Accreditation at U.S. Colleges and Universities

By Peterson's Staff updated on Wednesday, January 23, 2013

As you consider colleges and universities you would like to attend in the United States, you have probably come across the concept of accreditation. Some schools have it, some don't. Of those that do, you may have determined that their accreditations are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education — or not — and been able to cross some schools off your college search list.

But what about those schools that don't proclaim any sort of accreditation but look great according to all of the informational material they sent you? The look and the cost may seem like the perfect fit, but before you send in your application, you should know why having accreditation is so important in the United States.

Guarantee of quality in colleges and universities

Accredited institutions have agreed to be evaluated by an independent agency so that they may legitimately claim to offer high quality education and training. Accreditation can come from a variety of different organizations, but many colleges and universities actively pursue accreditation from agencies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education or by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).

Once a school obtains such an accreditation, then its teachers, coursework, facilities, equipment, and supplies are reviewed on a regular basis to ensure that they continue to provide a high-quality education. The college information you receive from schools is a good place to look for accreditation details.

Consider accreditation in your college search

Unaccredited institutions are not measured against any set of standards to determine the quality of their education and training. This could just mean that they are in the process of preparing for evaluation, as it can take some time, or they may not be a legitimate or high-quality institution. Or they just may not be accredited but can still offer a program that will meet your educational needs. The only way to find out why they aren't accredited is to do your research, whether looking up information in a college guide or by contacting the school and asking.

Attending an unaccredited school could have an impact on your future plans. If you intend to pursue further education in the United States, you should check with any schools you're considering about their transfer-of-credit policy to determine whether they would accept a degree or credits from unaccredited institutions. It's best to have all the college info you need before deciding on a school.

You should also consider your career goals during your college search and decide if a degree from an unaccredited school will impede you from attaining them. Depending on your occupation, it may be illegal in some states to work with anything less than a degree from an officially accredited institution. As an international student who may return home to work after your studies are complete, this may not be an issue. However, you should still take it into account in the event of any impact it may have on your career.

Depending on the occupation or graduate school you're pursuing, where you earn your degree in the U.S. can be important no matter where you're working in the future. That's why you should be sure to consider accreditation when researching colleges and universities.

About the Author

Peterson's has more than 40 years of experience in higher education, and the expert staff members here are all ready to leverage their considerable knowledge and experience to help you succeed on your educational journey. We have the information, the know-how, and the tools -- now all we need is you!

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