Accreditation & it's Importance
What is accreditation?
Accreditation is an important credential to look for when choosing a university. If you have credits to transfer, you want to make sure both universities are accredited and allow transfer of credits. Accreditation is also important for your degree to be recognized by employers and professional associations. Accreditation is an assurance to students and the public that an institution meets or exceeds standards for quality of faculty, curriculum, learner services, and fiscal stability.
Ensure that the accrediting agency is reputable?
Simple, be sure to check whether if it is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education by visiting their listings of national and regional accrediting agencies. You may also check the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). CHEA is a non-governmental coordinating agency that recognizes accrediting agencies in the United States and helps to coordinate policy and research on accreditation issues. They also maintain a list of national and regional accrediting agencies that have been evaluated and deemed to meet high quality standards. Finally, you might check to see if the accrediting agency is listed as being "unrecognized" by either of these two organizations.
Quick Note: An easy way to check on any institution's accreditation is by going to the CHEA's institutional database on the Web. By entering the institution's name or state you can conduct a search and identify if it is accredited by a recognized and reliable accrediting agency. They also maintain an international database in case the university or college you are interested in is located outside the United States.
Why should care about accreditation?
College, Universities & School's accreditation can tell you a lot about the value of the degree or course for which you are paying. If you obtain a degree or take a course from a non-accredited institution you may find that the degree is not recognized by some employers or that the course credits may not transfer to other institutions. Understanding accreditation can also help you identify and avoid an unaccredited institution that grants degrees without ensuring students are properly qualified.
It is also very important to review the qualifications of the accrediting agency which has evaluated and approved the institution in question.
What is the Carnegie Classification?
The Carnegie Classification data is a snapshot of U.S. higher education based on data available prior to the 2000 classification. It is based on the Higher Education Directory by Higher Education Publications, Inc. This Carnegie info tells you if a learning provider is a accredited by an accrediting body recognized by the U.S. Department of Education (as of the 2000 Carnegie snapshot). It also describe the level (Associates, Bachelors, Masters, Doctoral etc.) of degree the institution is accredited to grant.
Educational Institutions may not be Carnegie classified for various reasons - when they are not located in the U.S., were not accredited by a "recognized" accreditor prior to the 2000 classification, or offer professional training or continuing educational opportunities that fall outside of the scope of the higher education.
Are distance learning institutions accredited differently?
The answer is yes and no. Both the regional and national accrediting agencies, that are responsible for all accreditation including programs offered at a distance, hold distance learning institutions to the same high standards as other colleges and universities. At the same time, they have recognized specific standards that institutions need to be adapted for distance learning to ensure that they continue to promote high quality education. For example, one of the fundamental distance learning standards looks at faculty support and whether they have the resources, facilities and equipment needed to engage in effective instruction at a distance. More on the specifics of the new standards can be read in the CHEA Monograph Accreditation and Assuring Quality in Distance Learning.
Is accreditation is ENOUGH?
The short answer is no. First, just because an institution is accredited does not mean that you are guaranteed a high quality education. It simply means that the infrastructure and educational offerings needed to get a good education are present. What you get from these resources depends a lot on what you put in.
Second, even if two institutions are accredited they may not allow you to transfer credit form one to the other.
No Accreditation = Bad (no not at all)
It is important to stress that just because a Education Provider is not accredited it does not mean that they are inferior or illegal. For example,
As a result, it is likely that your education plans will play a role in how important accreditation is to you. For example, if you are seeking an MBA degree online then you will likely want an accredited universities & colleges. If you are simply looking to learn word processing then an online "training institute" that is not accredited might be fine. When making decisions about which online program is best for you, it is important to not only consider the institution's accreditation status but your educational goals and learning needs as well.
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