Programmatic Accreditation vs. Institutional Accreditation
The LCME is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as an accrediting agency for medical education programs leading to the MD degree. For simplicity, the LCME website contains references to “schools” instead of “medical education programs leading to the MD degree.” Though references on the LCME website to “schools” are synonymous with “medical education programs,” the distinction between programmatic accreditation vs. institutional accreditation is an important one.
Institutional accreditation is granted by regional accrediting agencies and is required to qualify for federal financial assistance programs authorized under Title IV of the Higher Education Act. A listing of regional accrediting agencies is available on the U.S. Department of Education’s database of accredited postsecondary institutions and programs.
Programmatic accreditation for medical education programs leading to the MD degree is granted by the LCME. Because the LCME is not recognized as an institutional accrediting agency, it lacks standing to accredit stand-alone medical schools as institutions of higher education. Medical education programs leading to the MD degree must first hold institutional accreditation to be eligible for initial full accreditation and for continuing accreditation by the LCME.
In summary, the LCME accredits educational programs (i.e., leading to the MD degree) and regional accrediting agencies in the U.S. (e.g., the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools) accredit their sponsoring institutions (e.g., universities).