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Authority for Accreditation

The Commission on Dental Accreditation is recognized as the accrediting agency for dental and dental-related educational programs. Authority to function as a nationally recognized accrediting agency is granted to the Commission through its recognition by the United States Department of Education (USDE).

United States Department of Education

The authority and recognition responsibility of the USDE is governed by the Higher Education Act (HEA) of 1965, as amended. This legislation is periodically re-authorized, usually every five years. Following each reauthorization, the Department promulgates new Procedures and Criteria for Recognition of Accrediting Agencies. The HEA was most recently re-authorized in 2008.

The Department of Education does not award accreditation status; it recognizes and maintains a listing of reliable authorities concerning the quality of education offered by institutions of higher education. An updated listing of all specialized accrediting agencies can be found at:

The Secretary of Education requires the Commission to submit to the USDE the standards, policies, and procedures used in its evaluation program. Periodic reviews by the USDE are conducted to determine the Commission’s continued eligibility for recognition.

Eligibility for federal funding is linked to recognition by the USDE. Statutory restrictions mandate that educational institutions or programs must be accredited by a USDE-recognized accrediting agency in order to be eligible for federal funding.
Since 1952, the Secretary of the USDE has recognized the Commission on Dental Accreditation as the agency responsible for the accreditation of dental and dental-related educational programs.

Non-governmental Agencies
In addition to the USDE, non-governmental agencies have also developed to promote and ensure the quality and diversity of postsecondary education. They recognize, coordinate, and periodically review the work of member-accrediting agencies. In the past, the Commission has participated in a series of organizations (COPA, CORPA) established to represent institutions of higher education. These organizations have now evolved into a third organization called the Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).

At its January 1999 meeting, the Commission considered a report on the Council on Higher Education Accreditation and its Recognition of Accrediting Organizations Policy and Procedures, effective January 1999. The Commission noted that accreditation agencies are eligible to apply for recognition by the CHEA if the majority of the accredited programs are degree granting. Because less than 50 percent of Commission-accredited programs grant degrees, the Commission is not eligible for recognition by the CHEA. The Commission determined not to request an exception to the Eligibility Policy but will continue to monitor issues being addressed by the higher education community through attending the CHEA conferences. The Commission may consider pursuing CHEA recognition at a later date.
More information on CHEA may be found at:

Two articles containing historical perspectives and commentaries on the accreditation process are included in Appendices 1.1 and 1.2.

Member of the ASPA

The Commission on Dental Accreditation is a member of the Association of Specialized and Professional Accreditors (ASPA). The ASPA is the only organization whose members are specialized and professional accreditors. ASPA-member accreditors set national educational standards for entry into about 45 specialized disciplines or defined professions. The ASPA, a 501(c)(3) association, works with higher education and government officials to enhance education and accreditation and functions as the only national voice for this important constituency.
The Association of Specialized and Professional Accreditors is an autonomous nonprofit corporation organized under the District of Columbia Nonprofit Corporation Act exclusively for educational, scientific, research, mutual improvement and professional purposes, and shall have the necessary and incidental powers to carry out its corporate purposes, among which shall be to:

1. Promote quality and integrity in non-governmental specialized and professional accreditation of post-secondary programs and institutions 
2. Provide a forum for discussion and analysis and a mechanism for common action for those concerned with specialized and professional accreditation 
3. Address accreditation issues in educational, governmental, and public policy contexts, and communicate with the public about accreditation 
4. Facilitate collaboration among programs, institutions and accreditation organizations 
5. Provide a mechanism for continuing education for individuals and organizations with accreditation responsibility
As an accrediting organization holding membership in the Association of Specialized and Professional Accreditors, the Commission on Dental Accreditation abides by the ASPA Code of Good Practice, adopted March 21, 1995 (April 2013):

An accrediting organization holding full membership in the Association of Specialized and Professional Accreditors: 

1. Promotes the development of educational quality: 
a. Focuses accreditation reviews on the development of student knowledge and competence in light of specific institutional and programmatic missions, goals, objectives, and contexts. 
b. Conducts reviews in a spirit that recognizes that teaching and learning are the primary purposes of institutions/programs. 
c. Places educational quality in accreditation reviews above special interests, politics or educational delivery models. 

2. Exhibits integrity and professionalism in the conduct of its operations: 
a. Maintains autonomy and integrity in governance and operations through appropriate relationships and practices. 
b. Creates, documents and implements scope of authority, policies, and procedures to ensure objective decision making under a rule of law framework that includes attention to due process, systems of checks and balances, conflict of interest, confidentiality, expedient response to appeals and complaints and consistent application of standards. 
c. Develops, reviews and revises standards and accreditation procedures with the participation of communities of interest. 
d. Maintains sufficient financial, personnel, and other resources to carry out its operations effectively, while ensuring efficient and cost-effective accreditation processes for institutions/programs. 
e. Cooperates with other accrediting organizations as appropriate to avoid conflicting standards and to minimize duplication of effort by the institution/program. 
f. Provides thoughtful analyses to assist institutions/programs to find their own approaches and solutions, making a clear distinction between requirements for accreditation and recommendations for improvement. 
g. Provides accurate, clear, and timely information in a professional manner to the higher education community, to the professions, and to the public about standards and procedures for accreditation and the accreditation status of institutions/programs. 
h. Maintains a thorough and effective orientation, training, and professional development program for all accreditation personnel. 
i. Ensures that site teams have the appropriate expertise and experience for each specific review. 
j. Conducts evaluations of the accreditation process with institutions/programs that have experienced the accreditation process. 
k. Encourages institutions/programs to provide public information that is appropriate to their specific communities of interest. 

3. Respects and promotes institutional independence and freedom in academic decision making: 
a. Encourages institutional independence and freedom to make academic decisions in light of the commitment to mutual accountability implied by participation in accreditation. 
b. Applies standards and procedures that respect the rights and responsibilities of institutions/programs to identify, designate and control their respective: missions and goals; educational and philosophical principles and methodologies; content; agendas and areas of study pursued through scholarship, research, and policy developments; administrative structures and staffing configurations; and methodologies and timing of tests, evaluations and assessments. 
c. Has standards and review procedures that allow for experimentation, encourage innovation, and promote thoughtful change that meets the needs and conditions in the profession and the communities served.
More information about the ASPA and its members may be accessed on the ASPA web site
Review and Practice 1.3: What is the role of the USDE in the accreditation process?