By Ryan Hickey
A friend of mine was ready to go to school to study physical therapy. He was all set with prerequisites and started looking for a good program when he found himself courted by a school that seemed wonderful. The school was new, but even Harvard had to start somewhere, right? It touted excellent faculty and facilities and modern amenities. It even had its academic accreditation pending...
That was the catch. The college's lack of accreditation meant that, even though his classes may have been well taught, my friend would not have had the same benefits with this school as with an accredited U.S. university. For example, he would not have been eligible to join certain medical societies (which are very important for job placement), and jobs from many employers would have been out of reach. If he wanted to transfer to a different school or attend graduate school, his credits may not have been accepted by the other institutions. Don’t let this happen to you!
WHAT IS ACCREDITATION?
Accreditation is a status awarded by private peer review boards that evaluate schools based on certain academic criteria including:
WHY WOULD A SCHOOL NOT BE ACCREDITED?
It could be because the school is new and still waiting to be properly assessed. However, many for-profit universities falsify their credentials — falsely claiming to be accredited — in order to fool students who don’t think to check.
HOW DO I KNOW IF A SCHOOL IS ACCREDITED?
You can check with the Council on Higher Education Accreditation. This group has a searchable list of higher education institutions and programs accredited by recognized U.S. accrediting organizations.
Or visit the U.S. Department of Education’s website for information on accredited institutions. For English-language programs, check the Commission on English Language Accreditation’s site.
BE SURE TO CHECK THE PROGRAM, NOT JUST THE SCHOOL.
It’s possible that one program at a college may be accredited while another is not. For example, degrees from the law school may,not be recognized by the appropriate Bar Association. It’s more legwork to check this, but you’ll want to do it in order to avoid a worthless degree.
SOME RED FLAGS THAT A SCHOOL MAY NOT BE LEGITIMATE:
IS IT ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY THAT MY SCHOOL BE ACCREDITED?
Actually, no. There are certain schools that offer practical training that doesn’t require accreditation.. These include technical colleges and some arts colleges. You don’t need accreditation in many cases because your portfolio or tech skills will speak for themselves.
The moral of the story is: Student beware! Make sure to go in with your eyes open, and don’t fall for a program with a lack of accreditation when you can just as easily attend a school that will open all the doors you will need.