Criteria for Accreditation Decisions
The web page directory for each member school contains the following accreditation information, based on decisions made by the Board of Commissioners ("Board") on behalf of the Commission on Accrediting of The Association of Theological Schools (“ATS Commission”). The Board of Commissioners is a representative group of peer and public members elected by the membership every other year. The criteria for the various decisions made are listed below.
Accredited: A school is an Accredited Member if it meets the ATS Commission Standards of Accreditation (“Standards”), determined by the recommendation of an on-site peer review, following the school’s own comprehensive self-study, and the action of the Board of Commissioners (see ATS Commission Policies and Procedures, III). If a school only partially meets a Standard, it is given a notation (see below). If a school does not meet a Standard, it is placed on probation (see below). Accredited Member status enables a member school to apply for participation in US federal student aid programs (Title IV). Accredited schools are members both of the ATS Commission and of The Association of Theological Schools in the United States and Canada (ATS)—two separate, but related organizations.
Candidate: A school is granted Candidate for Accredited Member status if it demonstrates it can meet the ATS Commission Standards within two years, based upon successful completion of a candidacy petition (see ATS Commission Policies and Procedures, II.A). Candidate for Accredited Member status does not enable a member school to apply for participation in US federal student aid programs (Title IV). Candidate schools are members both of the ATS Commission and of ATS.
Associate: A school is elected to Associate Member status by a two-thirds majority of ATS members if it meets the membership criteria (see ATS Procedures Related to Membership, I), documented through an application process, and is recommended by the ATS Board of Directors. Associate Member status is a precursor to Candidate for Accredited Member status, but it is not an indication of accreditation and does not qualify a school to seek participation in US federal student aid programs. Associate Members are members of ATS, but they are not members of the ATS Commission.
Other accreditation information
Approved for Comprehensive Distance Education
Yes Approved to offer at least six courses online or by interactive video.
No Not approved to offer at least six courses online or by interactive video.
Not Available Applies to Associate or Candidate schools that are not yet required to petition for distance education approval.
Year of Initial Accreditation: Indicates when the school was first granted accreditation by the ATS Commission on Accrediting.
Year-term of Last/Next Comprehensive Evaluation Visit: The difference between these two typically indicates the length of accreditation granted, which is a maximum of 10 years for reaffirmation of accreditation and seven years for initial accreditation (see ATS Commission Policies and Procedures, VII.A.1; see also Guidelines for Length of Accreditation in sidebar).
Year-term (subject) of Next Focused Visit: A focused visit is required either when a school petitions for a substantive change involving a new location, a new doctoral degree in a new category, or a change in control, or when the Board has specific concerns about how well a school is meeting one or more standards (see ATS Commission Policies and Procedures, VIII.B).
Year-month (subject) of Next Report Back(s): Reports in a specified area are required when a school meets the Standard, but either more information is needed or the school could benefit from further improvement in that area.
Notation/Probation: A notation is a warning that a school partially meets a Standard and must meet it fully within two years or face withdrawal of accreditation (see ATS Commission Policies and Procedures, VII.E). Probation is an indication that a school does not meet one or more Standards and must do so within two years or face withdrawal of accreditation (see ATS Commission Policies and Procedures, VII.F).
Accreditation Note: If a school is granted an exemption or an experiment, it is noted here. Also, if a school is placed on probation or is denied accreditation, the specific reasons are listed here.
NOTE: Questions about a particular school’s accredited status may be directed to that school’s ATS accrediting staff liaison, listed on the membership web page for each school.