College and University Accreditation; Is it Important?

Students considering colleges, career schools and online degree programs are often confused by the concept and meaning of accreditation. And, they frequently confuse it with state licensure, which is very different.

State licensure allows a school or college to operate legally. But, the standards a school or college must meet to be state licensed are often pretty low. The criteria for accreditation are far higher. So, be wary of a school or college that talks about licensure but not accreditation.

It is even more important to realize that many colleges and universities, especially online colleges and universities (those with no traditional, campus-based degree programs), claim accreditation from agencies which are not recognized by the United States Department of Education. While some of these unrecognized accrediting agencies may make a legitimate attempt to evaluate and insist on some measure of quality from the colleges and universities they accredit, their stamp of approval is generally meaningless in the professional world and in the world of fully accredited (online and traditional) colleges and universities.

For example, no decent school or college will hire a teacher or administrator without a degree from a legitimately accredited college or university.

Almost never will a legitimately accredited college or university accept credits from an institution that is not accredited by an agency recognized by the federal Department of Education. And generally speaking, the better the college to which a student is transferring, the less likely it is to accept credits from a college or university which is not fully accredited.

Of course, students who want a degree only for personal satisfaction may initially not think accreditation is of much importance. But, if they reconsider, even those students should want to earn a degree that is viewed as a valuable credential; a degree that demonstrates that they have completed a rigorous academic program; a degree from a college or university that has proven that it meets the highest educational standards. That is why students should always find out which agency accredits a college they are considering, and go to the U.S. Department of Education website to be sure that the agency is government recognized.

Attending an accredited college…be it campus-based or online…is not a guarantee that all of your expectations will be met. But, it will mean that you will complete an approved curriculum taught by instructors with appropriate backgrounds and experience. And, it means your coursework is far more likely to be recognized if you transfer or want to earn a higher degree at some point in the future.