What is accreditation and why does it matter for you?

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Going back to school to pursue a master’s in accounting is a big decision, but the next big decision for aspiring graduate students is where to earn their degree. Choosing the right school can make a big difference in the quality of a person’s education and overall experience.

Prospective students should take several aspects into consideration when weighing their options, like the content covered, whether the institution provides class styles that meet their lifestyle needs, and how the university supports students and graduates. But one of the most important details is the school’s accreditation status.

A young woman studies on her laptop while drinking a cup of coffee

What is accreditation?

Accreditation is the process whereby an accrediting body signifies that an institution meets or exceeds specific standards for program quality. In other words, being accredited shows that a college or university provides relevant, up-to-date curricula that can help students in their pursuit of further education or a career.

What does accredited mean?

Accrediting bodies or agencies determine the standards universities must meet to achieve accreditation, according to the U.S. Department of Education. There are two main types of accreditation:

● Institutional: This signifies that every unit of the institution meets or exceeds accreditation standards, but it does not imply each unit reaches the same level of quality.
● Specialized or programmatic: A specific program, college, or other body within the larger institution meets a set of specialized standards.

Different accrediting bodies might offer one type of accreditation or both.

Why is accreditation important?

In the U.S., there are few federal requirements dictating the quality or content taught at universities and other higher education institutions. This gives each school a lot of freedom and autonomy, but it also means quality can be suspect. As such, the many colleges and universities across the country have varying levels of value and character.

Accreditation gives institutions the opportunity to prove their worth by adhering to publicly recognized, peer-reviewed standards. The idea of accreditation has been around since the 1880s, according to the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools. But earning accreditation became much more important when the Higher Education Act was passed in 1965. The act stated that students applying for federal student aid must attend a postsecondary institution that is accredited by a nationally recognized agency. In some situations, a state-recognized approval agency will meet this requirement; this rule usually applies to vocational institutions.

For these reasons, students benefit when they attend an institution that is accredited as a whole or has accredited programs. First, they can be confident they have chosen a university that teaches high-quality content, ensuring they get a sound education that can help them on their way to a successful career. Second, by attending an accredited institution, they are eligible for federal student aid.

Finally, employers are more likely to value a degree from an accredited program or university. Additionally, if a graduate wants to further his or her education at another institution, the admissions committee may look more favorably on applicants who have attended an accredited program.

How are accreditors chosen or recognized?

The Secretary of Education evaluates various accrediting bodies to determine that they are accurate judges of educational quality. Organizations need to apply to the Department of Education to be recognized, though there are many accreditors that choose not to go through this process.

Institutions or programs that apply for accreditation need to meet the Department of Education’s standards for accrediting bodies as well as have a link to a federal program, such as federal student aid. The Department of Education publishes a list of recognized accrediting bodies.

Is the University of Alabama at Birmingham accredited?

Yes, the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Collat School of Business is accredited by The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International). Additionally, the University of Alabama at Birmingham as a whole is regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

AACSB accreditation

AACSB International was founded in 1916 by 17 top-ranking institutions, including Harvard, Yale, and Columbia University. Since then, the organization has worked with institutions to ensure high-quality business educational standards.

Some of the best business- and accounting-related programs can claim AACSB accreditation, though it’s not an easy distinction to achieve. Only 5 percent of global business programs are recognized by AACSB, contributing to the organization’s reputation as bestowing the most respected accreditation a school can receive.

The University of Alabama at Birmingham’s Collat School of Business has earned AACSB accreditation, as has its accounting program.

SACS accreditation

The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges seeks to align the values and practices of institutions in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia, and Latin America, as well as some international institutions.

SACSCOC has regionally accredited the University of Alabama at Birmingham to confer bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees.

UAB provides high-quality education for accounting students

Students seeking the Master of Accounting program that best suits their needs benefit when they earn their degree from an institution recognized for a high-quality education. The University of Alabama at Birmingham strives to provide students with quality degrees that can help them in their future endeavors. Obtaining and maintaining accreditation by highly respected organizations like AACSB and SACS is a reflection of that effort.

To learn more about the benefits of the University of Alabama at Birmingham’s online Master of Accounting program, reach out to an enrollment advisor today.

Recommended Readings:
What to know about accountancy professional licensure
Which skills do you need to be a not-for-profit accountant?

Sources:
U.S. Department of Education
U.S. Department of Education
Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools
University of Alabama at Birmingham Collat School of Business Accreditation
The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges