Accreditation: Everything You Need to Know
Refers to an official recognition bestowed upon a school at the provincial or federal level, asserting that the school’s academic programs are of superior quality. In the United States, the accreditors are private, non-governmental organizations that have been set up for the particular purpose of reviewing higher education programs and institutions for quality. Legitimate accrediting agencies are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) and/or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).
Although universities/schools get accredited as a whole, individual programs must also receive this mark of recognition as stand-alone entities. This means, for example, that an institution, as well as its programs/departments, pursue CAEP accreditation separately.
The task of auditing specific departments rests with programmatic accrediting bodies, such as the Council on Chiropractic Education or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing. The goal of such an audit is to decide if the programs run by these departments can adequately prepare graduates for careers in the respective fields. It’s important to note that programmatic accreditation doesn’t exist in all disciplines and fields and is supplementary to national or regional accreditation.
Accreditation is important because it also signals to applying students that institutions and their programs are worthy of pursuing since they are provincially and/or nationally recognized to be of premium quality. It’s important to note that the institution or program must be accredited before graduates take state licensing exams in some professional fields.
Students should know if their university, college, or program is accredited due to the following reasons:
· To transfer course credits easily: Regionally accredited institutions usually accept credits only from other regionally accredited schools. The reason is when both institutions have been audited by a regulatory body, the quality of their coursework can be verified, which allows easy transfer of course credit. This makes it important for students entering careers involving graduate study to enroll in institutions or courses with regional accreditation if they plan to transfer course credits later.
· To get financial aid: Students planning to apply for federal (and sometimes state) financial aid, including grants, loans, work-study awards, and scholarships, must attend nationally or regionally accredited colleges, universities, or programs.
· To find employment: Several employers, such as the federal government, may need applicants to have degrees from nationally or regionally accredited schools. When it comes to domains like nursing and education, students must pursue licensure or certification to find employment. In such cases, students may need to hold a programmatically accredited degree to become eligible for these qualifications.