What is Academic Accreditation and Why Does it Matter?


Why Does Academic Accreditation Matter?

Academic programs and institutions in the United States use accreditation to ensure that they are meeting quality standards of education. Accreditation is a peer review process that is completely voluntary and excludes government involvement.

Registered accrediting agencies, such as Council for Higher Education Association (CHEA), with a database of recognized organizations exist on both a regional and national level. These agencies develop an evaluation criterion and conduct research to analyze whether or not an educational institution meets their standards of acceptable levels of quality.

Although accreditation is not used to establish school rankings, graduating from an institution that is accredited signifies to employers, graduate schools and licensures that the graduate is adequately prepared for entry into the desired profession or higher level program. It also ensures that academic records are transferable to other schools nationally and globally.

The U.S. Department of Education outlines the criteria for an institution seeking accreditation.

Types of Accreditation

The three most common types of accreditation are national, regional and international.Regional is the highest form of accreditation a college or university can achieve in the U.S., while schools that are nationally accredited are not subject to as rigorous an evaluation for quality as the regional schools. Although schools are not ranked based on their accreditation, many classes taken at a nationally accredited institution are not transferable to a regionally accredited college.

Different Accrediting Bodies Evaluate Different Types of Programs

  • Regional organizations evaluate state supported and private institutions that offer two and four-year degrees.
  • National faith-related organizations evaluate religiously affiliated schools, which are mainly non-profit and degree-granting.
  • National career-related organizations evaluate career-based institutions that are for-profit both degree and non-degree granting.
  • Programmatic organizations evaluate very specialized programs, professions and “freestanding” schools which are usually attached to larger institutions. For example, the American Bar Association is the organization that accredits law schools in the U.S.

Why is Accreditation Significant?

  • Assurance of a Quality Education: Accreditation status is a clear indication to students and their parents, as well as employers, that an institution or program meets quality standards in terms of student services, faculty, program quality and libraries. Additionally, only schools which can prove financial stability can gain accreditation. Thus, accreditation helps eliminate the worry from the parents and students, knowing that they will achieve a higher level of education and that the school will not shut down while you are in the midst of seeking a degree.
  • Access to Federal Financial Aid & State Funding: Students looking for federal financial aid to help pay for the cost of their education are only eligible for aid if they are attending an institution accredited by a recognized accrediting body. This applies to E-learning and online Education Programs as well. State funding applies to both accredited and non-accredited schools. A list of student grants is available and sorted by states.
  • Employment Opportunities and Tuition Assistance: When reviewing the credentials of job applicants, employers often prefer applicants who received their training or education from an accredited program. Additionally, employers like to see that a school is accredited when determining whether to provide employees with tuition assistance or reimbursement. Colleges will look for applicants also, that graduated from an accredited school.
  • Transferring School Credits: When transferring to another institution, schools like to see that the credits which the student wishes to transfer were earned at an accredited institution. This can assure the student that his credits will be transferred and his degrees recognized. Why? Accredited course work insures that the course covered the breath of knowledge deemed necessary for the course work and that the quality of the body of knowledge and course work attain a high standard.

Attending an accredited institution can save students time and money if they wish to change schools or are applying for a higher level program. Graduates from most accredited schools may begin taking prerequisites courses before starting college level courses and work toward an academic degree.

How Can I Check if a School or Program is Accredited?

When looking into various institutions or programs, it is wise to determine which programs are accredited. The U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Education has created a database, which outlines all of the institutions that are accredited, and by which state agency they are approved. If you would like information on Accredited On-Line Programs, this site, Guide To Online Schools has 500 accredited online schools that list the subjects, tuition and degrees, from Certification to Doctorate.

Receiving a quality education is important. To be well educated, it is recognized among educators that there is a certain body of knowledge every well educated person should know. Attending an Accredited Educational Institution, whether it be Primary, Secondary, College, or Post- Secondary, assures you that you will receive an education that meets a quality standard that will allow you a higher opportunity for a successful future.

Additional Links




  • Higher Education in America by Derek Bok, hardcover at $22.99, can be purchased from Amazon.com (ISBN-978-0-691-15914-0)
  • College Accreditation by Jeffrey W. Alstete, hardcover at $95.00, can be purchased online at Macmillan.com (ISBN: 978-1-4039-7420-4 or ISBN: 1-4039-7420-9)
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