In this day and age of online schools and for-profit education competing for your financial aid dollars, the issue of accreditation — or more importantly, perhaps, lack thereof — has seen a lot of play in venues ranging from television programs like “Frontline” to blogs like this one and even the floor of Congress. Accreditation is what more-or-less guarantees the quality of the education you are paying for. Of course, much of what you get out of it is up to you, but an accredited school should offer you the resources you need to receive a degree with actual educational value.
More importantly, also due to the proliferation of unaccredited degrees and a scarcity of jobs, employers have started to look more closely at candidates’ educational backgrounds. Graduates of accredited programs are often seen as better potential hires by many employers.
Finally, if you are interested in getting an advanced degree from an accredited school, you’d better have an undergrad degree from an college with regional accreditation. Period.
A recent Say Campus Life article posited this scenario: You are looking over the material you have received from various colleges and have found a school that is not far from your home, one that offers both night and Saturday classes. Moreover, they seem to have their financial aid act together, an important consideration for you.
Dig a little deeper and you may uncover something startling, even unsettling, about one or more colleges. Accreditation, the approval a college receives from a sanctioned authorization body, may not be in place. That can be a big problem for some students, especially those that might consider transferring to another college.
The following are reasons why accreditation should matter to college students:
1. Your education meets expected standards. Attend a college that is not accredited and your coursework may not parallel what is being taught elsewhere. The instructors may or may not have the experience and the credentials to adequately teach you.
2. Transferring to another program is not possible. Your career aspirations may go beyond a few classes taken at a local business college. In fact, you may want to transfer to a four-year school to obtain your bachelor’s degree. That’s not possible if your college is not accredited by a recognized regional accrediting agency such as the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
3. You need financial aid assistance, but your options are limited. Sure, your local unaccredited college has a financial aid office. Unfortunately, beyond a possible Pell grant and a federal student loan, you may be directed toward a costly private student loan. Either way, you will need to pay back loans for education that may not pass muster, taking on thousands of dollars of debt that you cannot expunge.
4. Employment opportunities may be limited. You complete your education and then seek employment. Unfortunately, when your application gets reviewed, it isn’t going to go very far if your schooling is not from a recognized institution. What’s more, if you need licensure or certification, your schooling may not qualify you to receive such.
The program you are considering may have been around for a long time and you may have friends that go to school there. You may even know a graduate, an individual now working a good paying job. What your friends do is one thing, but if you are looking for academic and career success your schooling may come up short.