Accrediting bodies are tasked by the federal government to ensure that schools are abiding by strict guidelines that support the idea that they are offering a quality education and related support services to students. Toward this end, accrediting bodies assign reviewers (typically faculty or administrators from other schools that they have accredited) to evaluate colleges and universities regularly (typically every 5 – 10 years). Institutions report significant amounts of data about their teaching and administrative operations to accrediting bodies toward this review. In the U.S. there are national accrediting agencies, agencies associated with particular academic programs, and six regional accrediting bodies. While any accreditation connotes some professional review of a program, the six regional agencies are generally considered to represent the gold standard in accreditation in the U.S.
Why Should I Care: Transfer Credits
Accreditation matters because most regionally accredited schools will not accept transfer of courses from schools that are not also regionally accredited. If you complete credits at a college/university that is not regionally accredited then later want to transfer those credits to one that is, it is possible that none of the credits will transfer. In fact, if you complete a bachelor’s degree from a school that is not regionally accredited, the degree may not be recognized if you apply to a master’s program that is, and you may not be eligible for admission to that program.
How do I find out about a school’s accreditation?
You can usually find out from what agencies a school has obtained accreditation simply by asking most individuals among a school’s personnel. The best folks to ask are the Admissions staff, but most staff and faculty should be pretty well aware of this. This information is usually also noted on a school’s website.
Why would I want to attend a school that is not regionally accredited?
If the education that a school provides seems to you to be of good quality and you feel fairly secure that you will not ever attempt to transfer credits from those schools to a regionally accredited school, no problem. Also, if you feel the non-regionally accredited school adequately prepares you for a career and will not impair you from any future career goals, no problem.
The mission of accrediting bodies is to ensure that schools provide quality education and related services. As a great majority of colleges and universities in the U.S. are regionally accredited and these institutions generally stand together in allowing transfer of credits between them, many students opt to pursue higher education only at regionally accredited schools. As we have noted, however, there are compelling reasons to also pursue courses with college or universities that are not regionally accredited. The choice is yours.
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