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What is WASC Accreditation?

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  • Written By: Lainie Petersen
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 31 October 2016
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WASC accreditation is educational accreditation granted by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC), one of the six regional accrediting agencies in the United States. WASC is responsible for accrediting schools in the states of Hawaii and California, along with various United States territories, such as American Samoa, Micronesia, and schools located in the Pacific Rim or East Asia area that might need or want accreditation recognized by the United States. Like all accrediting agencies in the United States, WASC is a private organization. It is, however, recognized as an accrediting agency by the United States Department of Education, and WASC accreditation, along with accreditation by the other five regional accreditors, has a high level of acceptance within the academic community.

School accreditation in the United States is carried out by private, third-party agencies that are responsible for evaluating a school's education offerings. While the federal government does not accredit schools, it recognizes the need for the accreditation process. As such, the United States Department of Education rigorously evaluates accrediting agencies and recognizes only those that demonstrate their ability to offer comprehensive and legitimate accreditation services. Any school accredited by one of these accreditation agencies can be said to be accredited, though within the academic community certain accreditation agencies have more creditability than others.

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In the United States, the gold standard of accreditation is that offered by the regional accrediting agencies, including WASC. Degrees and diplomas earned at schools that hold accreditation through these bodies have a higher acceptance rate among both government and private employers as well as educational institutions. College and university students who complete coursework at regionally accredited colleges and universities typically find that their coursework more easily transfers to other schools. The regional accrediting agencies are so-called because these organizations accredit only schools within a specific territory. Other accrediting bodies that don't limit their scope by geography are often called national accrediting agencies. While national accreditation is legitimate, it is not as highly respected as regional accreditation, and many employers and schools do not recognize credentials or coursework completed at nationally accredited schools.

WASC accreditation is offered by one of the three accrediting commissions affiliated with WASC. Primary and secondary schools seeking accreditation must work with WASC's Accrediting Commission for Schools, while junior and community colleges are evaluated by WASC's Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges. Four-year colleges and universities seeking WASC accreditation must do so through WASC's Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities. The process of accreditation is typically a long one, involving self-evaluation by school officials, site visits by WASC staff members, and an extended investigation into a school's educational offerings and administration.

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