If you were considering a college and they told you the school wasn't accredited, don't you think you would have second thoughts? I know I would. That’s because national accreditation's are an agreed upon set of academic standards that many schools abide by. Because of this when you transfer from one school to another, as long as each institute follows the same accreditation standards, your credits can transfer. When they don’t, you can learn the hard way that the value of your credits, isn't worth much!
So many schools, so many accreditation programs out there but is that a good thing?
These days, colleges and no longer just just these massive state run institutes such as Stanford University or the University of Southern California . They are often for-profit businesses that are selling an educated (not that USC or UNM isn’t) and the list may include Christian colleges (think of the recently suspended Southeastern Bible College out in Florida), technical colleges and business schools (ITT Tech which has also closed it’s doors recently), and so forth. Schools like these shut down all the time often due to increased competition from new schools or a proof product and it's often then when students will try to transfer to other colleges only to find their education was about as valuable as a used diaper after Thanksgiving.
Many of these for-profit religious and business institutes cannot join the same accreditation programs that a state run institute can but they still market themselves as being “accredited” which appeals to many people who may consider attending classes with them. The fact is, they are accredited by definition, but the value of their accreditation versus other accreditation's should give you pause.
Take into consider a religious school that may want to teach about science but wants to stay away from discussing certain subject matter like evolution or discuss it definitely than a state institute may. Well, the same type of accreditation program that a state-run school uses may demand that evolution is taught with “certain curriculum” and because of this a religious institute may refuse to follow such guidelines and are denied approval to that national accreditation program.
How do college accreditation scams work?
What this means for you is, let’s say you go to popular Christian College to get a degree in evolutionary studies. Halfway through your time there, you decide to transfer to a state run college and so you forward them your academic records. Your hoping that they will see you took a class or two and passed them, so the credits will transfer. The problem you'll find is that the state-run school abides by a different set of academic standards (you can argue they are better or worse) but the new school will not accept credits from the old one. Your thought is likely, "but this religious school said their classes were accredited, so what gives?" and this is when you realize the sad truth that not all accreditation's hold the same values.
I know this to be truth because I was burnt myself! I personally attended business classes at a for-profit school with the impression that it was “accredited” and my classes could transfer later to a bigger college. What I found out was that the classes at my profit school were “accredited” (in theory) but the accreditation program they used wasn’t the big important one that all the big schools looked for. So, later when I wanted to transfer my credits, I found out all of the classes I took held no value in the eyes of the big state-run institute.
What frustrated me was that the school was telling people, like me, that their classes were “accredited” but why do that when they weren’t? The fact is, they were and that's when I realized the true value of a good accreditation vs a joke one.
The fact is, there are tons of accreditation programs out there and they find all sorts of schools (mainly for-profit) to join their program. Let’s say for instance I decide to create my own accreditation program (which isn't that hard) and I want to sell it to business schools that are handing out business administration degrees. So first thing is first, I need a great name cause I need my program to sound legit. I got with “The National Business College Standards of Academic Excellence” or just "NBCSA" for short. It sounds professional doesn’t it? I also have a fancy logo with some books and a maybe a shield on it (heck, why not a torch too cause who doesn't love a flame or two).
Next I head out with my new NBCSA accreditation program and ask for-profit business institutes to join in. I say these schools must follow a particular set of academic standards (that I've set by what I deem acceptable) in order to hand out degrees to graduates. If a school abides by these set guidelines and also pays my fees (most important) to join NBCSA, they can put my awesome NBCSA seal on their website and tell new students they are an "accredited college" because, in theory, they are. If this sounds totally screwed up and wrong, I'm sorry to say it is happening everyday.
The reality is you may never know that NBCSA is total joke that no other school recognizes until you need to transfer schools. When that day comes for many, they suddenly realize why it’s important to dig deeper and research your school's accreditation before assuming they are all the same.