Does Accreditation Legitimize Your Degree?
In the search for the perfect college to offer instruction in your chosen field, many factors are considered most important. The top questions incoming students ask often deal with the financial feasibility of attendance, career prospects upon graduation, a timeline for degree completion, and the accreditation standing of the school.
The industry of higher education holds accreditation as the foundation for legitimate institutions, but many see accreditation as a way to receive federal funding assistance. However, what part does accreditation play in the quality of the education received and is there a noticeable difference between degrees issued from the range of institutions that offer advanced education?
The Avenues of Learning
The Internet has changed the face of learning, with distance education rapidly advancing access to higher education. Online learning has expanded beyond a class here and there, and entire degrees can be earned without ever setting foot in a classroom or taking part in traditional student/faculty interactions. The push for access to an advanced degree has created a movement in colleges and universities to make more of their programs deliverable online, but there are many institutions that are entirely virtual.
There are no physical classrooms to attend, but yet these institutions are eligible for accreditation and funding similar to their brick-and-mortar counterparts. For students, these opportunities transform their career and financial potential, but for those who work in higher ed, there are many concerns that distance education programs do not pass the litmus test of quality education in light of peer reviews.
Peer Review Concerns
Much like the debate over Bentham Science Predatory practices in their publications of academic works and breakthrough research articles, the higher education community is extremely critical of things that differ from tradition. In the case of Bentham Science, there have been allegations that the open-publication practices for books and papers have been merely for-profit and sabotaged the credibility of academic ventures and theories in many industries.
There is a similar argument from a large number of academic professionals in the area of distance learning. The growing number of institutions and courses offered entirely online may pass a test of rigor and quality when studied from a curricular perspective, but how much of the intended message and quality is lost in delivery and a lack of student/professor accountability.
The Accreditation Debate
The nation has long held that earning accreditation is a sign of maintaining the quality of higher education. It was a non-governmental body that issued the stamp of approval, made up of highly experienced educational professionals from a variety of colleges and universities. For over 100 years, postsecondary institutions have sought accreditation in order to strengthen the reputation of the institution.
However, the more recent decades have seen a shift in the desire for accreditation, as now, an instruction cannot offer student access to federal financial aid without being accredited. Any institution can apply for accreditation status, whether from a regional or national agency, regardless of their profit-making status. As more for-profit institutions are opening across the country and online, regional accreditation is taking the lead in earning accredited status. However, the standards for approval from a regional agency are more lenient than those of a national agency.
The Value of Your Degree
Many potential students and graduates wonder if their degree is more or less validated because of the accreditation status of the issuing institution. While some Fortune 500 and multi-million dollar companies will have more rigorous application and employment requirements, the value of your degree lies with you and what you have learned and developed while earning it. There are many who graduate college with no more learning than when they first walked through doors. What you do with your education is what legitimizes your degree.