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What Accreditation Means


With numerous accrediting bodies in the world today, understanding what accreditation means to you is almost as important as deciding on the right college. Are you experiencing accreditation overload? Read these five tips and let accreditation guide–not derail–your college search.

   1.  Know what accreditation really means.

Accreditation is the voluntary process a public or private educational institution uses to verify, through a third-party evaluation, that it meets specific academic standards. Some view it as a stamp of approval. That’s only partially true. What if the standards of the accrediting agency are different from another?

    2.  Do a simple search.

You probably have a few colleges already in mind. Go directly to their websites. Accrediting agencies typically require colleges to post accreditation information and provide links to the agency websites. Transparency is key. If accreditation is not featured on the college homepage or easily located under the academics tab, think twice.

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   3.  Understand regional vs. national accreditation.

What’s the basic difference? Regional accrediting agencies traditionally are known for being more academic-focused. National accrediting agencies typically accredit schools offering specialty, vocational or technical education. Some colleges maintain duel accreditations.

There are six regional accreditation agencies in the U.S. Most, like the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, trace their history back to the late 1800s. This long-standing tradition for standardizing colleges makes regional the commonly preferred accreditation for academic quality.

   4.  Be in good company.

Did you know regional accreditation agencies list all of their participating colleges online? You can even see which member colleges are in good standing and those not. For example, if you highly respect one college, you know that other participating colleges meet the same accreditation standards. This includes member online universities.

   5.  Stick to your plan.

Do you plan on transferring credits to another college or applying for a higher degree down the road? Many regionally accredited colleges will only accept credits and degrees from other regionally accredited colleges. Be sure to check the policy for accepting credits or degrees at colleges you may want to attend.  Accreditation type may also be a deciding consideration for potential employers.  So always remember–accreditation matters.

– By J. Thompson
Online Learning Tips Staff Writer