There is more to consider than just getting an education. Accreditation is an area that you should become familiar with when deciding on further learning.
What is accreditation?
Accreditation is a process that ensures that the college or university that you are interesting in attending is legitimate and reputable. This process involves many years of evaluating an institution to make sure that it meets certain standards and requirements in order to grant degrees. The accreditation comes from various sources such as government agencies, private organizations and professional organizations.
National accreditation is organizations such as the Distance Education and Training Council, American Council on Education, and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. Each of these organizations is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
Regional accreditation is based upon the geographical location of the school. There are six regional associations of accreditation in the U.S. For example, if the school that you’re interested in attending is in New York, this would most likely be under the Middle States Association of College and Schools.
The six regional accreditations are:
1.Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools (www.msache.org);
2.New England Association of Schools and Colleges (www.neasc.org);
3.North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (http://www.ncahigherlearningcommission.org/);
4.Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges (www2.boisestate.edu/nasc);
5.Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (www.sacs.org);
6.Western Association of Schools and Colleges (www.wascweb.org);
These six regional associations are generally, the only accepted standard by employers and schools. A person who graduated from a nationally accredited school could also be considered by employers and schools. The important distinction to make here is to graduate from a school that is accredited by a source that is recognized by the United States Department of Education, through one of the mentioned earlier in this article.
Why is accreditation important? The reason why accreditation is important is that there have been a number of Internet schools that have popped up, which require little or no work, and in exchange for a fee, will sell you a degree. This type of school is referred to as a “diploma mill.” The term “diploma mill” is defined as, “a usually unregulated institution of higher education granting degrees with few or no academic requirements.” (Merriam-Webster Online).
How do I avoid a diploma mill?
The best way to avoid a diploma mill is to make sure that the accreditation that the school has is from a legitimate source. The accepted form of accreditation is either national or regional accreditation that is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
In an investigation by U.S. Senator Susan M. Collins, (R-Maine), she was able to earn a Bachelor of Science degree with a major in Biology and also to get a Master’s degree in Medical Terminology, without ever taking a biology class.
The investigation also turned to federal employees, who have used bogus credentials to get into top government agencies.
Some comments made by U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM) Director Kay Cole James:
“There is no room in the federal work force for false clams;”
“Bogus academic degrees deceive the public, pose a potential threat to national security, constitute a fraud if federal funds are used to pay for them, and can give the public the impression that federal employees have expertise and credentials when they do not;”
“It is vital that members of the federal work force be well-trained and qualified and do not misrepresent the experience and education they bring to their positions.” (U.S. Newswire). (http://releases.usnewswire.com/GetRelease.asp?id=30497).
As you can gather from the comments made by OPM Director Kay Cole James that credentials need to be real and not have false pretenses. If you are willing to work hard, in obtaining an education, it can be a notable and worthwhile endeavor. However, if you decide to take a short-cut, you will ultimately pay the price, because sooner or later, it will all catch up with you, and you will lose credibility and respect when trying to get a job or for professional consideration.
If you have earned a degree from an unaccredited school, which might not be considered a “diploma mill,” it is important to realize that you can sense whether or not the credential that you hold is a valid one, and one that required work in order to receive a degree. The clarification is that if you are just getting a degree without legitimate work involved in earning a degree, it would definitely be a degree that is not worth the paper that it is written on.
The best thing to do in deciding on an education is to make sure that the school is properly accredited. There are some schools that will indicate that there school is accredited. However, they will use similar accredited names like that of a nationally or regionally accredited source. For example, they might use the name similar to the Southern Association of Colleges and School, such as changing some of the wording to Southern Schools Association of Colleges. It sounds similar, but notice that there is only one legitimate name and that is the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. Other ways that a diploma mill will try and confuse consumers, is to use a name that is very similar to another reputable school.
Some tips on recognizing a diploma mill:
1.Will give you significant life experience credit toward a degree without doing a portfolio or assessment.
2.You pay for the tuition up front for the entire program. This is not always the case, but most schools will charge you based upon a credit hour, or a semester.
3.The school indicates that you have earned enough credit for your degree, and to send in a fee, for little or no college work required. Presto! You have a degree! This is a red flag!!!
4.Does not have proper accreditation. They use similar terminology or wording of legitimate sources of accreditation or will say that there school is recognized by a government ministry or Liberia or some other foreign country. Be careful.
5.The faculty that is listed in the college catalog do not have any schools imprinted, or they use titles i.e. Dr. John Smith, Ph.D. This would be a good indication that the faculty have received bogus credentials, because you are not suppose to use the title in front of your name, and also the indication of the type of degree at the same time.
6.If it seems too good to be true, it probably is. Even a person with little or no education, should be able to distinguish this, and if you are not sure, you should seek the advice and counsel of a professional in the academic community.
By doing your homework, you can earn a degree that will be valuable in the future.
Sources: U.S. Department of Education, U.S. Newswire, U.S. Office of Personnel Management, U.S. Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs, U.S. General Accounting Office, and Merriam-Webster Online.