What is an “Accredited” College? Why is Being “Accredited” Important?

In the United States, there are many colleges and universities, but how many are accredited? Even though a college may exist, it does not mean that it will be able to provide the best educational program or teaching system. In some cases, a college can be created and approved to teach, but it cannot be accredited as a college.

What is accreditation?

As the name suggests, accreditation is the process of analyzing and evaluating educational programs. The goal of this evaluation is to find out if the programs are of high quality and whether they are offered equally to all students at the institution. In order for a university to be considered to be “accredited,” a group of experts must take the time to examine its operation system to ensure it meets the standards that are needed for an accreditation to be awarded. 

A database of all accredited institutions in the country is maintained by the Office of Postsecondary Education of the Department of Education, also known as OPE, which is part of the U.S Department of Education. As far as accrediting educational institutions is concerned, they do not do so. 

It is rather the Secretary of Education that publishes the list of schools that he has described as reliable in terms of quality and the amount of training that students receive from them.

Why accreditation is important:

One of the most popular forms of accreditation in the US is the Regional Accreditation. If you are studying at an accredited institution and, for one reason or another, you decide to move to another state or simply change colleges, the credits you took in your previous college will be accepted in the new one, if both institutions are accredited. 

You will still have to fill the application and do the whole process of acceptance again, but the time you have spent studying in your other college will be worth it. The classes you have taken will be recognized and there will not be a reason to start again from scratch. 

Another important thing about accreditation is that accredited schools can participate in federal and financial aid programs and employer tuition assistance. Both programs offer help to students and families who have a hard time paying for their education.

Accreditation is not only offered to schools, but also to internships, residencies, programs, and online colleges.

How to check if your school is accredited:

The problem is that accreditation is given by private agencies, meaning that is easy for any organization to offer accreditation, when in reality they may not be the best to do so. Because of this, many students get worried about their college accreditation, and if it should or not be trusted. 

For you to know if your school is accredited visit either the Department of Education website, they offer a full list of accredited schools and their accredited programs, or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation webpage. The latter is the agency that selects which agencies can be consider “accreditation agencies” and gives them permission to accredit institutions.

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