Accreditation is a process of self-study and external review that ensures that an educational program meets or exceeds predetermined standards. The ACOE is recognized by the United States Department of Education as an authority on the quality of the educational programs it accredits. The ACOE uses the following steps in the accreditation process:
The ACOE develops educational standards that are the requirements for programs to be accredited. Prior to adopting standards, the Council seeks input from the higher education community, the profession of optometry and the public at large to ensure that standards reflect requirements that are essential to operating an optometric program. The standards of accreditation for each of the three types of programs accredited by the ACOE are published in its Accreditation Manuals. Click on these links to find the manuals for the professional optometric degree (OD) programs, optometric residency programs, or optometric technician programs.
The professional optometric degree, optometric residency or optometric technician program examines itself in light of how well it achieves its own mission, goals and objectives for the purpose of self-improvement and planning. The self-study also documents how the program meets the standards of the ACOE. The self-study is submitted to the ACOE with a letter of application for accreditation from the chief executive officer of the institution offering the program.
ACOE's accreditation process includes the consideration of third-party comments. The calendar of site visits (click here to see the upcoming site visits calendar) contains the accreditation status and the month and year of all site visits currently scheduled for the next year. For those programs that are seeking initial accreditation, the notation of "Initial" is listed. Third party comments must address substantive matters relating to the quality of the program and the ACOE standards and should be addressed to the administrative director of the Council at ACOE, 243 N. Lindbergh Blvd., St. Louis, MO 63141. Comments must be received 30 days prior to the program's scheduled site visit date. (In cases where the exact date is not yet determined, the month and year of the visit is listed, and the comments must be received by not later than the first day of the month preceding the site visit. All third party comments must be signed.) Comments will be forwarded to the evaluation team and to the appropriate program director for response during the evaluation visit process.
The ACOE sends a team of evaluators with expertise in optometric education and practice to visit the program to assess its compliance with the ACOE's standards. The team validates the self-study by interviewing students, faculty and administrators, reviewing records and files, and examining the facilities. ACOE strives to ensure that the team is impartial, objective and without conflict of interest.
Following the evaluation visit, the team writes a report of its findings that includes the team's findings relating the program's compliance with the ACOE standards. The report is forwarded to the program to review its factual accuracy before the finalized report is presented to the ACOE.
At regularly scheduled meetings, the ACOE reviews accreditation reports to determine if the programs meet the standards of accreditation and to award an appropriate accreditation category. The category of "accredited" means the program generally meets the standards of accreditation. "Accredited" indicates that the program has no major deficiencies that compromise the educational effectiveness of the total program. However, recommendations to address marginal compliance with certain standards and suggestions for program improvement may be included in the evaluation report. The category of "accredited with conditions" indicates major deficiencies or weaknesses in reference to the standards.
The Council publishes lists of accredited programs, which are updated regularly. Click here to view the current lists.
The ACOE monitors accredited programs in between evaluation visits through annual reports, progress reports and, in some cases, interim visits to ensure that the programs address the recommendations to come into compliance with any unmet standards in a timely fashion.
The ACOE assesses programs seeking accreditation or pre-accreditation an application fee. Application fees for new programs should be submitted with the program’s initial self-study and letter of application. The current application fees follow:
|Professional Optometric Degree Programs||$10,000|
|Optometric Residency Programs
|Optometric Technician Programs||$1,500|
The following is the schedule of annual accreditation fees charged to each accredited program.
Invoices for annual fees are sent in October, and payment is due to the ACOE by January 1 of each year.
In addition, all programs will be billed for expenses related to site visits in the year of the site visit. This is a change for VA programs, which prior to 2012, paid a higher annual fee than other residencies, which was designed to cover prorated costs of the program's site visit throughout its period of accreditation. Beginning in 2012, VA programs will be billed for site visit expenses for any program visited after January 1, 2012.