ISTA Commission on Accrediting have adopted Standards of Accreditation composed of three complementary parts: the General Institutional Standards, the Educational Standard, and the Degree Program Standards. The distinct parts of the Standards reflect the nature of Commission accreditation, which is that the Commission accredits institutions and approves degree programs. The General Institutional Standards apply across the range of diverse schools, even though they may be interpreted in slightly varying ways as a function of the institutional structure and educational mission of the school. The Educational Standard and the Degree Program Standards are intended to ensure a common understanding of the academic work involved in degree programs at member schools and to provide common public meaning for a degree, regardless of which member school grants it. The three sets of Standards may also be viewed structurally as a three-tiered edifice. The General Institutional Standards form the foundation for the Educational Standard, and interpretation of the individual Degree Program Standards (which fall into four categories) depends upon an understanding of both the General Institutional Standards and the Educational Standard that come before them.
The ISTA Board of Commissioners imposes a penalty when it judges that an institution insufficiently meets one or more Standards of Accreditation or judges that principles contained in a Standard are not being adequately translated into practice. The Board views the penalty as a notice or warning that a school partially meets a Standard, but it does not fully meet the standard until appropriate action is taken in a timely manner, normally not exceeding two years.
In addition to imposing a penalty, other actions available to the Board include requiring reports, scheduling focused visits, imposing probation, or withdrawing accreditation. Before imposing a penalty, the Board may issue a Letter of Concern, which is a private action. Before imposing probation or withdrawing accreditation, the Board may issue a Show Cause order, which may be private or public at the Board’s discretion. All other actions taken by the Board are considered public and are published as part of the Commission Membership List.