Understanding degree program accreditation is important to the educational and career choices you make. Accreditation ensures that learners get good quality education from their selected program or university. Likewise it means that when you are ready to seek employment, you credentials and qualifications are recognized. Degree program accreditation is provided by independent agencies. Their role is to validate and ensure the quality of online degree programs, distance education programs, online colleges, online universities and campus programs.
The agencies then report online degree accreditation to departments and ministries of education. Accrediting bodies look at the quality of instructors and their qualifications, the school’s recruiting practices, admissions procedures, course content and quality, equal opportunity employment and admission, etc. Request additional program information from these colleges with degree program accreditation.
Accreditation means that a program has undergone a self-evaluation process, been reviewed by peers, and other accrediting bodies. Accrediting organizations evaluate programs on the conformity to standards, which address mission, goals, and objectives, curriculum, faculty, students, administration and financial support, and physical resources and facilities.
Regional accreditation refer to educational accreditation conducted by various accreditation bodies that have been established to serve six defined geographic areas of the United States for schools, colleges, and universities. Each regional accreditor covers a majority of public and nonprofit private educational institutions in the region that it serves.
In the United States, each of the six geographic regions is served by a non-governmental, regional agency whose job is to oversee and accredit degree-granting colleges, universities, and institutions in their designated area. These boards are:
- Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools
- Western Association of Schools & Colleges
- North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
The U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) both recognize the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC) as the accrediting organization in charge of the distance learning institutions and all education programs that offer accredited online degrees.
The Higher Learning Commission is a part of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools. It oversees the accreditation of degree-granting colleges and universities in nineteen South-Central and Midwest states. The US Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation both recognize this Commission as a regional accrediting body.
It is important to locate schools that are accredited, otherwise getting a degree from an accredited program means that you would have wasted your time and money.
Accrediting bodies are tasked with:
- Developing and employing standards to ensure learners get a good education.
- Ensuring that colleges and universities use those standards to maintain and/or improve the quality of education they offer.
- Making the colleges and universities accountable to their learner
- Making the public confident that the overall education system is preparing learners with the required skills.
Why should you care about accreditation?
So, remember that enrolling in an accredited program or institution will affect at least three important things:
- Qualification for federal or state financial aid
- Transferring credit to another institution, or advancing to another degree
- You want to be fully qualified and credible to your employer
Understanding the importance of degree program accreditation helps you avoid falling for those that are not validated. Diploma mills can cost you! So before you enroll, or have doubts. Do the following:
Be sure the program is accredited by a legitimate accrediting body. Don’t fall into the diploma mill trap. Also check with licensing boards and professional associations under which they claim to offer programs.
- Be sure is it accredited by a real accrediting body.
- Many diploma mills will claim to be accredited by a fake body so watch out for those too.
- Check with licensing boards and professional associations under which they claim to offer programs.
It is difficult to keep up with a comprehensive list of all unaccredited program but Wikipedia has a listing of of unrecognized accreditation associations of higher learning and list of those that are recognized. These are ever changing, so always research current information on degree program accreditation before you proceed.