Accreditation is a primary means of quality assurance in North American higher education and a significant resource for quality improvement. Accreditation has always been associated with peer judgments about quality and has been the work of nongovernmental accrediting agencies.
Commission on Accrediting
The body recognized as the accrediting agency for The Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada (“ATS”) is the Commission on Accrediting (“Commission”) of ATS, which is related to but separate from ATS. The current Commission membership includes nearly 250 graduate theological schools in the United States and Canada who are accredited or candidates for accreditation. The purpose of the Commission is "to contribute to the enhancement and improvement of theological education through accreditation . . . [and to] collect data from all members . . . for use in accrediting" (Commission Bylaws, Section 1.2). The Commission is recognized by the United States Secretary of Education and by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.
Board of Commissioners
Acting on behalf of the Commission is the Board of Commissioners (“Board”), elected every two years by the membership with representatives from member institutions, ministry practitioners, and the public. The Board makes accreditation decisions based upon Commission-approved Standards of Accreditation, according to Commission-approved Procedures. The Board also uses other resources that it has adopted to guide its work, such as the Board-approved Handbook of Accreditation and Policy Manual. The resources included on this website are intended to help schools pursue and maintain accreditation in order to assure and advance quality theological education.
How to Become a Member of the Commission
As noted above, the Commission on Accrediting is related to but separate from The Association of Theological Schools. To become an accredited member of the Commission, one must first seek associate membership in the Association. Schools that meet the Association’s eligibility criteria (see ATS Procedures) should contact Susan D. Beckerdite, accrediting coordinator, on how to proceed. The deadline for completing that process in time to be considered for associate membership at the 2014 Biennial Meeting is September 1, 2013. Once a school has been approved for associate membership in the Association, it may then pursue membership in the Commission. That begins with a petition to the Board of Commissioners for candidacy for accredited membership, described in the Commission Procedures and in Section Six of the Handbook of Accreditation.