The Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS), the largest accrediting agency of for-profit colleges and universities, recently ran afoul of the U.S. Department of Education (USDE). The USDE chose to de-recognize the agency, citing controversy over federal financial aid policies, loose educational oversight, and the agency’s accreditation of several subpar schools, including campuses and entire colleges that are no longer in business, according to a September 22, 2016, article in U.S. News &World Report.
Although ACICS is appealing the decision, the move has far-reaching consequences for the 600,000 students at the 245 institutions it accredits; most significantly it limited the schools’ access to federal education loans and the students’ ability to transfer credits between schools.
An institution of higher learning must have its accreditation recognized by the USDE to be eligible to accept federal student aid. Students at the affected ACICS colleges are facing the reality that their credits are no longer guaranteed to transfer to other institutions – a serious dilemma for those who need to transfer because their school closed.
Students who put in countless hours toward their degree and thousands of dollars toward tuition could have nothing to show for their efforts. Therefore, it is critical to understand accreditation and its importance when choosing an online MBA program.
What Is Accreditation?
Accreditation, according to the USDE, “is the recognition that an institution maintains standards requisite for its graduates to gain admission to other reputable institutions of higher learning or to achieve credentials for professional practice. The goal is to ensure that education provided by the institutions of higher education meets acceptable levels of quality.”
Who Provides The Accreditations?
Private educational associations are responsible for accrediting higher education schools. Agencies must develop evaluation criteria, conduct peer evaluations to assess whether those criteria are met and be approved by the USDE and/or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). After receiving approval, the agency is able to develop its own standards for the colleges to follow.
In the U.S., the highest level of accreditation is regional. Six regional organizations are authorized to accredit higher education schools. Each accrediting organization governs a different region of the country, which makes it easy for most students to confirm a school’s accreditation status.
The regional accrediting organizations are:
– Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE), formerly part of Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools
– New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)
– Higher Learning Commission (HLC), formerly part of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
– Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)
– Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS)
– Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)
How Does A Program Get Accredited?
Schools seeking recognition must meet the guidelines established by the U.S. Secretary of Education including being a legal entity and having a link to a federal program, such as federal student aid. After the basic qualifications are met, the school undergoes a peer review process that evaluates several aspects of the institution from mission and integrity to student learning and institutional effectiveness.
What Happens If You Attend An Unaccredited School?
“Having an online degree from an unaccredited school is a sure way to get a resume discarded,” said Mary Massad, Division President of Recruiting Services for Insperity, a human resources outsourcing company, in U.S. News & World Report. “Before enrolling in a program, make sure it is accredited.”
Paying for an unaccredited school can be difficult. Federal and state-funded financial aid is typically not available to students who attend an unaccredited school.
Transferring credits can be easier at an accredited college. Unaccredited colleges often have lower academic standards. Lower standards make it difficult for students to transfer their credits to accredited colleges.
How Can A School’s Accreditation Be Verified?
Students can check an online MBA school’s accreditation status by visiting the U.S. Department of Education’s website. Not only will it say whether the school is accredited, but it also lists the accredited programs. Listings are updated regularly and will show any programs that have lost accreditation.
Is UAB An Accredited School?
Yes! University of Alabama at Birmingham (UAB) is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACS COC). SACS COC is the regional body of accreditation for Southern states ranging from Texas up to Virginia. UAB awards baccalaureate, masters, doctorate, and professional degrees. Get more information about UAB’s online MBA accreditation.
– US News & World Report: www.usnews.com/news/articles/2016-09-22/education-department-strips-authority-of-acics-the-largest-for-profit-college-accreditor
– US News & World Report: www.usnews.com/education/online-education/articles/2014/02/28/what-employers-really-think-about-your-online-bachelors-degree