The word accreditation can be a bit intimidating but it is not as complex as it sounds. In totality, it just means that a third-party would check the competence for carrying out a task by a body. Educational accreditation is when an authoritative body checks whether a school or institution meets the recognizable and applicable standards.
Most countries have their Department of Education in the government doing these assessments but the United States employs private non-profit organizations to conduct such a process. These organizations should be enlisted with the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity (NACIQI) which comes under the U.S. Secretary of Education. Accreditation was originally introduced so that the secondary and post-secondary institutions could improve, articulate, and standardize their requirements.
The accreditor body has to involve the faculty and staff for better institutional evaluation and planning, along with that it has to establish criteria for professional certification, licensure, and up-gradation of courses.
Is accreditation only given to the institutions?
The answer is no, accreditations can be based on programs of study or could be for the entire institution. The assessment differs from state to state. Not all states have the same standardization guidelines nor do the courses. Many institutions might not have all the recognizable courses, there is a chance that one program doesn’t meet the benchmark even if it’s a renowned college. Programmatic accreditation or specialized accreditation is done based on an in-depth evaluation of the courses, faculty, industry relevance, accumulation of the skills acquired through the program. It can apply to the school, department, or parts of the educational body. For institutional accreditation, as the entire school is considered, one can say, every part of that school has an achieving trend.
Why do you need to know about educational accreditation?
The answer to this question can bring two sets of thoughts; first, how would you know the quality of education you would get and, second, how much weight does the degree carry which you are planning to enroll in. It’s, hence, necessary to have confidence in the education that you are receiving which in turn helps you to get the financial aid you might need for higher education.
So if you are going to a school that hasn’t been accredited then not only will the degree be invaluable but getting approval for an education loan for the program becomes a concern too. Going to an accredited institution isn’t necessarily a hundred percent assurance of receiving financial support but the place of enrollment needs to be institutionally accredited is a definite criterion to qualify for any federal aid.
What are the criteria on which institutions are accredited?
Primarily the areas that are looked into are:-
- Student achievement rate – Upon the course completion, all the students should ideally meet the institution’s established goal for the program. This will include state licensing examination, and job placement rates.
- Curricula – The program should be drawn in a way that complies with the commonly accepted structure of that particular course.
- Faculty – The institution should have a credible faculty who addresses the primary educational objective set by the institution
- Facilities, equipment, and supplies – Quality of education concerning the teacher’s commitment, effort, and the student’s learning, engagement along with retention reflects on the growth of achievement. This entire process is attained with facilities, equipment, and supplies for wholesome learning
- Fiscal and administrative capacity as appropriate to the specified scale of operations
- Student support services
- Recruiting and admissions practices, academic calendars, catalogs, publications, grading, and advertising
- Measures of program length and the objectives of the degrees or credentials offered
- Record of student complaints received by, or available to, the agency
- Records of most recent student loan default rate data and the results of financial or compliance audits, program reviews
How can you know whether the program or institution is accredited or not?
You can look up your prospective college on the site of the Department of Education to know whether it is accredited or not. Or check the list of accredited schools, internships, residencies, or programs enlisted on the site. Even the performance data by the accreditors can be researched to have a thorough understanding of the institution.
The objective of each school is to be consistent with its mission and appropriate in light of the degrees or certificates awarded, following guidance provided by the agency, the institution’s or program’s performance with respect to student achievement, and have proctored examinations. The addition that has been made for availing accreditation is to offer distance education or correspondence education to have processes in place through which the institution have to establish that the student who registers in distance education or correspondence education course or program is the same student who participates in and completes the course or program and receives the academic credit, i.e. verification of the student identity. The institution also has to maintain a record of the student details and protect their security, any student data shouldn’t be leaked from the institution.
Under HEA, all the colleges and universities getting accredited are enabled to establish programs and the rest go under non-HEA federal programs. For the betterment of the student and the success rate of the institution, accreditation pushes institutions to meet and maintain their high standards, which in turn, increases trust and confidence among the public and boosts accountability. This enables the level of trust in the course and the school, and also helps potential employers place a high value on degrees from accredited institutions versus non-accredited. Thus, one should always remember to look up whether the institution they are enrolling into is accredited or not. Here’s a toast to valuable education.