Academic accreditation is a quality assurance system for universities, colleges, and occasionally secondary schools. It certifies that an organisation has the credentials to give people credentials.
Accreditation is a third-party process that costs tens of thousands of dollars and takes many years. Accreditation regulations vary from country to country but involves on-site visits and faculty evaluations. In the United States education system, in order to certify accreditation, an accrediting body must be recognized by the U.S Department of Education.
Types of accreditation
Educational institutions may be accredited on an national or a regional basis. In regional accreditation the standards are rigorous and expensive.Typically, regionally-accredited schools are quality institutions. National accreditation has lower standards and the process is generally less expensive, given that nationally-accredited degree programs rarely transfer to regionally-accredited schools. There is also professional accreditation which accredits professional programs such as- medical programs (Medical doctors/osteopathic doctors, Chiropractic, Physical Therapy, Dentistry, Veterinary and Optometry), Law schools, engineering schools, teacher education programs and ministerial programs (Master of Divinity, Master of Theology, Church Music, Religious Education, Pastoral Counseling and Chaplaincy).
In the United States, museums can also be accredited by the American Alliance of Museums. Accreditation is rarer among museums (only about 10% nationwide) than among other colleges and universities because the benefits to the museum are not as great. Colleges and universities need to attract students, student loans from the Department of Education, professors and grant money for research; being accredited is an important way to show that the institute as a whole meets a basic level of worthiness. Museums often do need to attract grant money, but they are not overseen by the Department of Education.
National accreditation groups
- Accrediting Board of Engineering and Technology (ABET), accredits engineering programs
- Association of Theological Schools, accredits Christian colleges and seminaries such as Starr King School for the Ministry and Berkeley Divinity School
- Distance Education Accrediting Commission, provides accreditation for online colleges such as Penn Foster College and Ashworth College
- Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools (TRACS), a national accreditation organization for creationist schools including Bob Jones University and Pensacola Christian College
Regional accrediting groups
- Council of Higher Education Accreditation
- Higher Learning Commission
- Mid-Atlantic Region Commission on Higher Education, a.k.a. the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (mid-Atlantic United States)
- North-Central Association of Colleges and Schools, midwestern United States
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, northwestern United States
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, southern United States
- Western Association of Colleges and Schools, western United States
Professional accrediting groups
Professional accreditation is a type of national accreditation that accredits degrees of a professional nature, such as medical and law degrees.
- American Bar Association, accredits law schools (Harvard Law School)
- Association of Medical Colleges, accredits medical schools (Yale Medical School, University of Michigan Medical School)
- Commission on Osteopathic College Accreditation, accredits Osteopathic medical schools (Michigan State University Osteopathic Medical College)
- Council on Naturopathic Medical Education, accredits Naturopathic medical colleges (Bastyr University)
Accreditation mills are accreditation authorities that are not themselves accredited. Often, such organizations have little or no standards and will issue accreditation to any applicant for a one time fee. In some cases diploma mills attempt to add an air of legitimacy by operating their own accreditation organization and obtaining self-accreditation. Examples include:
- Accrediting Commission International, also known as the International Accrediting Organization, an accreditation mill associated with Patriot Bible University.
- American Accrediting Association of Theological Institutions
- American Association for Higher Education and Accreditation
- Association of Accredited Bible Schools
- Distance and Online Universities Accreditation Council
- International Higher Learning Commission
- National Association of Private Theological Institutions
- National Bible College Association
- National Private Schools Accreditation Alliance (NPSAA), claimed by known diploma mills, e.g. Hindu University of America, as an accreditation authority
Like diploma mills, accreditation mills damage the reputation of distance learning and facilitate con artistry.
Religious colleges sometimes operate under a "religious exemption" whereby they are not required to obtain accreditation. 28 states, including Florida, California, and Maine have some form of religious exemption. The religious exemption is often used by schools and seminaries that focus on more obscure religions. Examples of institutions operating under a religious exemption include:
- Anderson Theological Seminary, a Georgia seminary
- Cherry Hill Seminary, a Pagan seminary
- College of Metaphysical Studies, a New Thought institution that teaches homeopathy
- International Institute for Holistic Arts and Sciences (IIHAS), "a pioneer in Metaphysical, Spiritual, New Age, Holistic and Neo-Pagan education"
- University of Sedona, self described as "the world's largest metaphysical university system
- Woolston-Steen Theological Seminary, a Wiccan seminary
The religious exception is often abused by diploma mills such as Patriot Bible University.
- [http://www.aam-us.org/ American Alliance of Museums
- [Best Practices & Bursars: The (Ac)credible University Art Museum] by Sharayah Cochran
- Many will use names that sound similar to actual accrediting agencies. For example, Christian Bible College operates its own unaccredited accreditation authority, the American Accrediting Association of Theological Institutions Inc. (AAATI). Retrieved on 24 October 2015.
- NAPTI Accreditation. napti.us. "This type of 'accreditation' is based upon peer evaluation...." At least they were honest enough to put the word in quotes. Retrieved on 27 December 2015.
- National Bible College Association guidelines. The National Bible College Association is not recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Accreditation is "a review by your peers" that ensures that you are offering a quality program. The U.S. Department of Education is not a peer of Christian Leadership University. n-b-c-a.com. Retrieved on 13 October 2015.
- NPSAG Accreditation. npsag.com. "NPSAG accreditation is a voluntary peer-review process which allows schools and colleges to demonstrate the integrity and quality of their education programs.",
- Educational Affiliations. andersonvilleseminary.com. Retrieved on 24 October 2015.
- Cherry Hill Seminary, About Accreditation. cherryhillseminary.org. Retrieved on 24 October 2015.
- Notice to Educators and Concerned Citizens. "Because Metaphysical Sciences is considered a "new emerging field of study" by federal and educational agencies, it does not qualify for traditional accreditation that universities like private and state universities, community colleges, and other secular institutions qualify for." Retrieved on 24 October 2015.
- Paul Leon Masters. Accreditation: Realities and Deceptions. universityofsedona.com. Retrieved on 24 October 2015.
- Wiccan Seminary, About us. wiccanseminary.edu. "At this time Wicca does not have enough legal degree granting institutions to create an accrediting board. We hope that this will change in the future as more groups create Wiccan Institutions of Higher Education." Retrieved on 24 October 2015.