College accreditation agencies evaluate universities to determine if their programs are legitimate. If a school passes, the company grants it with accreditation. Because of the weight of this distinction, potential students will seek out this information as they’re applying. This endorsement is a general indicator of college authenticity. However, some certification agencies are more respected than others. Below, we’ve outlined the benefits of accreditation, the process, and a few of the top U.S. agencies.
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Why Does Accreditation Matter?
Just like in many other industries, colleges and universities need outside rating organizations to keep them in check. This ensures that fewer students spend their tuition on “degree mills.” These shady schools solely exist because they can turn a profit without caring about educational quality. In that respect, college accreditation agencies are akin to the Consumer Reports of postsecondary education. However, accreditation doesn’t necessarily mean a school is prestigious or globally competitive. Though, it does serve as a reasonable baseline for a school’s quality.
How Does a School Earn Accreditation?
Evaluation is voluntary. Universities must prepare to meet the varying standards of each organization. This is why some agencies are more distinguished than others. Before a school applies, it will usually research a variety of agencies and prepare to meet prerequisites specific to each company.
Agencies may have a broad or highly specific focus. For example, the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools evaluates colleges throughout the American South. The Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools is only available to Christian institutions. So, depending on their aims, a school may obtain multiple accreditations that cover a variety of programs.
What are the Top Accreditation Agencies?
Agencies can fall into two primary categories: unrecognized and recognized. This recognition comes directly from the U.S. Department of Education, who determines if the school is doing its job. In addition, schools can earn recognition from the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, which has no governmental affiliation.
If these agencies don’t pass a school, save your money. Either their educational programs are not up to par, or they may still be working on their application. In any case, you should be careful about these types of colleges and universities. At present, here are some of the most established agencies: Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges
The ACCSC evaluates degree and non-degree-based institutions, especially those that serve a particular vocation or trade. ACCSC began in 1965 and became a gold standard for career-based colleges and institutes. Accredited schools span associate, bachelor, and master’s degrees. The agency also certifies online programs. ACCSC’s leadership comprises a diverse group of educators and managers.
The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business, also known as AACSB International, is an American professional organization. It was formerly known as the American Association of Collegiate Schools of Business upon its founding in 1916. This agency focuses on business schools at all levels of education. It’s the quintessential accreditation business programs can have. If you have an interest in business majors, make sure your school has this certification.
Founded in 1974, ACCET focuses on institutions that excel in continuing education. This includes postsecondary schools and vocational programs that offer associate’s degrees with long-distance programs being a significant component.
DEAC’s primary goal is to recognize postsecondary distance programs whether or not they offer a degree. This accreditation process spans all long-distance activities within the institution and ranges from secondary school to doctoral-level programs.
Who Makes Accreditation Decisions?
Every accreditation agency commission behaves differently, but they may share a few significant roles:
- Executive Director:
This top leadership position oversees day-to-day operations, coordinates with other state and federal agencies, and facilitates the entire accreditation process. Additionally, they may also serve as the primary liaison with higher education associations and other institutional accrediting bodies.
- Director of Accreditation:
This critical role serves to guide the accreditation department, and it may include managing school applications, on-site evaluations, and all of the relevant reports along the way.
- Director of Operations:
Accrediting agencies are complex organizations, which is why they need a Director of Operations to manage the administrative and financial side of things. This ensures that the company has enough capital to run smoothly with regulatory protocols that keep day-to-day operations as predictable as possible.