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Thoughts on Accreditation

Accreditation is a process of ensuring quality and public accountability at colleges and universities. The standards for accreditation are determined by a peer review board of presidents and faculty from various accredited colleges and universities. The board aids in the evaluation of each applicant for accreditation or the reaffirmation of currently accredited colleges and schools.

An important factor in realizing a successful career is choosing a reputable college. Colleges that have been through the accreditation process are more likely to offer degrees that employers and recruiters recognize. Companies want to know that future employees have a quality education and that they will have something to bring to the table when they join their team. For this purpose, accreditation enables companies to filter those individuals who have earned a degree from an accredited institution from those who have not. The accreditation process also offers students a better chance of transferring credits to other reputable institutions or being admitted into a graduate program.

In addition, accreditation is only as good as its recognition and reputation. The three accreditation categories are regional, national, and professional or specialized. Regional accreditation has been around for over 100 years. Typically, colleges and universities are accredited by one of six regional agencies of accreditation. Clearwater Christian College is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges to award associate, baccalaureate, and master's degrees. Contact the Commission on Colleges at 1866 Southern Lane, Decatur, Georgia 30033-4097 or call 404-679-4500 for questions about the accreditation of our institution.

National accrediting agencies are not limited to geographic regions in the United States and they primarily recognize technical and career-oriented programs. Some religious institutions have opted for national accreditation such as the Association for Biblical Higher Education (ABHE) or the Transnational Association of Colleges and Schools (TRACS) because these agencies emphasize the religious distinctive of their member schools. Some schools obtain a specialized accreditation for the professional training they provide through their institution whether it is in accounting, dentistry, or law.

Regionally accredited schools are predominantly academically oriented, non-profit institutions. Nationally accredited schools are primarily for-profit and offer vocational, career or technical programs. Every college has the right to set standards regarding the acceptance of transfer credits. However, if a student has gone to a nationally accredited school it may be difficult to transfer credits (or given credit for a degree earned if he or she then applies to a regionally accredited college). Some regionally accredited colleges have general policies against accepting credits from nationally accredited schools. Others are reluctant because they feel that the academic standards of these schools are lower than their own or they are unfamiliar with the particular school. A student who plans to transfer from a nationally accredited institution to a regionally accredited one should verify ahead of time that credits will transfer. Additionally, some opportunities for employment, certification in one's field of expertise, and certain financial aid assistance may be reserved for those who are attending or graduate from regionally accredited schools.

Despite the widely recognized benefits and accountability of accreditation, some institutions choose not to participate in an accreditation process. According to the United States Department of Education, it is possible for institutions and programs to elect not to seek accreditation but still provide a quality postsecondary education. Yet, other unaccredited schools simply award degrees and diplomas without merit for a price. Some religious schools claim that accreditation could interfere with their mission or philosophy even though there are organizations which accredit religious institutions without compromising their doctrinal statements.

An ongoing problem within higher education is the existence of schools that grant apparent degrees with little or no coursework to a willing buyer for money. Some of these schools claim some sort of accreditation which often exists through a post office box or Web page. Care should be exercised to carefully examine both the school and its accrediting agency before making your final decision.

A sophomore English major, Megan has come to be a part of the CCC family. "The main reason I wanted to come to CCC was because of the strong family-focused atmosphere. With such a small campus, it is easy to get to know other students and faculty on a deeper level. I definitely found this to be true when my family went through an extremely hard time about halfway through my freshman year. It was so encouraging to have many people in the college family telling me that they were praying for me and encourage me through everything."