Accredited? What That Word Means to Your Future

graduateAccreditation is a voluntary process that institutions of higher learning seek from private accrediting agencies, either regional or national that have been recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) as reliable authorities as to the quality of education or training provided. Accrediting agencies develop evaluation criteria and conduct peer evaluations to assess whether or not those criteria are met. Institutions and/or programs that request an agency's evaluation and that meet an agency's criteria are then "accredited" by that agency.

Accreditation ensures that an institution provides programs that are consistent with the academic quality, improvement and accountability expectations of the accrediting agency and that the school you attend will provide value in return for your educational investment. "Institutional" accreditation means that A BA degree from University of Connecticut, for instance, should roughly equate in coursework completed to a BA degree from Arizona State University despite they're being halfway across the country from each other.

In addition, specific standards for degrees in specific fields must be met. "Specialized" or "Programmatic" accreditation means that a student earning a BS in chemistry from a college in California should have graduated with approximately the same level of chemistry knowledge as one who graduated in Maine or Colorado. Advanced degrees are also standardized so that an MEd in Special Education from any university will be able to function at approximately the same level at any school in the country.

To make matters even more interesting, specific curricula for specific courses within a specialized area are accredited. Because of this, a student completing an accredited course in microbiology will find those credits easier to transfer to another school than if he had taken a non-accredited course.

This does not mean that all colleges and universities are created equal. It means that all accredited colleges and universities have met a baseline standard. Attending an accredited school means the degree you earn has value. It also means that you will be eligible for federal financial aid programs, and that your credits will transfer to other accredited schools in most cases. Non-accredited schools are not entitled to federal financial aid. Non-accredited school's credits do not transfer to any accredited school. Non-accredited schools do NOT have a diploma of value. Non-accredited schools will NOT help you in your career.

A school can lose accreditation overall or in just one area for several reasons. The most obvious is that students are not being offered the courses required by the standards. Diploma mills are never accredited since they have no courses and meet no standards. Accredited online colleges and universities have met the standards and can lose their accreditation by reducing their adherence to the regulations.

The U.S. Department of Education keeps a searchable database of postsecondary institutions and programs accredited by accrediting agencies or state approval agencies recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) also maintains a Directory of CHEA-Recognized Accrediting Organizations. Students who are interested in pursuing higher education, either online or on-campus, should be sure that the school they choose has been accredited by one of these recognized agencies. This is the best way to ensure that the degree you earn have value and be respected and recognized by employers in the real world. Many employers are still wary of online degree programs, but going to an accredited online college or university can set their minds at ease and convince hiring managers that you have truly received a quality education.

Regional vs. National Accreditation

Regional Accreditation: As the name implies, a regional accreditation is one that is specific to a particular region of the country, such as New England or the Southeast. Regional accrediting agencies address all public schools, and now, many for-profit schools who have met the rigid demands for accreditation. It is important to note that many schools with regional accreditation will only accept transfer credits and graduate students from other schools with regional accreditation. There are six regional accrediting agencies:

The Middle States Commission on Higher Education.
Accreditation of colleges in the middle states region (Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico).

The New England Association of Schools & Colleges.
Accreditation of colleges in the New England region (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont).

The North Central Association of Colleges and Schools.
Accreditation of colleges in the north central region (Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, New Mexico, South Dakota, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Wyoming).

The Northwest Association Of Schools And Colleges.
Accreditation of colleges in the north west region (Alaska, Idaho, Utah, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington.)

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Accreditation of colleges in the southern region (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia)

The Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
Accreditation of colleges in the western region.

National Accreditation: Unlike regional accrediting agencies that specialize in a particular part of the United States, national accrediting agencies cover the entire country, and in some cases schools outside the borders of the United States as well. National accreditation is nearly always reserved for industrial trade schools and technical schools. There are a number of national accrediting agencies, so it is important to check the status of each one.

The Distance Education and Training Council
(Accredits postsecondary institutions in the United States that offer degree programs primarily by the distance education method up to and including the professional doctoral degree.)

Nursing School Accreditation

Other types of schools are also subject to accreditation. There are two national organizations that accredit nursing education programs: The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing
The purpose of the ACEN is to provide specialized accreditation for all types of nursing programs, including clinical doctorate, master’s/post-master’s certificate, baccalaureate, associate, diploma, and practical nursing programs. The ACEN accredits nursing programs in secondary, postsecondary, and hospital-based governing organizations that offer certificates, diplomas, or degrees.

Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education
Officially recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education as a national accreditation agency, the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) is an autonomous accrediting agency, contributing to the improvement of the public's health. CCNE ensures the quality and integrity of baccalaureate, graduate, and residency programs in nursing.

By the way, in an effort to ensure our site's users will receive a degree that has value, all colleges and universities featured on LPN to RN Degree Online site are carefully screened to ensure their programs are accredited by accrediting bodies recognized by the Department of Education. Additionally, all schools of nursing featured on the site must be accredited by at least one of the national organizations that accredit nursing education programs, The Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing (ACEN) and/or The Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE).

In addition, various advanced nursing practice specialties often have their own programmatic accreditation organizations which do not accredit the institution as a whole, but rather specific programs or departments within a school. For example, the National Association of Nurse Practitioners in Women's Health, the Midwifery Education Accreditation Council, and the Council of Accreditation of Nurse Anesthesia Educational Programs.

Additionally, several State agencies have been recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education as reliable authorities as to the quality of nurse education in their respective States. These include the Kansas State Board of Nursing, the Maryland Board of Nursing, the Missouri State Board of Nursing, the New York State Board of Regents, State Education Department, Office of the Professions (Nursing Education), and the North Dakota Board of Nursing.

Regardless of your goals, finding a suitably accredited educational program should head your must-do list as you make the decisions that will affect your future in a very big way. Here at LPN to RN Degree Online we carefully screen our education partners to ensure that the college and university programs we feature have accreditation which is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. Choose well, and you will write your own ticket with your hard work and attention to detail.