Accreditation

The first step in evaluating non-U.S. academic documents is to determine whether the institution where the studies were completed is recognized and approved by the education authorities in the country, which in most instances is the Ministry of Education.

In the U.S. there is no central government body that establishes, maintains and sets standards to oversee academic institutions. Instead, there are accrediting groups which themselves have met or exceed recognition standards in order to review and accredit academic institutions. Accreditation as defined by the United States Department of Education as “the process whereby an agency or association grants public recognition to a school, institute, college, university, or specialized program of study which meets certain established qualifications and educational standards, as determined through initial period evaluation. The essential purpose of the accreditation process is to provide a professional judgment as to the quality of the educational institution or programs (s) offered, and to encourage continual improvement thereof.”1
There are some institutions that are “unaccredited” but have formal legal authorization to operate and enroll students or issue degrees. But being incorporated as a For-Profit entity or have a business license to operate does not mean that the institution is also accredited by the nationally recognized accreditation bodies. If you’re planning to study at a college or university in the United States, it is important that you first check on the “accreditation” status of the institution.

Why is institutional accreditation important? A student who attends an accredited institution in the U.S. is able to move freely from one accredited institution to another and receive recognition of his/her studies. Before you enroll in a school, institute, college or universities, check on its accreditation status first. One thing you don’t want to happen is graduating from at an unaccredited institution in the U.S. that will not be recognized by employers, the government or other schools, colleges or universities.

For more information or to obtain the publication “Accredited Institutions of Post-secondary Education” in the U.S. or a list of recognized accreditation boards please visit The Council for Higher Education Accreditation’s website http://www.chea.org. You’ll be able to check on the accreditation status of a particular school, college or university or access a complete list of accredited institutions of postsecondary education in the United States.

In our next post we’ll touch on Diploma Mills and Unaccredited institutions.

2 Comments

Filed under Credentials, Education

2 responses to “Accreditation

  1. Dawn

    This is an important issue. I have worked at for profit career that were “accredited.” The recruiters assure students that their credits and classes are transferable to other schools. Yet, that is not really true. There are a couple of schools the school has an agreement with which will take the credits, but in reality, the credits are worthless. If the students get through the program, then the degree is usually accepted by employers. However, if the students want to move on, then they will often have to repeat a lot of the courses, even if they have achieved the degree. One of the schools I worked at had 16 slots for a nursing program. They enrolled as many students as they could into the nursing program, without telling them that they would be competing for a spot into the clinicals. If you don’t get into the clinicals, you don’t get to be a nurse, and you just spent two years wasting your time and money.

  2. Thank you Dawn for your comment. I agree with you and have heard of similar cases. From my perspective, as a international credential evaluator, I deal with the question of institutional accreditation daily, as our number one priority is determining the status of a foreign college/university and its academic programs in order to effectively compare them against those offered by our regionally accredited institutions in the U.S. But here in the U.S., many people are not familiar with or realize the importance of “institutional accreditation,” as well as “program accreditation” and how attending a regionally accredited college/university and completing an “accredited professional program” (e.g. law, business, nursing, engineering, etc.) can impact one’s eligibility to transfer to another institution or gain access to graduate degree programs. In a recent Senate hearing on private for-profit proprietary universities in the U.S. and the high rate of student loan defaults (an entirely separate topic for another blog!), Senator Al Franken of MN asked a witness–a law student from one of these institutions–about his experiences. The student indicated that no one at the institution had informed him that the “law” program was “accredited.” He only found out midway in his studies in an informal discussion he had with a professor that even when he graduates and receives his Law degree he would not qualify to sit for a State Bar Exam, as he did not complete an “accredited” program. Thousands of dollars spent for a degree that will not merit recognition. Transparency is the key word here and we should demand this of all our institutions of higher learning, whether accredited, unaccredited, or pending accreditation.

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