Why Accreditation Matters
G.I. Jobs Magazine author, Shane Christopher writes, “Don’t waste your time and money. If that degree isn’t from an accredited school, potential employers won’t care that you have it,” and this information could not be any more true.
Accreditation matters because it is designed to help educational institutions boost their performance efforts for the betterment of students. This excellence provides peace of mind to students, knowing that they are receiving quality education, marked by certain standards and successful professional practice.
Here’s How it Works
In brief, accreditation is a voluntary process that programs undergo to demonstrate their educational quality. In ensuring academic standards, schools and programs familiarize themselves with the eligibility requirements for certain careers, helping better prepare students for an occupational market. The process can be broken down into a few steps:
According to the Nebraska Department of Education, “Self-Evaluation charges the school with the responsibility of judging itself through frank and objective self-analysis and appraisal.” Throughout the Self-Evaluation, there are a series of questions that are broken down into subsections. Basic Information would include school history, the legal form, and an organizational chart of the administration positions.
From there, the form goes in depth about the educational objectives and materials, and how they shape the curriculum offered. Educational and student services are also covered, as are the student success and satisfaction rates. This stage in the process is designed to help a school capture its motives and quantify how it best measures its standards for internal success.
A Readiness Assessment (or review) is the next step in the process, wherein an organization must measure its preparedness and submit a formal application to its accreditors. Typically, this stage assesses the project goals and objectives, expectations and concerns, ability to adapt and update course material, and overall course development.
The readiness assessment also gives the evaluator an opportunity to provide feedback to a school, suggesting ways to better curate course content, or overall prepare for other accreditation reviews. This process is time-sensitive, with an application remaining valid for up to one year, with refusals pending a six-month revision period.
During Curriculum Review, accreditors sample courses required for review. They are provided with the course materials, textbooks, kits, hardware, and any other tools needed to undergo subject-specialist review. Typically, this stage takes six months to complete, including the search for a subject specialist and the initial review.
The onsite evaluation consists of peer-review, in which a group of evaluators travel to the school. This group completes a full, comprehensive assessment and determines if the school meets the accrediting agency’s standards. Typically, this review is based on the Self-Evaluation Report and additional information from the accreditor.
This team typically consists of an educational evaluator, a subject specialist, a business evaluator, and an accrediting staff member. If a school does not meet the standards, they are provided with a report detailing the reasoning, and they are given the opportunity to respond and revise.
Why You Should Care
Regardless if you are using career courses to start a new position or pursue higher education, accreditation still holds importance. To start, you can save some money when applying for accredited schools. You can’t get federal grants, loans or other federal funds unless your college, university or program is accredited.
Credits or degrees from non-accredited programs often are not transferable to an accredited institution as well, meaning if you decide to take college courses in the future, you may have to spend extra tuition money for material you have already learned.
In employment, accredited courses carry weight. Many employers simply won’t hire workers from non-accredited schools, as accredited schools provide educational standards that reflect relevant career skills. Also, many employers will only provide tuition assistance to employees for continuing education if the school or program is accredited, again, echoing the importance of cost-effective education.
It is important to also recognize the difference between national and regional accreditation, and conduct research into how these disciplines may affect your career outcome.
Know the Difference
National accreditation is done by career-related organizations and is not the gold-standard of accreditation. Regional accrediting agencies are generally thought to be the most reliable and are the ones that accredit schools that offer a broad range of programs.
Degrees from regionally accredited schools will always be accepted everywhere. So, make sure to check the list of regionally accredited virtual colleges before choosing the school for you.
Remember, before taking the leap into education, ensure that your decision is the right fit for you. Accreditation makes your future much more secure, knowing that a quality education is offered, meeting specific, curated standards.
Blackstone Career Institute’s programs are nationally accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC) and regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Secondary Schools. Blackstone is also licensed by the State Board of Private Licensed Schools, Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.