Who Accredits MHA Programs?
There are many graduate programs available to students wishing to pursue a master of healthcare administration (MHA), but how does one decide which one to choose? The first criterion prospective students must check is whether the program is appropriately accredited.
The goal of accreditation is to ensure that the school’s curriculum is high-quality and that students can obtain proper credentials for their career paths, according to the U.S. Department of Education. Accredited institutions and programs have met specific academic and professional standards of reputable third-party organizations. These accrediting agencies define operating standards for educational or professional institutions and programs; determine if those standards have been met; and make their findings publicly known.
Accreditation in the U.S. has existed for more than a century. In the 2011-12 school year, degree-granting institutions spent almost $500 billion, employed approximately 3.8 million people, and enrolled more than 28 million students, according to Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). American accreditors review colleges and universities across all 50 states and 125 countries, which includes thousands of programs in a range of specialties, such as healthcare, business, social work, pharmacy, and journalism.
That said, not all accreditation agencies are created equally, which is why it is crucial for students to do the proper research about the accreditation of the MHA programs they are considering. Failure to select programs and schools approved by the appropriate entities can negatively impact a student’s chances for securing financial aid; applying to other academic programs; or qualifying for professional certification. They may also have trouble transferring credits between schools.
The U.S. Department of Education has created an online database of accredited post-secondary institutions and programs to make it easier for students to research the program that best suits their needs.
Institutional accreditation applies to an entire college or university, maintaining that each of the school’s departments contributes to the achievement of the whole institution’s objectives. Institutional accreditation agencies can be regional or national. National accreditation associations focus on specific kinds of colleges, such as healthcare, trade, and technical institutions, as well as religious schools. Regional accreditation agencies are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and provide accreditation according to the quality of a school as a whole, including its academic offerings, administration, mission, finances, and resources. The Higher Learning Commission is an example of a regional accreditation agency that accredits schools in 19 states through a peer-review-based system.
Programmatic accreditation typically involves the evaluation of programs, departments, or schools that make up one part of an institution. It can refer to a school within a university as well as a program within a department. A college of business within a university, for instance, may be accredited by a different body than the college of healthcare within that same institution.
For example, the Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME) is the preferred accrediting agency for programs in healthcare administration, and the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International) accreditation is the gold standard for healthcare MBA programs.
Read on to explore accreditation agencies and processes specific to master’s of health administration (MHA) programs.
MHA Program Accreditation
Several organizations throughout the country accredit MHA and other healthcare management programs. Students should be diligent when researching their MHA program of choice and the accreditation agency associated with it.
Here are the reputable accreditation entities for MHA and healthcare MBA programs with details about their history; which types of schools (or programs) they accredit; and how they perform evaluations.
The Commission on Accreditation of Healthcare Management Education (CAHME)
The CAHME is the most reputable accrediting agency for MHA degrees and the only organization grants MHA program-specific accreditation. It is considered the highest standard by students and employers. CAHME-accredited programs offer high-quality curricula, distinguished faculty in education and research, and a top-notch network of professional colleagues and alumni.
CAHME’s mission is to set measurable criteria for outstanding healthcare management education; support, assist, and advise programs to meet or exceed requirements and improve continuously; accredit graduate programs that meet or exceed the criteria; and make the information readily available.
- The University of Scranton provides one example of a CAHME-accredited MHA program. It was one of the first entirely online MHA programs to be accredited by this agency. To receive this distinction, the University of Scranton demonstrated how it maintains relevancy in its course curriculum and adjusts to the ever-changing nature of healthcare. The school’s program helps students develop communication, critical thinking, leadership, and ethics skills.
The Commission on Accreditation for Health Informatics and Information Management Education (CAHIIM)
CAHIIM accredits programs in health informatics and information management, two fields closely allied with healthcare administration. To qualify, a university must have institutional accreditation from a CHEA-recognized entity, as well as provisions for Title IV eligibility, and must meet other standards of excellence in the evaluation process. Graduates of CAHIIM-accredited programs may be eligible to sit for the AHIMA certification exams which cover various skills related to informatics, data management, and electronic health records.
- The University of Illinois at Chicago offers an online master of science in health informatics (MSHI), which has been accredited by CAHIIM.
The Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs (ACBSP)
The ACBSP focuses on business programs specifically. Since 1988, it has been accrediting quality business programs at the associate, baccalaureate, masters, and doctoral degree levels at more than 1,000 schools around the world. ACBSP focuses on exceptional teaching, learning outcomes, and the continuous improvement of the curriculum according to the evolving business world.
- Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) is one example of a school with a ACBSP-accredited program, where students can gain a competitive advantage in the healthcare field and master industry-specific knowledge within the master of business administration in healthcare management. Similar to an MHA, an MBA in healthcare management program can prepare students to take on leadership roles in hospitals, clinics, or medical offices.
The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International)
AACSB International brings educators, students, and businesses together to create a new generation of exceptional leaders. Since 1916, AACSB International has been assuring quality, business education intelligence, and professional development to its 1,600-member organization as well as to 800 accredited business schools around the world. Just like ACBSP, AACSB International focuses on business-oriented programs in healthcare. In fact, AACSB is considered the gold standard in MBA program accreditation.
- The University of Delaware online MBA program is accredited by AACSB. This program can give students the targeted industry knowledge and analytical tools they need to lead their organization to far-reaching growth and success. Notably, it was ranked #22 in online MBAs in the nation by the U.S. News and World Report.
Other Accreditors in Healthcare Administration
Here are some other reputable accreditation entities which approve programs related to healthcare administration and management:
- The International Accreditation Council for Business Education (IACBE) accredits healthcare management MBA programs (e.g., University of St. Mary)
- The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) are the main accreditation entities for nursing programs, including those in administration and management.
- The Association for Gerontology in Higher Education (AGHE) is a membership organization which recognizes excellence in educational programs; it is currently developing a process with the University of Southern California’s master of arts in gerontology program, which is related to an MHA.
Please note that there are also agencies within states which may provide lists of recommended programs to help graduates qualify for state licensure. For example, the Minnesota Board of Examiners for Nursing Home Administrators (BENHA) has approved the MA in health and human services administration program at Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota, verifying that this program can prepare graduates to take the state licensing exam for nursing home administrators.
Regional and National Accrediting Agencies
The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) has created a list of the most reputable regional accreditation organizations. Recognition by CHEA means that the standards and processes of the accrediting organization are consistent with the academic quality, improvement, and accountability expectations established by CHEA.
Some of the top organizations which accredit colleges in specific regions include:
- Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
- Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)
- Commission on Institutions of Higher Education (CIHE)
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
- WASC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC)
Additionally, the Association of University Programs in Health Administration (AUPHA) is an association for accreditation organizations. It offers resources for future students, current students, faculty, and program directors, as well as membership options for master’s degree programs in health administration. The non-profit organization’s goal is to provide a global network dedicated to the improvement of health and healthcare through excellence in healthcare management and policy education.
The bottom line is that accreditation matters. Prospective students are strongly encouraged to review accreditation standards and guidelines as well as the accreditations of the schools and programs in which they are interested before enrolling.