In the past I have written about the importance of college accreditation, especially “programmatic accreditation” (the accreditation that ensures a specific degree will open doors for your desired profession). For example, physical therapy, paralegal, and nursing all require some form of programmatic accreditation.
So why is this issue such a BIG deal? In large part it is because of the recent light shed on certain schools which offer degrees that do not provide the needed credentials for their graduates to apply for certain professions. Worse yet,when asked, many of these schools offer prospective students unclear information about programmatic accreditation and the requirements for professional certification. Some schools use terms like “fully accredited,” which although completely true, doesn’t really answer the question about programmatic accreditation.
The Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pension Committee held hearings last year on the subject of gainful employment. One of the witnesses testified that he had enrolled in a paralegal program, graduated, but was unable to find employment as a paralegal because the degree program was not accredited by the ABA in his state.
The fact that the education requirements vary from state to state and that the professional associations/bodies that require specific or programmatic accreditation do not do a good job of communicating the education standards only add to the problem.
In a letter to the Dept. of Labor, Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR) wrote, “It would seem that state licensing boards have a responsibility in ensuring that program quality is clearly defined and communicated to schools, students, and state regulators.”
Sen. Merkley is right, I would add that there is a shared responsibility among the professional associations, state regulators, and schools to ensure students are made fully aware of their accreditation needs. Students rarely know what questions to ask, having the information pushed to them from several sources will help ensure they do not get ripped off.
But, in the end, as a student, you need to be a wise shopper with your education dollars. Whether the money comes from military tuition assistance, the GI Bill, or Federal Student Aid, you need to be sure you spend your money and time wisely, learn about the education and certification requirements for your chosen career field and be sure the program you are enrolling in meets those programmatic accreditations before you enroll.