When researching your favorite colleges and universities, you’ll discover that there are different accreditation agencies for colleges depending on the type of school and where it’s located. Accreditation makes a difference when it comes to getting a degree. Employers look more favorably on applicants with degrees from accredited schools, and accreditation is necessary for schools that want federal funding and students who need federal financial aid. The U.S. government does not accredit schools, but the Department of Education keeps a running list of active accrediting bodies on its Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs
Why Accreditation Matters
Accreditation can determine whether you get a job or not, whether you can afford school or whether you receive the same level of training as your peers. First, it’s important to note that not all programs and schools obtain accreditation. Some industries and occupations don’t require that rigorous academic standards be met in order to participate, such as the performing arts. That’s not to say that performing arts schools aren’t accredited, but you should note that just because a program or school isn’t accredited doesn’t mean that you’ll receive a substandard education.
On the other hand, accreditation ensures that you will receive an education that has met specific standards according to the accrediting organization’s guidelines. For example, ABET-accredited computer science programs have “met standards essential to produce graduates ready to enter the critical fields” within this industry. Individual programs will vary in instruction and curriculum, but accreditation guarantees that students will gain the skills necessary to pursue their chosen line of work.
Regional Accrediting Bodies
According to the Council for Higher Education Accreditation or CHEA, six regional accrediting bodies award accreditation to schools throughout the country. Institutional accreditation ensures that all students enrolled at that particular institution will receive an education that adheres to set standards. Students who need financial aid will also be able to apply for federal assistance at accredited schools. The seven regional accrediting bodies as outlined by the CHEA are the:
- Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges Western Association of Schools and Colleges
- Higher Learning Commission
- Middle States Commission on Higher Education
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges Commission on Institutions of Higher Education
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges
- WASC Senior College and University Commission
The CHEA and USDE recognize the same number of regional and faith-based accrediting organizations, but there are some accrediting organizations that aren’t recognized by both entities. These fall within a blanket category of “specialty” accrediting bodies.
Specialty Accrediting Organizations
The USDE recognizes several career-related organizations that the CHEA does not. These include the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training, the Council on Occupational Education and the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges, among others. In addition, certain program accreditations may not be recognized by both the USDE and CHEA. As long as the program is accredited, you can expect to receive a quality education.
Related Resource: Common Application
Finding the right school to meet your academic and personal needs can be a challenge with so many options available today. From traditional brick-and-mortar universities to comprehensive online programs, there are different accreditation agencies for colleges, so check to make sure that your program is accredited by the appropriate organization.