Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education

Understanding “Accreditation” and “Licensure”

Education scams often prey on consumer confusion over “accreditation” and “licensure.” They claim credentials from a fake agency to attract more students to their programs and make them seem more legitimate. Both accreditation and licensure are not qualifications simply handed out to any school. They are thorough reviews by organizations or state agencies to ensure that students are receiving an education that meets several standards.


Accreditation is a check by an outside educational organization to ensure that a campus maintains a level of academic quality needed to prepare students to achieve credentials for their chosen profession or pursue an advanced degree.

Accreditation does not promise automatic acceptance of a student or transfer of their coursework even if the schools have the same accreditation. Campuses have the right to make those decisions based on their admissions and degree requirements. Accreditation, instead, serves as a framework for representing the level and rigor of the school’s curriculum compared to an accepted standard of excellence for that accreditor.

There are two types of accreditation: institutional and specialized. Institutional accreditation applies to an entire campus, signifying that all programs meet the requirements. Specialized (or programmatic) accreditation can apply to something as large as a whole department to a small segment, like a course’s curriculum. Also, specialized accreditation can apply to programs outside the traditional campus, such as education programs offered through hospitals.


Licensure by the Kentucky Council on Postsecondary Education gives an in-state or out-of-state school permission to legally operate and advertise in Kentucky. The value of choosing a licensed institution is consumer protection: once a campus receives its license to operate in Kentucky, the Council has the authority to protect students and their families from bad business practices.

It is possible for a school to be accredited, but not licensed by the Council to operate in Kentucky. The Council considers several factors of an institution beyond academics before licensing it, including that the institution:

Online Programs

The Council also licenses online programs offered by out-of-state campuses just like a traditional campus. However, it is important to realize that when the Council licenses an online program, the license applies only to that program; the license does not apply to other offerings of that school.

DISCLAIMER: This office cannot give legal advice to any individual or take any legal action on behalf of any individual.

Last Updated: 9/6/2021