Provisional Accreditation

Information And Procedures for Provisional



Accreditation - Provisional is an accreditation status granted when the plans and resource allocation, if fully implemented as planned, of a proposed program that has not yet enrolled students appear to demonstrate the program’s ability to meet the ARC-PA Standards or when a program holding accreditation-provisional status appears to demonstrate continued progress in complying with the Standards as it prepares for the graduation of the first class (cohort) of students.

The provisional accreditation process begins with a thorough review of the planning, organization, and proposed content of a program that is in the advanced planning stages, but not yet operational.  The provisional accreditation pathway is the only entry way for proposed new programs into the accreditation process. 


The ARC-PA accredits only qualified PA programs offered by, or located within institutions chartered by and physically located within, the United States and where students are geographically located within the United States for their education.

A single institution must be clearly identified as the sponsor of the program. Sponsoring institutions applying for provisional accreditation of a new PA program must be authorized under applicable law to provide a program of post-secondary education.  They must be accredited by, and in good standing with, a recognized regional accrediting agency and must be authorized by that agency to confer upon graduates of the PA program a graduate degree.

Process Overview

The process involves the basic steps below, as presented here in flow sheet format.

  • Contact with the ARC-PA to verify institutional eligibility and understanding of process
  • Submission of a formal written request for entry into the process
  • Secure assignment onto a future ARC-PA agenda including submission of 50% of the application fee
  • Submission of the feasibility study in accordance with ARC-PA guidelines (no required for programs on 2016 September or 2017 March agendas)
  • Participation in a series of three Commission reviews with accreditation actions.  Each review includes the completion of an accreditation application and participation in a site visit.

Accreditation-provisional status does not ensure any subsequent accreditation status. As is true for other accredited programs, serious issues concerning the institution’s or program’s ability to demonstrate compliance with the Standards, at any point in the provisional process, may result in an adverse accreditation action. Programs that fail to achieve accreditation or have accreditation withdrawn may re-enter the provisional process at a later date.

Entering the Process

Institutional representatives should first read the accreditation Standards and all Provisional sections of the ARC-PA web site.

To initiate the provisional accreditation process, a representative of the proposed sponsoring institution must contact the ARC-PA to verify institutional eligibility. After determining the program’s eligibility, the ARC-PA provides the program with information on the application process and timeline for consideration.

Site Visits

The provisional accreditation review process includes a series of three site visits prior to subsequent commission reviews and accreditation action. 

  1. Initial provisional visits are scheduled six to 12 months prior to the matriculation of students. These visits evaluate an institution’s ability to begin a program in compliance with the Standards, and the program's readiness to matriculate students.
  2. Provisional monitoring visits are scheduled within six months of graduation of the first cohort of students. These visits are conducted to institutions and programs that have successfully achieved provisional accreditation.  They evaluate the sponsoring institution’s and provisionally accredited program’s progress in delivering the program in compliance with the Standards and their ability to continue to do so.  As scheduling permits on the ARC-PA calendar, these visits are ideally conducted within the final three months of the end of the program.
  3. Final provisional visits are scheduled to occur 18-24 months following the second provisional review and accreditation action by the commission. These visits assess the institution’s and program’s demonstration of compliance with the Standards including their ability to incorporate and report the findings of a robust self-assessment process as required by the ARC-PA.

Expansion in Class Size or Distant Campus

Programs applying for Provisional Accreditation are not eligible to propose a distant campus as a component of the application process. The ARC-PA will not consider expansion to a distant campus until the program has held Accreditation-Continued status for five years after completing the provisional accreditation process.

Programs with the status of Accreditation-Provisional are not eligible to apply for an increase  in class size until after completing the provisional accreditation process and obtaining Accreditation - Continued status, without  having had an adverse accreditation action. Within the initial applications, programs applying for Accreditation-Provisional status indicate if the entering class size will remain the same for the first three cohorts, or if it will increase incrementally. The time before a program may apply for an increase in class size varies depending on whether the program did or did not increase class size incrementally during the provisional accreditation process.

Accreditation Resources

The Accreditation Resources page of the web site contains important information from ARC-PA aimed at helping programs prepare for their ongoing self analysis, prepare for site visits and develop syllabi.

Accreditation Manual

The Accreditation Manual for the Standards, 4th edition is available in the Standards section of this web site.

Accreditation Fees

Fifty percent of the Provisional Application Fee is due at time of request for entry into the provisional accreditation process and placement on an upcoming ARC-PA agenda. The fee is non-refundable. (The program is responsible for site visit fees for the initial provisional visit.)

Accredited programs pay an annual accreditation fee, billed each year in December.

A copy of the current fee schedule is available on the ARC-PA web site. Programs that cancel their site visits within sixty days of their scheduled visits will be responsible for any expenses associated with the visit that have been incurred by the ARC-PA.