Capella University has regional accreditation by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. Capella University's baccalaureate and graduate level teacher education programs were accredited by the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education. Capella University's graduate level counselling program is accredited by The Council for Accreditation of Counselling and Related Educational Programs have been accredited by the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs
Capella University was originally established as The Graduate School of America by Dr. Harold Abel and Stephen Shank in 1993. Shank was the former CEO of Tonka. Abel, formerly the president of Castleton State College, Central Michigan University, and Walden University, became the first president of the institution.In 1997, Capella University received regional accreditation. Two years later the parent company and university were renamed Capella Education Company and Capella University, respectively. In 2000, Capella began to offer bachelor's degree programs. Six years later, in 2006, Capella Education Company became a publicly traded company In 2007, Capella was named one of 86 higher education institutions in the United States to have received the National Centers of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance Education (CAEIAE) designation by the National Security Agency (NSA). The designation was valid for the academic years 2007 through 2012.
In March 2008, Capella Education Co., longtime occupant of the 225 South Sixth skyscraper in downtown Minneapolis, signed a new lease that expanded its office and renamed the building Capella Tower. The building houses all of the company's 1,150 downtown Minneapolis administrative staff.
In 2009, The Project Management Institute (PMI) Global Accreditation Center for Project Management (GAC) accredited two Capella University online degree programs: the MS in Information Technology with a specialization in Project Management; and the BS in Information Technology with a specialization in Project Management.
Until November 2010, Capella University had an open enrollment admission policy, which required applicants only proof of a high school diploma, GED or its equivalent.