I am a big fan of Angie’s List. Before you spend a lot of money on repairs or renovation on your home, you want to know who you can trust. With Angie’s List, you can see what experiences others have had with providers and have better confidence that the company you select is legit. Recently, we had exterior doors replaced. We did our research and found a company with excellent reviews. In addition, the company provided a windstorm certificate of compliance. A windstorm certificate required an independent inspector to evaluate the work and determine if the installation met windstorm standards up to hurricane category 5 force winds. Accreditation is like a certificate of compliance and Angie’s list.
Accreditation is the recognition that an institution meets and maintains certain standards indicative of a quality education. Accreditation standards include such areas as mission and governance, finance, curriculum, faculty, student services, strategic planning, facilities, and ethical practices in marketing. Why is accreditation important to you? Some churches and mission agencies will question the validity of your degree and your potential as a good candidate for a position if the school is not accredited. This does not mean the school is in anyway inferior or does not provide a quality experience. Unaccredited schools have not gone through a rigorous evaluation process by an official body.
Accreditation is also important for transfer of credits. If you plan on transferring to another institution in your academic career, seminaries are unlikely to accept transfer credits from an unaccredited school. Accreditation is also necessary for students who want to acquire government loans. You may have heard people use the erroneous term, “fully accredited.” There are not different levels of accreditation. Accreditation is like pregnancy, either you are or you’re not.
There are several different forms of accreditation including regional, national, and programmatic accreditation. Accreditation agencies are private, non-governmental organizations created for establishing standards of accreditation and reviewing institutions and programs against these standards. In the U.S., the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) approves accreditation bodies. Like Angie’s List, the process of accreditation involves peer evaluation. It also provides opportunities for graduates, students, faculty, and curriculum specialists to provide feedback to the peer evaluators for ascertaining if the school meets accreditation standards. These peer review committees submit their reports to a commission or board that renders final verdict on accreditation.
When you research the accreditation of a school, make sure the accrediting body is approved by CHEA. There are several different forms of accreditation: regional, national, and programmatic. In the U.S., there are six regional accrediting bodies, each representing schools within a region of the country. A national accrediting body represent schools that have a national scope and share a common mission, such as distance education. Programmatic accreditation, represent specialties in education, such as nursing, law, business, etc. Schools may have several different types accreditations.
Rockbridge is accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission, the premier accrediting body for online schools. They are pioneers in providing quality educational experiences for those who do not have the time or means to travel or live on residential campuses. DEAC is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education (DOE) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).
The Association of Theological Schools is a programmatic accreditation agency for divinity schools. Currently, ATS does not accredit schools that are only online. They have permitted their schools to provide some non-professional master’s degrees, and they are experimenting with other degree programs. Rockbridge has not pursued any accreditation, such as ATS, that would require changing our global mission of providing quality seminary training to those who cannot attend a residential campus.
This may be more information on accreditation that you wanted to know, but hopefully it helps you to understand what it means that Rockbridge is accredited. For more information on our accrediting body, check out this DEAC link.
About the Writer: Dr. Daryl Eldridge is the president and founder of Rockbridge Seminary, a fully online accredited seminary. He has helped several seminaries become accredited and serves as a peer educational reviewer on accreditation site teams.