Authorization to operate a postsecondary educational institution in Alaska, or simply “Authorization,” is granted by the Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education (ACPE) to postsecondary educational institutions that apply for Authorization and document meeting the minimum standards of operation set forth in law.
The purpose of Institutional Authorization (IA) is “to provide for the protection, education, and welfare of the citizens of the state, its postsecondary educational institutions, and its students” (AS 14.48.010). In other words, IA serves an educational consumer protection function. The statutes and regulations governing postsecondary education in Alaska specifically address:
- Standards relating to quality of education; ethics; health and safety; fiscal responsibility; and protection against substandard, transient, unethical, deceptive, or fraudulent institutions or practices;
- False or misleading educational credentials;
- The use of academic terminology in institutional designations;
- Misleading advertisements, solicitations, literature or representation;
- Preservation of academic records; and
- Rights and remedies available to the public and ACPE for the execution of the statute.
It is important to note that Institutional Authorization does NOT constitute approval to participate in ACPE Funding sources, such as the Alaska Performance Scholarship, Alaska Education Grant, or Educational Loans.
ACPE awards exemptions to institutions that qualify under the law or regulations for exemption from some or all of the requirements of Institutional Authorization. Exemptions are not automatic and must be awarded by ACPE, unless otherwise noted. An institution should never assume it is exempt. If an institution cannot qualify for exemption, the institution must be authorized.
Authorization or Exemption status is required for any individual or institution wishing to offer credits, degrees, certificates, or other credentials within the State of Alaska must be either authorized or exempt from authorization under AS 14.48. It is illegal to operate a postsecondary educational institution, advertise or deliver postsecondary education, or recruit postsecondary students, without either Authorization or Exemption from ACPE.
The Alaska Commission on Postsecondary Education (ACPE) is not an accrediting agency. ACPE is Alaska’s authorizing agency that assures institutions meet the minimum postsecondary standards established in Alaska law.
Accreditation is a private, voluntary, non-governmental, peer-review process through which institutions are evaluated and recognized as having met the accrediting agency's standards of educational quality. Most accrediting agencies require compliance with state law prior to granting accreditation. There are two types of accrediting associations
- Institutional accreditation - granted by Institutional Accrediting Agencies that establish standards for the entire institution.
- Programmatic accreditation - granted by Programmatic Accrediting Agencies that review programs based upon specialty or profession.
To offer degree programs or for institutions to be identified as a “College” or “University” in Alaska, an institution must be accredited by an accrediting association approved by the U.S. Department of Education.