How To Tell If Your School Is Accredited
By Glenn Mueller, Contributing Writer
Obtaining an advanced degree is more important than ever in today’s competitive workplace. Years ago, it may have been possible to climb to the top of the corporate ladder with little more than a high school diploma, but that just isn’t realistic anymore.
Statistics from the U.S. Commerce Department reveal that adults between the ages of 18 and 25 with a bachelor’s degree tend to have salaries nearly twice as high as workers in the same age range with only a high school diploma. And, most current employers want their managers and executives to have a master’s degree or some other graduate level education.
There’s just no getting around it. Knowledge is a powerful commodity. However, when you are trying to pursue your educational goals, it is extremely important to find an institution that is accredited. Though a great many schools offer educational programs at all levels, there is no way to measure the validity of such degrees. In addition, students will normally be unable to obtain scholarships or transfer credits to an unaccredited school. Some unaccredited institutions are mere diploma mills. And, even if you should find an unaccredited program that seems worthwhile, it is likely that potential employers will not recognize your degree.
What Is Accreditation?
To say that a school is accredited means that it has been approved by a recognized non-government agency that reviews schools in a particular region or occupation. In order to become accredited, a school must demonstrate that it meets up to the basic standards and conditions established by the accrediting agency. Institutional accrediting agencies establish standards for an entire school; whereas, specialized accrediting agencies establish standards for individual fields of study (such as engineering or accounting).
The six most commonly recognized regional agencies are: the Middle States Association of colleges and schools (MSA), the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC), the North Central Association of Schools and Colleges (NCASC), the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU), the Southwest Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) and the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC). In addition, many online university programs are accredited by the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC).
How A School Becomes Accredited
The United States Department of State does not require any institution to become accredited -- accreditation is voluntary. Therefore, it is up to an individual school to decide if they want to be regionally accredited, nationally accredited, or not accredited at all.
How To Tell If A School Is Accredited
One way to tell if an individual school is accredited is to ask them directly. You can inquire at the office of admissions about the school’s specific credentials and accrediting agencies. You should also ask them about the qualifications of the instructors. Unfortunately, this method is not always reliable. Believe it or not, some institutions actually make up their own accrediting agencies with names that sound reliable.
Fortunately, the federal government can be of assistance in this matter. The Secretary of Education is required by law evaluate accrediting agencies and evaluate whether they can effectively evaluate schools and training programs. Ultimately, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) regulates the accreditation agencies that are found to be legitimate and publishes a list of all the ones that have been nationally recognized. All of these agencies are then then in the Institution Accreditation Database, which is easily obtainable from the U.S. Department of Education. In order to verify any school’s claims of accreditation, you can feel free to contact the U.S. Department of Education or call the Council for Higher Education Accreditation at the following telephone number: (877) 955-2432.
Though it may require some extra research on your part, it is worth the extra effort to seek out a school that is accredited. Ultimately, getting that degree from an accredited institution will pay off in the end.