What is Accreditation?
Accreditation is a process by which an education institution's programs and policies are reviewed against a set of standards developed by an outside agency (the accrediting agency), to establish that the institution is offering quality education. When the institution meets the minimum requirements of the accrediting agency, it is granted accreditation. The U.S. Department of Education (ED) itself does not accredit any educational institution, program, or course. However, the Secretary of Education has to publish a list of recognized accrediting agencies, as mandated by law.
The four most common accrediting agencies recognized by federal government:
- Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS)
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (WCCU)
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
There is also another group of agencies that are recognized by "The Council for Higher Education Accreditation," a private organization allied to ED. And the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC) accredits distance education institutions and programs. Although it is recognized by the ED and accepted by employers, many regionally accredited schools do not accept the course credits from DETC.
Why is accreditation important?
Accreditation guarantees quality education. The system ensures that institutions of higher learning maintain a standard of education that is worth students' investment of money, effort, and time. Because there is a constant process of monitoring, assessment, and evaluation, institutions cannot afford to ignore quality issues. Students know that when they enroll in an accredited institution, whether an on-campus or online one, they are assured of an excellent faculty, a world-standard curriculum, state-of-the-art library, and other beneficial services. However, getting admission to an accredited institution does not automatically guarantee your academic success.
Accreditation is definitely an important aspect in choosing a college. Studying in an accredited institute, one recognized by ED, also assures you of federal financial aid. Sometimes even state financial assistance is available, if you are studying in an accredited institute.
Another very important benefit of studying in an accredited college is that, if you want to change your school in the middle of your degree program, then the credits you have already earned in your previous school are more likely to be accepted by the new school. Your new college may refuse to transfer your credits if your previous institute was not accredited.
Education from an accredited school is important for getting hired, promoted, or going into business. Employers not only prefer education from a recognized accredited school while hiring, but also while considering promotion. Even if you have applied for a professional license, it is usual for the state administration to consider whether you have studied at an accredited school.
- Accreditation in the United States, U.S. Department of Education, http://www2.ed.gov/admins/finaid/accred/index.html
- Directory of CHEA Recognized Organizations, Council for Higher Education Accreditation, http://www.chea.org/Directories/index.asp
- The Database of Accredited Post-Secondary Institutions and Programs, Office of Post-Secondary Education, U.S. Department of Education, http://ope.ed.gov/accreditation/