American Academy for Liberal Education

The American Academy for Liberal Education operates nationally and outside the United States' borders, accrediting institutions from Japan to Germany. Prospective institutions seeking accreditation from the AALE must go through a rigorous evaluation process which lasts in the neighborhood of eighteen to thirty months. Schools are judged mainly on their academic programs, but must also meet budgetary and administrative standards set by the American Academy for Liberal Education. A large amount of AALE-accredited institutions pursue the 'great books' approach to their curriculum.

Great Books

The Great Books program came into being through Professor John Erskine of Columbia University, in the 1920s. It is essentially a reading list which emphasizes three criteria for inclusion of literature in the list; the book has contemporary significance, it is inexhaustible (can be reread many times to a benefit), and it is relevant to a number of great ideas and issues which have interested the minds of people for the last 25 centuries. Books in this list include staples of a college education such as Plato's "Republic", and Dante's "Divine Comedy." Some criticism has been derided about this method, as people claim it is a short-sighted approach to learning that excludes many interesting elements of literature.

Types of Accreditation

The AALE offers three different forms of accreditation, based on the various compositions of institutions and their personal needs. The main type of accreditation is the institutional accreditation the AALE offers; this is a full stamp of approval over an entire institute of higher learning. It is for those schools wishing for the AALE to be their sole accreditor, or main accreditor of record. A less comprehensive accreditation method is program accreditation wherein the AALE is utilized as a specialized accrediting agency for their degree granting liberal arts programs. The final method is certification, which approves programs or schools which do not offer bachelor's degrees in liberal arts.


The AALE is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as a legitimate accreditor of post-secondary education institutions. The accreditation the agency provides is respected in liberal arts circles such as academia and publishing houses, as it ensures a student's exposure to many forms of liberal arts and a well-rounded education.