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What are the Different Types of Higher Education Associations?

By Michele Wyan
Updated May 17, 2024
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There are a number of different types of higher education associations.  Among the most well known are the associations for the accreditation of colleges and universities and their programs.  Other higher education associations concern specific student populations or specific sectors within the field of higher education.  Additional higher education associations offer scholarly or social networking opportunities for college faculty members, administrators and students or alumni.

Higher education associations that accredit colleges and universities in the United States differ from those of other countries.  Outside the U.S., government agencies usually accredit higher education institutions.  Within the United States, private organizations accredit colleges and universities, and the accreditation is voluntary.  Regional associations accredit U.S. institutions of higher learning within their specific geographical areas.  National accreditation associations in The U.S. usually accredit programs for specific majors or professions, such as journalism, law, nursing or medicine.  

In addition to accreditation associations, a second type of higher education association concerns students in various demographical categories.  Organizations exist, for example, that focus on women or on students of certain races or ethnicities. These groups promote equity in education for their specified student sectors and can provide scholarships, career development and support programs.  They also provide social networking opportunities for their members and often have conferences or forums that allow an exchange of information and ideas between members.

Some higher education associations concern specific sectors within the field of higher education.  A number of organizations, for example, relate to public institutions, and others focus on the interests of private colleges and universities.  Other associations concern schools affiliated with a particular religion or religious sect.  There are even associations related to distance learning education programs.

Additional higher education associations provide networking opportunities for college and university faculty, administrators and students.  These organizations foster professionalism in higher education and promote research and scholarship.  They also offer social networking opportunities via conferences and forums.  Some of these associations publish newsletters or magazines that provide additional educational and social networking opportunities for their members.  

One more type of higher education association is an alumni association.  Graduates of individual colleges and universities are eligible to join these social networks.  They typically must pay a membership fee to do so.  Alumni associations allow the graduates of their institutions and programs to network and stay in touch with former classmates.  They often offer a newsletter or magazine, alumni e-mail lists and annual social events for members to enjoy.

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