We're sure you've heard the word during your college search: accreditation. But what does it really mean and why should you care about it?


What is accreditation?

As you’re in your college search, you’ve probably heard the word accreditation a lot. Universities are accredited. Programs are accredited. But what does that mean and does it matter if the school you’re interested in is or isn’t? Accreditation is a level of quality control. By being accredited, the institution proves that they meet specific standards of quality. The agencies responsible for accrediting institutions make sure there are sufficient resources, including faculty, facilities, and student services, to adequately meet the standards necessary to receive accreditation. 

It’s not just about the facilities. Accreditors also review the quality of teaching and coursework in a program. This lets them know whether or not the faculty have the expertise necessary in their majors,which only makes sense because you want to learn your expertise from the experts! These reviews are done by professors, provosts, and presidents of other schools.

Are there different types?

Yes! There are different types of accreditation. The two main types are institutional and specialized/programmatic. Allow us to break it down:

Institutional accreditation has two categories. The most common is regional accreditation. Most colleges and universities are regionally accredited. Think of the country as being divided into clusters of states, with each of the six regional accreditors responsible for verifying that the institutions in their states are meeting the educational standard.

There is also national accreditation under the institutional umbrella, which is more common in for-profit colleges. It is important to note that many regionally accredited colleges will not accept credits from colleges that are nationally accredited. 

That second type of accreditation is specialized or programmatic accreditation and that recognizes specific degree programs within a college or university, not the institution as a whole. The accrediting bodies review specific programs to ensure they meet the high educational standards for that major.

What does that mean for students?

So does it matter? Even if you’ve never considered accreditation in your school/program search, it’s still an important feat to stick on the “pro” side of a pro/con list. But why?

Some industries want to hire students from accredited programs. Your future employer wants to be confident in their hiring decision, so knowing that a potential employee has a quality education (like one from an accredited program or university), as well as a valuable and seasoned skill set, looks like a big gold star. 

It can impact your ability to get federal financial aid. To apply for federal student aid or loans, you must be enrolled at an accredited institution. 

Another positive to having an accredited degree comes up with the decision to pursue the next level of education. Your accredited credits have a much better chance of transferring over with you if you decide to keep going.

You have a lot of information to weigh as you make your college decision. While it probably wasn’t something on your radar, the value of accreditation should be evaluated. Not all programs have accrediting bodies. But for those who do, accreditation means an outside organization who knows what to look for has deemed this program meets certain quality standards. 

Let’s meet back next week and we’ll discuss the difference between accreditation and certification, so you know the right questions to ask when making your college decision!

Is SEMO accredited?

Yes! The University as a whole is accredited through the Higher Learning Commission’s Commission on Institutions of Higher Education.

Several programs at Southeast have also earned their specific accreditation. From the arts, to business, to STEM (and more!), there’s no shortage of accredited programs to choose from at SEMO.