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Accreditation is a non-governmental, professional peer review process by which educational institutions and programs are provided technical assistance and are evaluated for quality based on pre-established academic and administrative standards.  It is a process that assures the educational community and the general public that an institution or a program has clearly defined and appropriate objectives and maintains conditions under which their achievement can reasonably be expected.  Accreditation encourages improvement through continuous self-study and review and fosters excellence in postsecondary education through the development of principles and guidelines for assessing educational effectiveness and ethical business practices.

Functions of Accreditation

·   Certify that an institution or program has met established standards.

·   Assist prospective students in identifying acceptable institutions.

·   Assist institutions in determining the acceptability of transfer credit.

·   Help to identify institutions and programs for the investment of public and private funds.

·   Protect an institution against harmful internal and external pressure.

·   Create goals for self-improvement of weaker programs and stimulating a general rising of standards among educational institutions.

·   Involve the faculty and staff comprehensively in evaluation and planning.

·   Establish criteria for professional certification and licensure and for upgrading courses offering such preparation.

·    Provide one of several considerations used as a basis for determining eligibility for Federal financial aid assistance.

Types of Accreditation

There are two basic types of educational accreditation: “institutional” and “specialized” or “programmatic.”

“Institutional” accreditation applies to the entire institution, indicating that each of an institution’s parts is contributing to the achievement of the institutions objectives.  Institutional accrediting bodies are either regional or national. The first difference between the two types is one of geographical scope.  As their names suggest, the regional accreditors concentrate on a specific area of the country, while the national accreditors are available to any interested institution.

Another difference is their history and focus.  The regional accrediting bodies started as leagues of traditional colleges and universities in a specific area.  Historically, these institutions prepare individuals for an advanced degree. The national accrediting bodies started as associations of institutions with a common theme and usually accredit institutions with career-focused curriculum.

“Specialized” or “programmatic” accreditation normally applies to programs, departments, or schools that are parts of an institution.  Programs such as law, medicine, pharmacy, engineering, and business are examples of programs requiring specialized accreditation.

Accreditation does not provide automatic acceptance by an institution of credit earned at another institution, nor does it give assurance of acceptance of graduates by employers.  Acceptance of students or graduates is always the prerogative of the receiving institutions or employer.  For these reasons, students should take additional measures to determine, prior to enrollment, whether or not their educational goals will be met through attendance at a particular institution.  These measures should include inquiries to institutions to which transfer might be desired or to prospective employers and, if possible, personal inspection of the institutions at which enrollment is contemplated.

Non - Accredited Schools by USDE Agencies

The State Council of Higher Education for Virginia clearly clarifies that you can still receive a quality education from a non-accredited school.  A number of postsecondary institutions have legitimate reasons for not seeking accreditation. For example, accreditation is a lengthy process. Accreditors require an institution to operate successfully for a number of years to determine its viability before it will consider if for accreditation. 

Institutions focusing on vocational training programs may choose not to seek accreditation and still offer widely accepted certifications.  Their reputation and curriculum may be deemed superior by the community, as well as the workforce.  In the end, each student must decide the value of the education the institution provides and the benefits he/she will receive from its programs.

The legal basis for degree-granting authority in the United States

The following compiled information was written by: Alan L. Contreras (Legal Basis for U.S. Degrees – Contreras – 2009)

The nature of degrees

In order to understand why certain credentials are not valid college degrees, and why some degree-granters are called degree mills or diploma mills, it is necessary to know what constitutes a valid degree. What this really means is that we need to know how a degree-granter obtains the formal authority to give someone a degree. It is of some value to anyone interested in this subject to examine the historical origin of U.S. degree-granting colleges and universities. These are the entities that today issue degrees in the U.S.

A degree is a type of public credential, an academic credential. A public credential is distinguished from other kinds of awards and recognitions in that it is used outside private life for a specific purpose. Legitimate degrees are given for certain accomplishments in fields of knowledge, within a structure that involves qualified teachers who evaluate student performance against a set of generally accepted norms. The institution then awards credit hours based on that student work (under theU.S. system)

The basis of degree-granting authority

A degree is valid if it is properly granted (that is, not fraudulently or mistakenly granted) by an entity that has the legal authority to do so. There are three sources of authority to issue college degrees in or from the United States. A college can obtain that authority from Congress, a state government, or a recognized sovereign Indian tribe.

The three-source theory derives primarily from the Tenth Amendment, commonly referred to as the “Reserved Powers Clause,” which recognizes that the Federal government’s powers are limited to those granted by the Constitution; all other powers remain with the States or the people.

Federal authority

Congress rarely establishes degree-granting institutions. Examples are the military service academies and a small number of related institutions such as the Community College of the Air Force. A few colleges operated by the Department of the Interior Bureau of Indian Affairs are, technically, federally authorized, though they also operate with tribal authority and therefore might be called “hybrids” in the tripartite taxonomy of approvals.

Tribal authority

The right of federally recognized Indian tribes to charter degree-granting colleges without state approval is widely accepted by state authorities.

State action to authorize degree-granting institutions

By far the majority (over 98 percent) of U.S. degree-granting institutions, amounting to well over 4,000 colleges14 as of 2009, operate under the legal authority given them by state governments. State authorization is the normal method through which degree-granting colleges are established.

Religious “exemptions” and degree-granting authority

Many colleges began under the authority of churches or denominations. That is one of the traditional ways that colleges came to the U.S. and to the states—indeed, it is one of the primary original mechanisms for the establishment of colleges. Just as Harvard had to dance on the tightrope between a Royal charter and a legislative one, one commentator notes that early Catholic colleges “had to obtain special approval from the state before they could grant college degrees.”

This method of church-based degree-granting authority is, in effect, still used, but with only the most nominal state attention. There are many ‘religious exempt’ colleges around the U.S., the exemption is expressly established by the state legislature.

About Alan Contreras: He an administrator of the Oregon Office of Degree Authorization, and a leading expert in the legal basis and current practices relative to state authorization of higher education institutions.

Mount Olive Bible Institute and Seminary is incorporated in the State of New York and Florida as a non-profit corporation.  It is recognized as a 501© (3) organization by the Internal Revenue Service.  Mount Olive Bible Institute and Seminary is approved and accepted by the Commission for independent education, having complied with Section 1005.06 (1) (F), Florida statutes pursuant to religious institutions, and also with the State Council of Higher Education for Virginia statutes pursuant to 8 VAC 40-31-50 state exemption.

Mount Olive Bible Institute & Seminary is fully accredited with Accrediting Commission International since 2004. ACI had not applied for USDE affiliation because most of its members' views regarding separation of church and state. It primarily accredits religious schools, including seminaries and Bible colleges, and also offers accreditation to non-U.S. schools that offer business education programs.

In the United States, educational accreditation is performed primarily by private nonprofit membership associations, the legitimacy of which is validated through recognition by the United States Department of Education (USDE), the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) or both. USDE and CHEA recognize many of the accrediting organizations, but not all. Accreditors seek USDE or CHEA recognition for different reasons: USDE recognition is required for accreditors whose institutions or programs seek eligibility for federal student aid funds.