Why is Program Accreditation Important?

While accrediting the college or university you attend is vital to your future, many students don’t really understand the process. They don’t understand what it means or even how to know whether the school is accredited at all. Another important consideration is who accredits the school. It can be tough to pick a school when you don’t understand how the process impacts your future.

What is It?

There are many agencies that oversee accrediting of a college or university, which can make it incredibly confusing for the student. The government doesn’t regulate who can call themselves a school or the standards involved in providing an education. They do regulate what agency oversees the process though. Every school that is accredited has to be assessed and verified by that agency.

How Do Schools Become Accredited?

There are rigorous standards that must be met by a school that wants to be accredited. The institution must undergo annual reviews to ensure they are complying with the guidelines of the agency that is overseeing the accreditation of the school.

The process differs between types of institutions. For example, a medical school program will have different requirements versus a community college. While they will have various aspects that are different, much of the process is the same. There will be overarching guidelines for the school in general before narrowing down the proper educational guidelines for each type of institution.

In many cases, a school must have national and regional as well as program accredit criteria to be viewed as a relevant degree program. Some fields require you to have a degree from a college that is regionally accredited. If you want to transfer to a 4-year college, the program might need to be regionally accredited.

Who Accredits Schools?

While the government doesn’t accredit schools, they authorize certain agencies to oversee the accreditation process. The agency focuses on certain programs and locations. For example, there are regional and national accrediting agencies or those that specialize in legal, healthcare and social services programs.

Examples of Regional and National Accrediting Agencies

  • Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges
  • Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training

Examples of Specialized Accrediting Agencies

  • National Association of Schools of Art and Design
  • National Association of Schools of Dance
  • American Bar Association
  • Commission for Education in Nursing

Why does it Matter?

Employers will look at the school you attended to learn whether it’s been accredited by a reputable agency. It might seem like a consideration that many students don’t need to worry about since they are acquiring the same knowledge as those from other colleges, but if the school doesn’t meet certain guidelines, students are not receiving the same education.

In fact, some agencies have not done their jobs in the past, which has caused students serious problems. The government has actually forgiven their student loans because institutions lied to them and they were unable to find employment after their degree program ended.

The Department of Education has a list of agencies, and students should be checking to see that their school has the right agency oversight. The quality of the education and the ability of students to receive financial aid will be impacted due to whether the school is accredited or not.

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