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The Basics of School Accreditation

F and M international students must attend a Student and Exchange Visitor Program (SEVP)-certified institution. SEVP certification indicates that a school or program meets standards set by the U.S. Department of Homeland Security that make it eligible to accept F and M international students.

Although a school does not need to be accredited to receive SEVP certification (unless it is an English language training program), some opportunities may require that a student’s degree come from an accredited institution.

Definition of Accreditation

Accreditation is the recognition from an accrediting agency that an institution maintains a certain level of educational standards. The U.S. Department of Education maintains a database of accrediting agencies it recognizes. 

There are two basic types of educational accreditations:


An institutional accreditation normally applies to an entire institution, and indicates that each entity of a school contributes to the achievement of the school’s objectives. This does not necessarily mean that all parts of the school have the same quality level of education.


A specialized/programmatic accreditation normally applies to the evaluation of specified programs, departments or small entities within the larger institution. A unit receiving a specialized accreditation could be as large as a college within a university system, or as small as a curriculum within a specified program of study. However, some vocational schools that are not connected to a larger system may receive specialized accreditations that apply to the entire school.

For more information about what accreditation is, visit the U.S. Department of Education’s website.

Accrediting Agencies

Accrediting agencies issue accreditations. Accrediting agencies are organizations (made up of educational professionals) that:

  • Establish the operating standards for educational or professional institutions and programs.
  • Determine if a school meets those standards.
  • Publically announce their findings through the issuance of accreditations. 

The U.S. Department of Education explains that agencies determine accreditation standards based on whether graduates can gain admission to other reputable institutions or achieve credentials for professional practice.

During the school certification process, SEVP only recognizes schools as accredited if the accrediting agency is recognized by the Department of Education.

To find out if an SEVP-certified school is accredited, search the U.S. Department of Education’s Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs

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