It’s that time of year again…high school grads are pounding the pavement checking out colleges applying for scholarships and preparing to leave home for the big college dorm life! For some this is a very exciting time and for others it is extremely stressful to try to sift through the different schools to decide on the one that will best serve your future.

When deciding upon which college is best for you, there are a few factors to consider.  Location, cost, degree program, college life, ranking, and graduation rates are just a few factors students consider when choosing a college.  With the increasing concern regarding the quality level of education, accreditation standards have become very important when making a decision about college.  Needless to say, accreditation is sometimes overlooked because of unfamiliarity or unawareness of accreditation standards.

What is Accreditation

The quality of education provided by an institution remains to be an important aspect when deciding which institution is best for a student.  Accreditation aids in ensuring quality standards are maintained.  Thus, accreditation protects not only the student, but also the institution.  According to the U.S Department of Education, accreditation is enforced within educational institutions to ensure education levels of quality are maintained.  Keep in mind, there are two types of educational accreditation that are offered.  The institutional accreditation will apply to the institution as a whole while the specialized or programmatic accreditation will only be applicable to specified programs, departments, or schools within the institution.  It is important to understand each college may not possess the same level of accreditation.

There are many accrediting agencies responsible for carrying out the process for regional, national, and specialized accreditation through the United States.  These accrediting agencies will set forth standards of quality by which an institution must uphold and maintain.  Keep in mind, each accrediting agency will vary in their standards of quality further distinguishing an institution or program accreditation from another.  Becoming accredited is a process which includes many steps.  Through this process an entity will undergo evaluations and monitoring in order to obtain accreditation. There are even accredited online colleges which are available to those who are skipping the college dorm experience or perhaps, going for their masters while out in the working world.

The Importance of Accreditation

Maybe you desire to be a medical doctor, psychologist, or teacher.  Many national professional associations require an individual to obtain a degree from an institution that possesses a certain level of accreditation in order to apply and sit for the licensure examination.  Therefore, if your career objective requires a certification or license, verifying a college accreditation will be essential.  This is just one example of how important it is for students to be familiar with the levels of accreditation offered to educational institutions.

Needless to say, accreditation standards have been used in many ways to assist in distinguishing higher educational institutions and programs from others.  Such standards are used to identify the quality of education offered by a specific institution while also allowing an institution to be recognized for its ability to obtain specified accreditation standards. Needless to say, accreditation serves many purposes as identified by the U.S. Department of Education.  For example, within a higher education institution accreditation:

·         Certifies a program or institution established standards are fulfilled
·         Determines if transfer credits will be accepted
·         Used to determine eligibility for federal assistance
·         Establishes standards for professional certification and licensure

After all, going to college is a big decision.  Deciding which college to choose is even more important.  Being informed of your options and familiarizing yourself with accreditation standards will assist you in making an informed decision regarding which college is best for you.  Understanding the basics of accreditation can ultimately expand your options, minimize risks, save money, and can ensure you remain on course in obtaining your degree.

BIO:

Nichole is a business professional with a passion for writing about business, careers and technology. Her favorite quote is “Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value” –Albert Einstein.

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