While you may have heard of accreditation, many people aren’t familiar with what it means or why it’s so important. When it comes to picking a school, accreditation is a factor no one should overlook.
In this blog post, you’ll learn the essentials about college accreditation to understand how a college or program can help you in working towards your career goals!
What is Accreditation?
Accreditation exists to assess quality among higher education institutions. A college or academic institution can earn accreditation by achieving or maintaining certain predefined standards for academic rigor and student outcomes.
Organizations that award accreditation measure, recognize, and monitor the educational quality and effectiveness of academic institutions. It serves as a way to better understand the standards a college follows in preparing students like you for academic and professional success.
Federal loans or grants are only awarded to students who are enrolled at an accredited institution. Attending an accredited college can also be viewed more favorably by employers, and, in some fields, is required for professional certification. Additionally, if you pursue another degree or graduate studies in the future, the schools to which you apply will likely want your first degree to be from an accredited college.
What Kinds of College Accreditation Are There?
There are two different types of college accreditation: institutional and programmatic.
This type of accreditation increases the credibility of the entire academic institution because it applies to the entire institution. It can be earned from either a national or regional accrediting agency. Either way, schools may only participate in Federal Student Aid programs if they are institutionally accredited by an agency that has been recognized by the US Department of Education (DOE). If their accrediting body has not been recognized by the DOE, you will not be able to receive federal aid as a student in a degree program at that school.
Programmatic accreditation is more narrowly-focused. It applies to individual programs and departments within institutions and tends to be extremely specialized. Often, programmatic accreditation is just as important and respected as institutional accreditation. It can ensure that the curriculum and content of the accredited program prepares students to meet requirements for professional licensure.
Many programmatic agencies only award programmatic accreditation to programs from institutions that are already institutionally accredited.
How Do Schools Get Accreditation?
Applying is a voluntary process. Schools request to be evaluated by whichever agency is appropriate for their region, institution, or program. To earn accreditation, an institution must prove that they meet the standards set by that agency. Proof may include internal documentation and student outcomes. A group of outside academic and professional experts will also visit to review the college’s processes and facilities in person. Since different agencies have different standards, colleges choose which agency to pursue based on the needs for programs that they offer and the standard of quality they hope to maintain.
How Do I Find Accreditation Details?
Before you apply to any college, search the school’s website for accreditation information – make sure the information aligns with your career goals! If you’re looking for schools with a specific accreditation, you can also find information on the accrediting organization’s website.