About the Accreditation Process

Degree and accreditation mills mislead and harm. In the U.S., degrees and certificates from mills may not be acknowledged by other institutions when students seek to transfer or go to graduate school. Employers may not acknowledge degrees and certificates from degree or diploma mills when providing tuition assistance for continuing education. “Accreditation” from an accreditation mill can mislead students and the public about the quality of an institution. In the presence of degree, diploma and accreditation mills, students may spend a good deal of money and receive neither an education nor a useable credential.

Degree Mills

In order for a respiratory care program to receive accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC) , it must withstand a formal, structured and comprehensive review of the details of its operations and be deemed in compliance with standards and expectations by a team of experienced evaluators. The multi-month peer-review process culminates with a substantial discussion and analysis by an elected and appointed accrediting Board of Commissioners, comprised of members of the public and member institutions. Only programs that have withstood that level of scrutiny and review are granted accreditation by CoARC and can be deemed “accredited.” There is no short-cut to accreditation nor is it permanent; the certification of quality and integrity is the responsibility of CoARC and may be withdrawn, suspended or revoked at any time for appropriate reasons. All programs must re-apply for accreditation on a regular basis and undergo the same type of review.

Programs and institutions that have not successfully withstood this level of review and scrutiny may fall under the category of “degree mills;” the U.S. Department of Education (www.ed.gov) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (www.chea.org) have more detail and definitions about “degree mills” on their websites.

Accreditation Mills

You may also encounter “accreditation mills” − providers of accreditation and quality assurance or operations that offer a certification of quality of programs or institutions that is considered bogus. Not all accrediting agencies are created equally. Like the process utilized by bona fide accrediting organizations to certify the educational quality of colleges and schools, the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC) and other bona fide accreditors are subject to standards, expectations and practices applied by third-party peers who are knowledgeable about the discipline of accreditation.

The Department (www.ed.gov) and CHEA (www.CHEA.org) have more detail and definitions about “accreditation mills” on their websites.

Video about Degree Mills and Accreditation Mills

If you suspect a degree mill or accreditation mill is providing respiratory care education, please contact the CoARC Executive Office at (817) 283-2835 ext. 101 or by email at tom@coarc.com.

The Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC) is the sole nationally recognized authority for the accreditation of first professional degree programs in respiratory care. CoARC’s mission is to serve the public by promoting high quality respiratory care education through accreditation services.

CoARC and its sponsoring organizations cooperate to establish, maintain, and promote educational standards of quality to prepare individuals for respiratory care practice, and to provide recognition for degree-granting, postsecondary educational programs that meet the minimum requirements outlined in the Accreditation Standards for Entry into Respiratory Care Professional Practice and Accreditation Standards for Degree Advancement Programs.

The accreditation process is voluntary and is initiated only at the request of an institution that meets the criteria for sponsorship as identified in the Standards. The CoARC conducts a comprehensive review of the program relative to these Standards. Accreditation decisions are based on the CoARC’s review of information contained in the accreditation application and self-study report, the report of site visit evaluation teams, the annual report, and any additional requested reports or documents submitted.

Programs that have successfully undergone the review process are granted accreditation status by CoARC, which provides public recognition of achievement. The CoARC Board has final decision-making authority for all accreditation actions.

At its meeting on September 24-25, 2012, the CHEA Board of Directors reviewed the recommendation of the CHEA Committee on Recognition regarding the recognition application submitted by the Commission on Accreditation for Respiratory Care (CoARC). The board of directors accepted the committee’s recommendation and granted recognition for up to ten (10) years to CoARC.

Accreditation is a status that provides assurance to prospective students, their families and the general public that an institution (or a program) meets minimum requirements (i.e., Accreditation Standards) and that there are reasonable grounds to believe the institution (or program) will continue to meet those standards in the future.

  • Accreditation is assurance that a respiratory care program meets the quality standards established by the profession.
  • Accreditation helps students and their parents choose quality respiratory care programs.
  • Accreditation enables employers to recruit graduates they know are well-prepared.
  • Accreditation is used by registration, licensure, and certification boards to screen applicants.

Accreditation gives higher education institutions a structured mechanism to assess, evaluate, and improve the quality of their programs.

CLICK HERE to download The Value of Accreditation. This document was developed by regional, national and programmatic accrediting organizations and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). In addition, CHEA has produced four short videos posted on YouTube. They address:

The videos provide helpful information to anyone with an interest in knowing more about accreditation. Each directs viewers to the CHEA Website for more in-depth information.

CLICK HERE to read the article on “The Value of CoARC Accreditation for Degree Advancement Programs in Respiratory Care” written by Joseph Coyle, M.D., FCCP, Senior Lecturer, Boise State University.

CLICK HERE to view a brief video about accreditation produced by the Association for Specialized and Professional Accreditors (ASPA).

CLICK HERE for ASPA Accreditation Reference Guide.

CLICK HERE for a quick reference document comparing Institutional and Programmatic Accreditation produced by the Association of Specialized and Professional Accreditors (ASPA).

What You Should Know About Accreditation

Accreditation is a mechanism for assuring academic quality in higher education. The institution that sponsors an accredited CoARC respiratory care program, is required to have institutional accreditation by a regional or qualified institutional accreditor which must be recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and must have provisions for Title IV Eligibility. This allows that institution to provide:

  • Eligibility for Federal Financial Aid.
  • Ability to Transfer Credits: Accreditation provides for establishing the acceptability of credits from institution to institution.
  • Ability to Obtain an Higher Degrees: If your Associates or Baccalaureate degree was earned at an unaccredited institution you run the risk that the school in which you would like to enroll to earn a higher degree will not accept your prior degree.

Professional programmatic accreditation means that in addition to the college or university’s regional or national accreditation, a respiratory care program may choose to seek CoARC accreditation, which is a voluntary peer review process to evaluate the program’s compliance with CoARC Standards.

Program accreditation by CoARC is necessary in order to be eligible for the National Board for Respiratory Care (NBRC) professional credentialing examinations. Any questions concerning the eligibility requirements for the NBRC examinations need to be directed to the NBRC.

CoARC does not recommend programs. Specific information about programs can be located on each program website. Students are encouraged to contact the program to obtain additional information. Other valuable sources of information are high school or college counselors and advisors, or college admissions officers.

Every institution retains the right to determine what credits and degrees it will accept. Transferability of credits depends on a number of factors, including accreditation, curriculum compatibility, and grades. While it is typically true that many institutions recognize transfer credits only from regionally accredited institutions, the basic principle underlying issues of transfer is that each institution is responsible for determining its own policies and practices in regard to transfer and award of credit. CoARC requires that institutions have a policy on transfer of credit by which the institution certifies that courses accepted for credit from sending institutions achieve student learning outcomes comparable to its own courses. In order to determine whether or not your credits and degrees can transfer to another program or institution, you will need to check with the Registrar or Admissions office of the school to which you intend to apply.

CoARC does not rank programs. The primary responsibility of CoARC is to accredit programs based on their compliance with established accreditation standards.

Refer to our Find an Accredited Program link. You can search by state or name. If you find a program that you are interested in, you would need to contact that program directly to discuss admission and completion.

The American Association for Respiratory Care (AARC) website is an excellent resource to help you begin or further your career in respiratory care.

Successful completion of a CoARC-accredited program is one of several requirements for eligibility to take the National Board of Respiratory Care (NBRC) Credentialing Exams. There are additional licensure requirements for you to work as a respiratory therapist in most U.S. states. Visit the NBRC website for more information on the credentialing examinations as well as contact information for each of the state licensing boards.

Loss or withhold of accreditation occurs infrequently. The accreditation process is designed to foster programmatic excellence and continuous improvement. The processes of peer evaluation and follow-up offer support and guidance to programs that need to improve practice in order to meet accreditation standards or policy requirements. Most programs are able to correct any deficiencies and retain CoARC accreditation. However, the primary purpose of accreditation is quality assurance to the public. The loss or withhold of accreditation means that CoARC believes the program lacks sufficient quality to be accredited. CoARC may withhold or withdraw accreditation if a program has taken action that places it significantly out of compliance with CoARC Standards or has not satisfactorily explained or corrected matters of which it has been given notice. Loss or withhold of accreditation is subject to a request for reconsideration and appeal. The program’s accredition status continues pending completion of any reconsideration or appeal that is filed. A program that has had its accreditation status withheld or withdrawn shall no longer be allowed to admit students. However, enrolled students completing the program that has had its accreditation status withheld or withdrawn are considered graduates of a CoARC accredited program and will still be eligible to apply for the NBRC Respiratory Care Credentialing Examination(s).

Students that graduate from programs holding Provisional Accreditation are eligible to apply for the NBRC Respiratory Care Credentialing Examination(s). Graduates of a program designated as having the Provisional Accreditation status have the same rights and privileges as graduates of an accredited program.

Coronavirus Icon


Search Icon

Find CoARC Accredited Programs

Job Board Icon

Job Board

Reports Icon

Map of Program Outcomes

Program and Personnel Changes