While quality higher education may offer the best chance for success, it can be an expensive and time-consuming undertaking. How can you determine the authenticity of institutions and their degrees? The answer is through accreditation, which enables confidence by creating widely acceptable academic quality standards that institutions must meet in order to attain and maintain their accredited status.
What is Accreditation?
Accreditation is the act or process of assessing an institution and formally recognizing its conformity with prevailing academic standards. An independent, third-party peer-evaluator team conducts a quality review process. Educational institutions only receive accreditation after a thorough assessment of their programs finds them to meet required academic and organizational standards.
This status is not permanent. Institutions undergo periodic re-evaluations to ensure conformity with the highest standards. It is crucial to check your school's accreditation status before enrolling.
Why is Accreditation Important?
Accreditation is essential because it creates consistency for all participating institutions. This process ensures that students studying at different accredited institutions receive a similar quality of education. Additional benefits include:
1. Demonstration of legitimacy
Accreditation gives validity to a college or university and its degree programs. It saves the time you'd spend assessing an institution's reliability by yourself. This status also makes it easier for potential employers to determine the authenticity of your credentials.
2. Providing value to degrees earned
Attending an accredited institution increases your likelihood of qualifying for employer tuition reimbursement, work-study programs, grants, and student loans.
3. Increases the likelihood that earned college credits are transferable
Accredited schools and programs may help with credit transfers to other schools with similar accreditations and standards. It’s important to remember that the receiving institution, the one you’re looking to bring previous credits to, is the school that evaluates the credits and reserves the right to not accept them for any reason.
It is always the receiving institution that determines what credits are transferable in their programs of study.
4. Ongoing commitment to quality
Accredited institutions undergo periodic reviews to ensure compliance with the prevailing standards. This expectation encourages them to implement self-improvement initiatives that ultimately improve the quality of their programs on an ongoing basis.
How Does a School Earn Accreditation?
Accreditation is a rigorous process that starts with a formal request by the interested institution. This application signals a commitment to quality because a college or university typically initiates the procedure after ensuring compliance.
After submitting the request paperwork, an exhaustive peer review of the documents occurs, including a report on the institution's general workings.
Once complete, the accreditation organization sends a review team to the school to verify the application assertions. This team typically consists of peers and public volunteers with a passion for higher education standards.
The agency then approves or denies the status after reviewing the application and the onsite findings.
An institution that receives accreditation also agrees to uphold all standards set by the reviewing organization. This pledge includes a commitment to future accreditation renewal assessments.
What Kinds of Accreditations are Available?
An institution's accreditation type impacts students in various ways and it may affect employment prospects, employer background checks, and tuition reimbursement. Popular (and respected) accreditations include:
Historically, institutional accreditation has included Regional accreditors and National accrediting bodies. In July 2020, the US Department of Education (USDE) redefined the various entities that it recognizes. Institutional accrediting bodies (formerly Regional and National) conduct comprehensive reviews of institutions of higher education. The accreditation granted encompasses the entire institution including reported branch campuses, other instructional sites, online programs, and distance learning modalities. Such accrediting bodies typically accredit a wide range of institutions offering associate, baccalaureate, master's and/or doctoral degrees.
This type of accreditation is also known as professional or specialized accreditation. Unlike regional and national agencies which assess entire institutions, programmatic review organizations focus on particular areas of study. Examples of such specialties are nursing, accounting, and engineering specialties.
Who Oversees Accrediting Bodies?
The US Department of Education (USDE) oversees all accrediting bodies in the accreditation process, in conjunction with a non-profit organization known as the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). These two organizations are responsible for reviewing the federally mandated agencies that set and enforce accreditation standards.
How Can I Check if a University is Accredited?
Checking an educational institution's website is the fastest way to determine its accreditation status. They're eager to display this information because it enhances the marketability of their programs. Attending an accredited university helps you receive high-quality education whose benefits are apparent after joining the workforce. It is advisable to search the database for the institution you’re interested in before submitting your application.
The Department of Education maintains a database of accredited higher education programs and institutions known as DAPIP. CHEA also has a database whose results you can filter by program, institution, or specialization. The SACSCOC website is a superb resource for confirming accreditations in the southern states.
Start Your Classes at an Accredited Institution: ECPI University
Are you ready to pursue your higher education and enjoy the benefits of accreditation? ECPI University offers degree programs in various areas of interest including technology, health science, nursing, business, criminal justice, culinary arts, and many are available online. Here are just some of the accreditations ECPI University holds (see the full list of programmatic accreditations here):
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC): ECPI University is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) to award degrees and other credentials at the following levels: Associate, Baccalaureate, and Master’s. Questions about the accreditation of ECPI University may be directed in writing to the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097, by calling 404.679.4500, or by using information available on SACSCOC's website (www.sacscoc.org).
- Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET): The Bachelor of Science in Electronic Systems Engineering Technology and the Bachelor of Science in Mechanical Engineering Technology programs at the Virginia Beach and Newport News, VA campuses and Online are accredited by the Engineering Technology Accreditation Commission of ABET (www.abet.org).
- Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE): The Baccalaureate Degree Program in Nursing at ECPI University Orlando, Florida campus is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (http://www.ccneaccreditation.org). The Master's Degree Program in Nursing at ECPI University Virginia Beach, Virginia campus is accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (http://www.ccneaccreditation.org).
- American Culinary Federation Education Foundation (ACFEF): The AAS in Culinary Arts degree is accredited by the Accrediting Commission of the American Culinary Federation Education Foundation (ACF) at the following ECPI University locations in Virginia: Norfolk. This is a programmatic accreditation by ACF, a specialized accreditation agency for postsecondary educational programs in culinary arts and baking and pastry arts. For more information, visit www.acfchefs.org.ACF requires assessment outcomes data to be available for all accredited programs, which can be found by clicking here.