What is college accreditation?

Mariel MooreApr 28th, 2021

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If you’ve been doing any research into college, you may have heard how important it is to get a degree from an accredited academic institution. And, if you haven’t heard it, you need to hear it! Going to an accredited college is super important!

Why? Accreditation is a mark that your degree is legitimate and has been awarded by a quality academic institution and not some fly-by-night diploma mill. So, if you want to be taken seriously by employers (and by your extended family), you should plan to get a degree from an accredited source.

So, now that we’ve established it’s important. What is accreditation?

In short, accreditation is a “seal of approval” from a third party, assuring a school offers an academically sound program. 

While each school can be unique in requirements and teaching methods, accreditation strives to maintain a level of consistency in educational quality from school to school. In order to attain accreditation, schools must undergo a review process and meet a set of academic standards. 


This is where I point out that Pearson Accelerated Pathways partners with more than 2,000 regionally accredited colleges and universities, so whatever path you choose, when you get a degree through Pearson Accelerated Pathways and our partner institutions, it'll be accredited.


Why is Accreditation Important?

We spoke with our Director, Central Registrar’s Office, Jared Brandau, to get the full story on why accreditation matters when you’re thinking about college. 

“Every online student needs to know about accreditation. It can be a factor used to gauge the quality of the education you’ll receive from an institution. It’s also an important indicator of that institution’s overall health and longevity,” says Brandau.   There are three levels of accreditation: national, regional, and specialized and the most rigorous of the three is regional accreditation. 

“Regional accreditation is the gold standard in that it takes the longest and involves the largest financial stake for a school to gain that accreditation,” says Brandau. “It doesn’t mean that nationally-accredited schools or programs aren’t academically rigorous necessarily. It just means they haven’t invested the time or resources into getting that regional accreditation.”

Take time to Check Accreditation Standing Too

Before making a college decision, don’t forget to investigate a school or program’s accreditation standing too. “Each school is required to publish their standing within their accrediting body and if they have been found noncompliant in any area,” explains Brandau. “Just because they are accredited doesn’t mean they are doing well or are in good standing.”

The accreditation published reports delve into topics around an institution’s financial standing and their ability to keep accurate records. This can be important for smaller schools to remain financially solvent by proving they are able to balance their books. “By investigating before you commit to a school, you’ll be able to make sure your dream school isn’t in financial trouble,” adds Brandau.  All this might sound a little overdramatic, but it has real-world implications. In the early 2000s, ITT Tech was famous for their slick commercials and aggressive sales tactics. It was nationally accredited but it’s accreditation was revoked, and the for-profit school ultimately shut down. Some former ITT Tech employees have since spoken out about ITT Tech’s emphasis on profits over quality education. Checking a school’s standing with the accrediting body is a good way to make sure they aren’t on the verge of closing their doors or they aren’t engaged in any nefarious recruiting or other practices. In the end, it’s better to waste a little time doing your research than investing your time and money into a school on the brink of closure.

Pearson Accelerated Pathways works mostly with regionally accredited schools because those are the most reliable, however, we can map to programs that are nationally accredited or even those that hold specialized accreditations, if that is a student’s wish. We’re all about tailoring an educational path that is going to be the best aligned to each students' goals.  Want to learn more about accreditation? Try these resources:

Mariel Moore

Mariel is a writer, content strategist and marketer. Besides educational topics, she's also covered content on consumer trends, healthcare and wellness. Mariel has a knack for booking cheap travel and when she's not working, you just might find her searching for the best flights to Europe.