When I graduated from the University of Minnesota five years ago, I surmise that less than five percent of prospective college students knew what higher education accreditation was (including me). Since then, I have witnessed a drastic change in the knowledge and credence accreditation has in one’s college decision.
The modern-day prospective student shopping is a savvy shopper—as they should be. College is a huge financial investment—one that affects the rest of your adult life—and college students should do their due diligence by researching the quality of prospective colleges in their consideration set.
Seeing students day-after-day as a higher education professional—I can assure you that college accreditation is and should be one of the most important factors consider when selecting a college. (In a close race comes degree program offerings and modality.) Here is, in a nutshell, what accreditation is and why I believe it’s one of the most important factors to consider in your college search.
What is Accreditation?
According to the U.S. Department of Education, “The goal of accreditation is to ensure that education provided by institutions of higher education meets acceptable levels of quality.” A college or university can be regionally, nationally, or programmatically accredited—or none of the above.
- Regional Accreditation: Regionally accredited higher education institutions are predominantly academically oriented institutions. Regional accreditation is awarded to colleges that meet criteria set by the accrediting agencies. Regionally accredited schools meet strict requirements and criteria (HLC's Accreditation of Higher Education Institutions: An Overview, 2007 Edition). There are six regional accreditations, all of which recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.
- National Accreditation: National accreditation is designed to evaluate specific categories of schools and colleges—namely non-traditional, including vocational schools, religious schools, and technical programs. While nationally accredited institutions can accept credit from regionally or nationally accredited institutions, regionally accredited schools often do not accept credit from nationally accredited institutions.
- Program-based Accreditation: Program-based accreditation is granted to specific degree programs within a collegiate institution. Programmatic accrediting bodies programs within certain colleges that prepare students for their respective industry. It is especially important to look for programmatic accreditation in health sciences fields.
Benefits of Accreditation
An accredited college upholds a certain level of quality in degree programs, campus aesthetic, academic vigor, credit transfer, financial assistance, and educational delivery. As a prospective college student, you want to ensure that you are positioning your future through high-quality education. An educational institution that has received accreditation such as ours can provide students:
- High Educational Standards: An accredited college or program meets the standards of quality in terms of faculty, curriculum, administration, libraries, financial fitness and student services.
- Financial Aid: Students are only able to obtain federal financial assistance if the institution they are attending has achieved appropriate accreditation status.
- Credit Transfer: Accreditation is an important factor when a college or university is deciding whether to accept transfer credits from a student's previous school. Most colleges and universities will not accept transferred course credits from an institution that has not earned appropriate accreditation status from an accreditation organization.
- Professional Success: Employers prefer job applicants who have received their education from a college or university with the appropriate accreditation status. Many employers also look for employees that have been educated at an accredited institution for business promotions, company advancements, and more.
More information about the importance of accreditation can be found here: http://www.rasmussen.edu/why-rasmussen/why/.
Key takeaway is this: if you are a prospective college student—accreditation is an extremely important factor to consider throughout your college search. Whether your decision is to attend Rasmussen College or not, find a school with high academic integrity so that you can position yourself for future success in the workforce.
About the Author: Allie Gray Freeland is the Interactive Communication Specialist at Rasmussen College. In her position, she drives online promotion and content marketing for the College. Allie has a Bachelor's degree in Journalism from the University of Minnesota and has worked in marketing communications for over five years.