Examining How Accreditation Standards May Drive Quality Improvement and Accountability in Nonprofit Studies Educational Programs


  • Julianne Gassman University of Northern Iowa
  • Andrew F. Thompson University of Northern Iowa




accreditation, standards, nonprofit management, academic programs, curriculum development


This paper examines how nonprofit studies educational programs (NSEPs) accreditation may improve educational quality and accountability based on the history of accreditation in business education. This analysis focuses on accreditation as a total quality management process with reference to how it is implemented in business schools and more recently in the Society of Actuaries. Major benefits from accreditation for NSEPs relate to quality improvements, development and implementation of common core standards, sharing of improvement processes among institutions, enhanced employment opportunities for students, and better public awareness and recognition of NSEPs, leading to increased enrollment and donor support. Successful NSEP accreditation efforts include (1) identifying and obtaining the support of respected NSEP leaders, programs, and institutions; (2) developing standards that ensure program quality and accountability while being flexible enough to include differences in teaching and research orientation that permits innovation at NSEP institutions; and (3) securing the resources to sustain NSEP accreditation. 

Author Biographies

Julianne Gassman, University of Northern Iowa

Julianne Gassman, PhD, CNPAssociate Professor, Division of Leisure, Youth & Human ServicesAdministrative Fellow for Community EngagementCampus Executive Director, Nonprofit Leadership AllianceUniversity of Northern Iowa319-273-2204julianne.gassman@uni.edu

Andrew F. Thompson, University of Northern Iowa

Professor, FinanceUniversity of Northern IowaBartlett Hall 2005Cedar Falls, IA 50614-0124 (319) 273-2949





Exploring Nonprofit Study Program Accreditation