Accreditation: Don’t overlook it

Next in our series of “A’s to Choosing and Education Provider” is Accreditation. We already looked at Applicability. So, once you’ve decided on the type of program you need–be it a degree or certification or whatever–and you’ve identified a list of schools that offer that program, the next item on your checklist should be accreditation. In fact, one could argue that THIS should be FIRST on the checklist, because in some cases it can reveal how legit the school is.

Accreditation is offered by various accrediting bodies, of which there four specific types. These are outlined by the Council for Higher Education Accreditors (www.chea.org):

TYPES OF U.S. ACCREDITING ORGANIZATIONS
There are four types of accrediting organizations:
Regional accreditors. Accredit public and private, mainly nonprofit and degree-granting, two- and four-year institutions.
National faith-related accreditors. Accredit religiously affiliated anddoctrinally based institutions, mainly nonprofit and degree-granting.
National career-related accreditors. Accredit mainly for-profit, career-based, single-purpose institutions, both degree and non-degree.
Programmatic accreditors. Accredit specific programs, professions and free standing schools, e.g., law, medicine, engineering and health professions.

Accreditors are third party, independent agencies. Their job is to provide a set of minimum guidelines and standards that they expect a school to adhere to, and then hold the school accountable to those standards.

Schools are free to go above and beyond the minimums, as long as they are living up to their claims. In other words, the accreditors will also hold them accountable to doing what they have promised their students they will do.

Additionally, accreditation is important to you as a student with regard to transfer credits and employability.

Transfer credits would be classes you have taken at one school that you also want to have counted at the next school you want to attend. For example, let’s say you’ve completed two years of community college and are now ready to transfer to a four-year college to complete your bachelor’s degree. It is up to the school to which you want to transfer as to how many of your completed units will count. And one of the main things they will take into consideration is the accreditation of the school that you attended. Usually, it must be accredited by the same agency. So, if you’ve completed your lower division courses at a school that is nationally accredited and now you want to transfer to a school that is regionally accredited, don’t be surprised if the regionally accredited school denies you from transferring any units. I’m not saying that’s always the case, but I am saying it is not uncommon. This means that if you want to attend that new school, you’ll have to start over with your lower division coursework. Even if you’ve completed an associate’s degree or certification, the school you want to transfer to will look at accreditation first. My sister-in-law paid thousands of dollars for a graphic design certification program from a career college that was nationally accredited. Then she decided she wanted to go to a more traditional college for a degree. Since they were regionally accredited, they wouldn’t accept ANY of her transfer units.

As a prospective employee, your prospective employer may look at the accreditation of the school at which you completed your schooling. This is probably more common in the professional arena than other areas. For example, a person who wants to become a licensed psychologist has to have graduated from a regionally accredited institution. Same for a medical doctor and other professions like that. The key indicator for that type of scrutiny is usually tied to a profession that requires a specific certification or license necessary to practice. So, if you are interested in a profession that requires something like that, be sure to research the educational requirements to obtain that cert or license, and then make sure the school you are considering meets those requirements.

Bottom line: Do your due diligence. Don’t be afraid to ask a school who their accreditor is and what type of accreditor that is. If you can’t find it on their website, that’s a red flag. And if you ask and they avoid the question, hang up the phone and run away.

Again, for more information about this or to look up a school and who they are accredited by, check out the Council for Higher Education Accreditors (CHEA) at www.chea.org.

Next in our series is Affordability and Aid.

For your advantage,

Brian

How about you? Does this make sense? Have you ever had problems with transfer credits or employer scrutiny because of your school’s accreditation?

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