As an academic advisor, helping working professionals return to college, the most frequently asked question I receive is: “How Do I Select a Good School?” The best answer to this question is: “Select a school that is Regionally Accredited”.
School accreditation is a difficult subject to discuss because there are so many different types of accreditation. The phrase “this school is accredited” means very little because the next question is “What type of accreditation?”
Your school of choice should be Regionally Accredited. If you are an adult learner and/or have tuition reimbursement from your company, then chose an online or local school from one of the 6 regional accreditation agencies:
WASC (Western Association of Schools and Colleges)
NEASC (New England Association of Schools and Colleges)
NWCCA (Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities)
SACS (Southern Association of Colleges and Schools)
MSASC (Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools)
NCA (North Central Association of Colleges and Schools), also known as the Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
If you are working for a company that reimburses your education, your company will require that your school preference is regionally accredited. To find the list of regionally accredited schools and other accreditation agencies, check the website of The Council of Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).
If you have just graduated from high school or want a training program for a future job, then you might want to look at Nationally Accreditation Schools. “National accreditation” is a misnomer. In the past, Trade and Technical Schools were accredited by National Accreditation of Trade and Technical Schools (NATTS) and the term “national accreditation” was coined for Career Colleges and Trade Schools.
Today, these schools are accredited by Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) or Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
These Trade and Technical Schools teach electronics, motorcycle repair, computer repair, construction trades, graphic design, and many other programs. The credits you gain from a trade and technical college will rarely be transferable to a 4-year college.
A few of these nationally accredited colleges have been sued by former students because the students were told the credits were easily transferable. After spending money and time for the degree, the students found they could NOT transfer any of their credits.
Distance Education Training Council (DETC) is a new accreditation formed during the fast-growing popularity of online degrees. DETC accredited schools have quality standards but are not the same standards as Regionally accredited colleges. DETC school credits may or may not be transferable to a 4-year school.
After the school gains regional accreditation, departments can apply and be granted Departmental Accreditation, based on stringent quality standards and reputation. The extra accreditation is generally preferred for graduate studies. Some of the popular departmental accreditations are:
Business departments –Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)
Engineering departments –Accrediting Board of Engineering and Technology (ABET)
Nursing departments –Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
Psychology departments –American Psychological Association (APA)
Social Work departments –Council on Social Work Accreditation (CSW)
In summary, a “good” school is one with Regional Accreditation.
Prestigious and competitive colleges will offer departmental accreditation for your major field. Classes from schools that are not Regionally Accredited will rarely transfer. These are the basics of accreditation.