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What is Accreditation?

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  • 0:02 Accreditation
  • 0:55 Importance
  • 2:23 Types
  • 5:02 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Natalie Boyd

Natalie is a teacher and holds an MA in English Education and is in progress on her PhD in psychology.

Choosing a college can have a lasting impact on a person's life. In this lesson, we'll examine accredited colleges, including why accreditation is important, the drawbacks of attending an unaccredited college, and the types of accreditation.

Accreditation

Eddie is a junior in high school, and he's getting ready to apply to college. Since he took his SAT, he's been getting all sorts of fliers from colleges in the mail. Some are familiar to him, and some schools he hasn't even heard of!

Eddie has heard that there are some college scams out there, like schools that charge a lot of money for a degree that's not worth much at all. So how can he tell which schools are legitimate and which aren't?

Accreditation involves an independent review of a college to make sure that its academics and finances are solid. Essentially, accreditation ensures that a school meets quality standards.

Why is accreditation important? And how can Eddie tell if a college is accredited? Let's look closer at the importance and types of accreditation as well as some other important information about accreditation.

Importance

Eddie understands that accreditation shows that a college is good, but is it really a big deal if a college isn't accredited?

Yes, it is! First of all, a school cannot receive federal or state financial aid if it is not accredited by a recognized agency. This means that, if Eddie wants to use federal student loans, he has to go to an accredited college.

Not only that, degrees from non-accredited schools are not usually seen as valid. This means that if Eddie wants to transfer from a non-accredited school to an accredited one or if he wants to apply for a graduate program at an accredited school, all the work he did at the non-accredited school will probably not transfer.

Further, because degrees from non-accredited schools are not seen as valid, many employers won't accept them. So when Eddie applies for a job, he needs a degree from an accredited school.

Often, non-accredited schools won't tell you all this, and they might even lie outright to potential students. For example, when Eddie talked online with one of the representatives from a non-accredited school, he specifically asked if his degree would be accepted by his accredited state university, if he decides to go to law school there afterward. The representative said yes, but when Eddie asked the state university, they said no.

Types

OK, so Eddie's convinced he should only be looking at accredited schools. But there seem to be a lot of different accreditation agencies. How can Eddie understand what it all means?

There are basically three types of accreditation:

1. Fake Accreditation - This is not technically accreditation at all but something that Eddie and other prospective students should be aware of. Many non-accredited colleges make up accreditation agencies and say they are accredited when they aren't. The best thing to do is to go onto the U.S. Department of Education website and see if the accreditation agency listed on the school's website is recognized by the Department of Education. If it's not, you should move on; they are not accredited in the United States.

2. National Accreditation - National accreditation is technically accreditation but only barely so. Schools that are nationally accredited can receive federal financial aid, so Eddie can use his student loans there. But degrees earned at nationally accredited colleges are often not seen as valid, so employers and other schools might not recognize Eddie's degree if he goes to a school that is only nationally accredited.

3. Regional Accreditation - Regional accreditation is what most people think of when they talk about accredited schools. There are six regional accreditation agencies in the United States, and a school that is accredited by one of them is able to receive federal financial aid and the degrees are seen as valid. Transferring credit from a regionally accredited college is usually not a problem.

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