The Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools states that before students enroll in a college or university, they should ensure that it is accredited by a recognized agency. This will help ensure a quality education, ease in transferring credits and the ability to receive financial aid.

What Is Accreditation?

According to the ACICS, accreditation is voluntary process designed to objectively evaluate an entire university, including its educational programs, financial stability, stakeholders, culture and community. Accredited schools must adhere to rigorous standards to maintain this distinction. The United States Department of Education publishes a list of nationally and state-recognized accrediting agencies to help students determine whether a particular college or university meets these high standards.

Quality Education

Considering the cost of college, students expect to receive a high-quality education. The ACICS states that accredited institutions have passed a minimum set of standards to earn and maintain their standing as a quality educational institution. Although the standards differ slightly between agencies, colleges holding this distinction have been independently reviewed and found to offer a quality educational experience and maintain a commitment to continuous improvement.

Transfer Credits and Employment

The U.S. Department of Education cautions students that classes completed at unaccredited institutions might not transfer to other schools. Unfortunately, when this happens, students have wasted both time and money. Many employers specifically list a degree from an accredited institution as a job requirement. Also, many professional certification exams for careers in teaching, accounting or health care require that test-takers have a degree from an accredited school before they can sit for the exam.

Financial Aid

The U.S. Department of Education requires that schools participating in federal student aid programs be accredited. Students who attend a school that is not accredited may not be eligible for state financial aid, either. Although each state education agency operates independently, many state loan and grant programs do not offer financial aid unless the school is accredited. Many company tuition reimbursement programs have this requirement as well.

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