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Choosing which university to attend will greatly impact your career and future plans, and there are a lot of options out there. The good news: it doesn’t have to be scary. If you’ve already decided which career field you want to pursue, chances are you’re looking at everything from tuition costs and scholarship opportunities to campus amenities – but are you looking at program accreditation? Whether you’re contemplating an undergraduate or graduate degree, accreditation is an important factor in assessing the quality of the program.

What is accreditation? 

Think of it as a stamp of approval by the US Department of Education (USDE). An accredited university has a history of meeting high standards and delivering on its commitment to providing a quality education. The process ensures that the school has the resources necessary to effectively educate students. It’s not just important for the whole university; schools and degree programs can receive accreditation from various institutions.

Accreditors are private, non-governmental organizations created for the specific purpose of reviewing higher education institutions and their programs.

What does it mean to be accredited?

Accreditors research the quality of the education, coursework and student learning outcomes. If the institution has passed its evaluation, it has received a “stamp of approval” that means the university’s faculty has the proper amount of expertise to educate students in their specific area of study. Although each accreditor is different, they are all required to meet the education standards set by the USDE.

The process of finding accreditations is easy. Just search the program or university you’re considering at ed.gov to see if it’s recognized by the USDE. (Spoiler: You’ll find lots of OCU programs there.)

Are schools required to be accredited?

No. The process is voluntary, and any university can apply. However, the federal government requires higher education institutions to be accredited before they are eligible for federal grants or funds. It also affects state government funding and the licensure exams students can receive once they complete their degrees. 

How does a school get accredited?

  1. The institution requests an evaluation from an agency that can provide accreditation in the desired area. Before choosing an accreditor, the school’s administration team generally researches each agency’s standards and prepares to showcase its ability to meet the standards.
  2. Next, the accreditor will visit and perform an in-person evaluation. When applying for institutional accreditation, a school will be evaluated in its overall excellence, which can range in factors from programs offered, the number of resources available for students, extracurricular activities, and advanced learning tools such as labs and tutors. If the agency is accrediting a specific program, they will focus more specifically on the resources and tools available within the degree or certificate program(s).
  3. During the most time-consuming part of the process, the agency performing the assessment will contact faculty and staff as well as current and past students to determine competency in preparing students for post-college careers.
  4. After the review is complete, the agency will determine if the university meets its requirements, and it will either grant or deny the accreditation.

This is a lengthy operation, so it’s not taken lightly by either party. Although it’s voluntary for higher education institutions, receiving an accreditation is a way to stand out in the educational community.

Why should students care?

Unless you’re included in the less than 1% of university students who get a full ride scholarship, chances are your education isn’t free. In addition to knowing what you’re paying for, it’s important to know why you’re paying. When you graduate from an accredited program or school, your degree means more. Maintaining accreditation is a way to ensure that an institution’s faculty and resources are meeting USDE standards and providing students with a top-notch education.

The “stamp of approval” your chosen university receives doesn’t just go on its website – It goes on your diploma, too. After graduation, you might find yourself competing against many other candidates for the same job. Employers factor in your personality and how you’ll fit with the organization, but they also consider where you received your education. Having an accredited university on your resume will help set you apart in the candidate pool. 

Is OCU accredited?

It sure is! The university is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission and the University Senate of the United Methodist Church. Specific program accreditations include: