CEA accredits English language programs in colleges and universities, as well as independent English language institutions. This means that CEA offers both “programmatic” and “institutional” accreditation. All applicants for CEA accreditation, both within and outside the United States, must offer instruction for at least 8 months of the year, have a curriculum designed to serve the needs of post-secondary students who are nonnative speakers of English, and allow for the differentiation of participants by level of English language proficiency. In the United States, both types must offer an intensive English program of at least 18 hours per week due to immigration requirements for international students studying English.
The U.S. Accreditation Act, which was signed by the President in December 2010, requires that all English language training programs in the United States (both programs and institutions) be accredited in order to be certified by the Department of Homeland Security’s Student and Exchange Visitors Program (SEVP) to admit international students to study English. However, in this case there are some differences between what is required for university/college programs and independent language schools.
Independent language schools must be accredited. CEA and ACCET (the Accrediting Council for Continuing Accreditation Training) both accredit independent language schools.
University and college programs reside within a larger institution. In order for those programs to seek CEA accreditation, the larger institution itself must be accredited. When the English language programs falls within the umbrella of the accreditation of the larger institution, the program is not required to have CEA accreditation. However, many such programs seek accreditation from CEA anyway.
Following on the FAQ above, you may be asking yourself this question. If you look at the accredited sites listed on our website, you will see that many university programs are accredited. They believe that the process of self-study and external review is valuable in itself. The process of self-study, which is integral to accreditation, offers many benefits. It stimulates a review of policies, requires a focus on the program's mission, leads to initiation of new endeavors, results in program improvement and renewal, and provides a framework for continued planning and growth. At the same time, it encourages openness and cohesion among faculty and staff, develops a heightened sense of collegiality, responsibility, and community; encourages faculty development and professionalism; identifies new leadership; and bridges the gap between personal and organizational goals. Also, focused accreditation on a discipline (called specialized accreditation) is an established quality assurance tool for programs on accredited campuses; law, business, engineering, social work, and other programs that train for the professions have their own specialized accreditors.
Most university programs want to be accredited for these reasons and for the recognition that it gives them both inside and outside the United States, especially in attracting international students to their programs.
This is a common question when a site first considers offering an intensive English program for international students. Sites may start by offering the intensive program to adult immigrants or local residents or to the spouses of international students or business people. Then once the program is stable, the site is ready to seek accreditation.
First, a program has to submit an application form and show that it meets CEA's eligibility requirements. Next, a representative from your program must attend an accreditation workshop. These are held regularly, often in conjunction with a TESOL or NAFSA conference or at CEA's offices in Alexandria VA.
At the workshop, you learn about the process of self-study and how to complete and submit the self-study report. Within 2 months of attending the workshop, you must submit a plan for how you will carry out the self-study. The self-study report is usually submitted within 18 months after the workshop and requires the applicant to show compliance with the CEA Standards for English Language Programs and Institutions. After the self-study is submitted and approved, CEA-trained peer reviewers read your self-study and conduct a 3-day site visit. Then there is an accreditation decision by a Commission that reviews their report, your response, and your self-study to make an accreditation decision.
The 13-member Commission makes accreditation decisions and is also responsible for governing CEA. Of these, 11 elected members come from the field of postsecondary English language teaching and administration and represent the various types of programs and institutions that CEA accredits. They have a depth of experience in higher education and in the administration of intensive English programs. Two public members, who are not from the field of English language teaching or administration (as required by the US Department of Education) are appointed by the Commission.
The complete process takes about 2 years, depending upon when you start the process in relation to scheduled accreditation workshops and Commission meetings. It also depends on how long it takes you to complete the self-study.
There are fees for various steps in the process: an eligibility fee, a workshop fee, a fee for submission of the plan for the self-study, and a fee for the on-site site visit. Fees are the same for all sites, no matter what size they are. Once accreditation is granted, however, accreditation fees (paid at the time of the Commission's decision) and sustaining fees (due each year throughout the period of accreditation) are based on student weeks and thus vary from site to site. The CEA fee schedule explains the fees.
Full accreditation is granted for a 5-year period. The Commission may also grant one-year accreditation to programs that have substantially met the standards but have minor standards-related deficiencies. Once the deficiencies are met, the grant of accreditation is continued for 4 years. The grant of accreditation is just the first step in the relationship between accredited sites and CEA.
Sometimes when it grants accreditation, the Commission requires additional reporting or annual follow-up in a particular standard area. Also, accredited programs and institutions submit an annual report throughout the period of accreditation, which affirms continued compliance with the CEA standards. Then about 2 years prior to the end of the initial accreditation period, CEA reminds sites that they need to begin the re-accreditation process. The process is similar to the process for initial accreditation, including a self-study and site visit by a review team. Re-accreditation may be granted for one year to programs and institutions that substantially meet the standards but have minor standards-related deficiencies for 10 years to programs and institutions that comply with the CEA standards.
Accredited programs become members of the CEA Constituent Council. They have an opportunity to nominate and elect new Commissioners and to attend an annual meeting of the Council. This meeting is held virtually, and the date is announced to all members in advance. Because CEA is not a membership association or professional organization, it does not usually host meetings for all accredited sites.
On September 10, 2003, CEA was granted recognition by the U.S. Secretary of Education as a national accrediting agency. This recognition allows accredited freestanding English language institutions to establish eligibility to participate in the Department of Homeland Security's certification program, by which such institutions may admit international students. CEA's recognition also indicates that CEA meets U.S. federal requirements for postsecondary accrediting agencies.
Yes, CEA accredits postsecondary English language programs and sites outside the United States. The policies and procedures are exactly the same as for locations within the United States, and the same CEA Standards for English Language Programs and Institutions also apply. However, review teams and the Commission always take into consideration the local environment in which the program or institution is located.
The Commission meets three times a year to make accreditation decisions. You can see how many sites and programs are accredited at any time by going to Accredited Sites.
Yes. CEA accredits each eligible site separately, but the individual locations may work together to prepare coordinated applications and self-study reports. There are also some special policies and procedures that apply to multi-site organizations. Contact CEA staff for specific information about your situation.
The accreditation process involves a self-study in which a site evaluates itself in relation to the CEA standards. The self-study comprises responses to sets of questions for each standard by which the site describes how it meets a standard, a document section in which the site gives evidence of its practices, and a recommendation section, in which the site makes plans for future improvement, if necessary.
Throughout the self-study process, sites find that they make improvements in order to meet the standards, and this is an expected part of the accreditation review process. In other words, a program is expected to put changes into place throughout the process. However, if there are too many changes that need to be made in order to meet the standards, the site may not be ready to start the process, and needs time to put the new practices into operation.
The following questions will help you to determine readiness:
If you can answer "yes" to most of these questions, you may be ready to start the accreditation process by downloading the CEA Application for Eligibility Form.