreditation team. The maximum period of the re-affirmation of accreditation cycle is six years.
While the Commission determines an institution’s re-affirmation cycle at the time that initial accreditation is awarded, accreditation is renewed annually through submission of an Annual Report—an electronic document available to institutions through the Council’s accreditation management system. The deadline for the Annual Report is in December each year.
It typically takes one year to eighteen months to achieve accreditation after candidate status is granted, depending on dates of Candidate Academy attendance.
Federal (Title IV) student financial aid may be available to institutions that are accredited by COE. However, accreditation alone does not entitle a school to offer this aid. Institutions interested in offering federal financial aid to their students must apply for a Program Participation Agreement with the U.S. Department of Education.
For more information about seeking candidacy, please contact the Council at 800.917.2081, extension 202, or at email@example.com.