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University Accreditation

Cornell University has been accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education since 1921 and was most recently reaccredited in 2011.

Cornell’s official Statement of Accreditation Status is maintained at the Middle States website.

What Is Accreditation?

Accreditation in higher education is a process of external quality review to scrutinize colleges, universities, and educational programs for quality assurance and quality improvement.  In the U.S., accreditation is carried out through private, nonprofit organizations designed for this specific purpose.  Cornell is accredited through the Middle States Commission on Higher Education, the accrediting agency for educational institutions in the mid-Atlantic region recognized by the federal government.

Accreditation is required in order for students to gain access to federal funds including student grants and loans. Non-accredited institutions are not eligible for federal financial aid.

Types of Accreditation

  • Regional or “university” Accreditation: Regional accreditors operate in six specific clusters of states (regions) in the U.S. and review entire institutions.  As an institution in New York State, Cornell is accredited through Middle States.
  • Specialized and Professional Accreditation: Specialized and professional accreditors operate throughout the country and review programs and some single-purpose institutions. At Cornell, there are 21 programs that have specialized or professional accreditation.
  • For university accreditation, the Middle States Commission requires a comprehensive self-study and site evaluation every 10 years and a periodic update report in the 5th year between decennial reports.


Both regional and specialized accreditors undertake the task of accreditation in similar ways: each typically requires a self-study by the institution or program under review, a review by peers (including a site visit in most cases), and a judgment about accredited status. These judgments are based on standards of quality developed by the accrediting organization in consultation with the higher education community.

  • Self-study: Institutions or programs seeking accreditation typically prepare a self-study—an examination of whether their operation meets the standards of the accrediting organization.
  • Team visit and report: Higher education faculty and administrators, practitioners in specific fields, and members of the public make up “teams” that visit an institution or program to determine whether or not the standards of the accrediting organization are being met.

Cornell’s last decennial self-study was submitted in 2011. Previously submitted reports can be found here.

Student Grievances

Information on how to file a complaint with the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) regarding an accredited MSCHE institution can be found on its website at: