Accreditation FAQ

When was the first concurrent enrollment program accredited by NACEP?

In 2004. During that year, four programs were accredited.

What colleges in my state, and nationwide, currently sponsor accredited concurrent enrollment programs?

A complete list of accredited programs is available here.

What are the NACEP standards and how were they developed?

NACEP standards are measurable criteria of excellent concurrent enrollment partnerships. With the 2009 accreditation standards, there are 17 standards in five categories that serve to ensure the postsecondary institution is offering the same college course in the high school as is offered on campus. Standards address areas such as college course curriculum; instructor selection and faculty approval, discipline specific faculty orientation and professional development; administrative and instructional support; student assessment; student selection and services; and CEP program evaluation.

Ensuring the quality for university and college classes offered through concurrent enrollment partnerships was a key concern of NACEP’s founders, whose discussions led to the adoption of the first national standards of program quality in 2002. The NACEP Board of Directors adopted a revised version of the standards on December 15, 2009, and most recently in 2017 the membership voted in a new version.  The newly-revised standards now cover six categories over 16 standards. The newest category of focus being partnerships. The newly-revised standards went into effect the fall of 2018.

In 2019, the NACEP membership voted to expand the scope of accreditation and added a new set of standards for the College Provided Faculty Model.  It will open up to the membership in the 22-23 accreditation cycle.  

What are the benefits of becoming a NACEP-accredited program?

Accreditation serves as a guarantee to students, policy-makers, and other postsecondary institutions that the accredited partnership meets rigorous national standards. Other benefits are described here.

Are NACEP standards worth understanding and instituting even if a program is not interested in accreditation?

Absolutely. NACEP standards represent best practices of educational partnerships. Using the self study process (a first step in accreditation) serves as both a programmatic evaluation of whether and how a program is meeting NACEP standards and provides a framework for program growth or development.

What is the difference between a concurrent enrollment program that is accredited and one that is not?

Accredited programs have participated in a rigorous self study and NACEP peer review process. They have carefully documented how they ensure that the college courses offered in the high school are of the same high quality and rigor as the courses offered on campus by the sponsoring college or university. Although other concurrent enrollment programs may be just as good as accredited programs, NACEP accreditation provides validation from an outside, national organization. In some cases, state legislation may require programs to become NACEP accredited in order to offer college/university courses through a concurrent enrollment program.

How are programs approved for accreditation? What is the process and what do reviewers look for?

Each application is evaluated by a team of two-three experienced peer reviewers appointed by the Accreditation Commission. The reviewers are professionals in concurrent enrollment—program directors, faculty liaisons, secondary partners or other concurrent enrollment staff—and come from outside the system seeking accreditation. They thoroughly analyze each application and deliberate through conferencing.

Reviewers are provided with ongoing support as they evaluate whether the application includes enough documentation of the type that fulfills the intent of each standard. Because there is great variation in institutional terminology and partnership programming, reviewers may request more information and documentation in order to clearly understand how a program is ensuring that NACEP standards are met. Representatives of each applicant will be interviewed by the Peer Review Team in person at the national conference, or via teleconference if necessary. Site visits were not typically included, and will only be conducted if both the applicant and the Commission determine it will be beneficial to resolving questions. Site visits will start in the 2021-22 accreditation cycle and will replace the interviews.

At the end of the application review, the Peer Review Team makes a report to the NACEP Accreditation Commission that deliberates on the evidence and votes on whether or not to approve accreditation for a program.

How long does it take to apply for and receive NACEP accreditation?

Programs start preparing for accreditation one to two years in advance of submitting an application. Application review cycles are due each summer and the date is set the year before. Accreditation decisions are voted on by the NACEP Accreditation Commission at its spring meeting (typically April).

How long do programs need to be in existence before applying for accreditation?

Programs need to have been in operation for at least three school years before seeking accreditation.

How much does it cost?

Before submitting the pre-application a college must join NACEP as a postsecondary institutional member. Annual postsecondary membership fees are $560. In addition to annual membership fees, there is an Accreditation Pre-Application Fee and an Accreditation Application Processing Fee. Learn more here. 

What happens if an application for accreditation isn’t successful?

If the NACEP Accreditation Commission denies accreditation, the program will be notified, and a report from the review team is provided to the applicant with recommendations. A denied applicant may request reconsideration of its application by a new peer review team if it believes the review team misinterpreted the evidence provided. For more information, review NACEP’s Accreditation Reconsideration and Appeals Process located in the Accreditation Policy and Procedures Manual. An applicant that withdraws or is denied may apply in the following year’s application review cycle.

A few common misunderstandings that result in accreditation denial:

  • The CEP does not meet the NACEP definition of concurrent enrollment;
  • The CEP does not have all the policies and practices described in the NACEP standards in place at the time of application;
  • Campus policies prohibit the CEP from operating in the same way as their on-campus counterparts, in support of concurrent enrollment students (for example, if college/university grading policies are not the same for concurrent enrollment students as they are for on-campus students).

Many safeguards are built into the accreditation process to avoid having applications denied. For example:

  • Applicants have access to the Accreditation Guide for CEP for Peer Reviewers and Applicants that includes interpretation of NACEP’s Standards, the range of acceptable practices, frequently asked questions about the Standards, and advice on assembling a well-designed accreditation application to facilitate peer review.
  • NACEP sponsors workshops at each national conference that are specifically designed to address the questions and concerns of programs that would like to become accredited.
  • Prospective applicants have access to NACEP staff and volunteers to address questions. NACEP offers a Pre-Accreditation Coaching Program matching an experienced professional from a NACEP-accredited CEP to advise a prospective applicant during the self-study.
  • Programs are expected to undertake the self study well in advance of applying so that they have the time to put into place the policies and practices that NACEP requires of accredited programs.
  • Applicants have the right to withdraw their applications at any time; often a review team may suggest that an applicant withdraw from consideration prior to the team recommending denial.