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Accreditation

Affiliate Status: Columbia Evangelical Seminary is an affiliate institution of the Association for Biblical Higher Education. As such, it participates in and contributes to collegial and professional development activities of the association. Affiliate status does not, however, constitute, imply, or presume ABHE accredited status at present or in the future.

On this page, Dr. Rick Walston discusses the "accreditation issue." He defines terms and gives important information that every person – especially those considering Distance Learning programs – should know . . .

If you have questions concerning accreditation, good for you. If more questions were asked, fewer people would be ripped off. Schools that deceive or mislead people with their false claims of accreditation are depending on you not to ask questions.

Two Kinds of Accrediting Associations

There are two kinds of accrediting associations: Recognized and Unrecognized. The Recognized ones are the real ones that are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, and the Unrecognized ones are not really accrediting associations at all, and are not recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Therefore: the term "Recognized" means Real, and the term "Unrecognized" means Not Real. However, the problem is not whether a school is accredited or not. The problem is that some schools claim to be accredited when they are not. These schools deceive students and take their money. In short, they lie.

Therefore, even if you don't need an accredited degree, still, be very cautious about schools that claim to be accredited when they are not. Also, be cautious of schools that are accredited by organizations that are Unrecognized. Schools that lie or mislead students about accreditation are not legitimate schools. Many non-traditional colleges, universities, and seminaries claim to have accreditation and well they might, but accreditation with whom? Is it by a Recognized association or an Unrecognized one? Renowned educator and non-traditional education expert Dr. John Bear – co-author of Walston's Guide to Earning Religious Degrees Non-Traditionally – explains what accreditation is. He says, "Quite simply, it is a validation – a statement by a group of persons who are, theoretically, impartial experts in higher education – that a given school, or department within a school, has been thoroughly investigated and found worthy of approval." But real accreditation comes from those "impartial experts in higher education" who represent a Recognized accrediting association. Furthermore, since accreditation is a completely voluntary process, operated by private non-governmental agencies, "there have evolved good accrediting agencies and bad ones, recognized ones and unrecognized ones, legitimate ones and phony ones" explains John Bear. "So," Dr. Bear goes on to say, "when a school says,'We are accredited,' that statement alone means nothing." A prospective student must always ask, "Accredited by whom?" Is it by a Recognized agency?

Beware

There are many unrecognized "accrediting associations"operating in America whose "accreditation" is worthless. Many schools simply pay the fees, usually quite minimal, and become"accredited" by one of these bogus "accrediting associations." Then, the schools deceive prospective students by writing in their catalogs and in their advertisements that they are "Fully Accredited." It is most appalling when Christian schools, Bible colleges, and seminaries do this unethical advertising. It is easy to check on a school's accreditation status. Presently, the main agency that can give valid academic Recognition to accrediting associations is the United States Department of Education. You may phone or write them for information concerning schools in question. If a school is truly accredited, the United States Department of Education will recognize its accreditation status.

Important Note

If you desire a degree from only an accredited school, you should check the accreditation status of every school you are considering by calling the United States Department of Education and asking about the schools in question.

Can a seminary, college, or university that offers their degrees by non-residential study be accredited by a Recognized accrediting association? Until very recently, there had never been a legitimately accredited American school that offered doctoral degrees entirely by correspondence. Today, however, there are some that are legitimately accredited that do offer doctoral degrees entirely off campus (no, we do not have a list of them). However, until more schools do this, it is still a good rule of thumb that will help you be aware of what's out there. So, generally speaking, in spite of their claims of accreditation, if they are offering their doctoral degrees entirely by correspondence (or off-campus), it is a red flag that their claimed accreditation might Not be Recognized, and you need to double-check it. On the other hand, just because a school requires some time on campus does not mean that it is accredited. There are many non-accredited (and even bad) schools that require some time on campus (in classes or in seminars).

Accreditation Alone is Not the Final Word

Accreditation alone or lack of it does not determine the legitimacy or credibility of a school. But, schools that lie about accreditation are neither legitimate nor credible. However, there are some very good non-traditional schools that are fully legal and well regarded but simply not accredited by one of the Recognized accrediting associations – but the good ones will be open and honest about their lack of accreditation.

Accreditation is Good for the Right Purpose

Accreditation is great for the right purpose. For instance, if your employer said, "You can get a job promotion and pay raise, if you get your degree from an accredited school," then under those circumstances, it would be important to get an accredited degree. Or, if you are going to work for the government, or if you are going to be a teacher in a public school, or if you are going to be a medical doctor, you must have a degree from an accredited school. However, if you are working for an employer who does not require an accredited degree, why spend the extra money earning one? Traditionally, the tuition of accredited schools is much higher than non-accredited schools. Also, many employers do not know what accreditation is, nor do they care. Each student must determine how important accreditation is to his or her educational and occupational goals; this is generally done by learning what one's employer will accept. Many people have degrees from non-accredited but fully legal and well regarded schools and are employed as businessmen, pastors, educators, journalists, counselors, police, missionaries, and more. Some who hold non-traditional, non-accredited doctoral degrees are professors in accredited colleges, universities, and seminaries. In many denominations and fellowships accreditation is simply not necessary. What is important--to many of them--is that they receive solid biblical/theological training. So, for many people accreditation is simply a question of occupational acceptance.

Unless Truly Accredited

Claiming accreditation from an unrecognized agency (and not explaining that the agency is not recognized) only serves to confuse or deceive less-knowledgeable prospective students or employers who think that any kind of accreditation is Recognized and acceptable. Of the many schools who have unrecognized accreditation, very few clearly state in their catalogs (or in their advertisements) that the accrediting association with whom they are accredited is not a Recognized association. Unless truly accredited by a Recognized association, such schools should openly and honestly explain that they are not accredited. Or, at the very least they should carefully and clearly explain that the accrediting association with whom they are "accredited" is not a Recognized association. So, in conclusion, ask yourself this question: "How necessary is it to my educational and occupational goals for me to have a degree from only an accredited school?" Once you settle that question, you can pursue an education that will be rewarding and enriching. But, remember, if you decide that your degree absolutely must be from an accredited school, then check on the accreditation status of each school under your consideration. Do not simply take their word for it.

Columbia Evangelical Seminary is not Accredited

Affiliate Status: Columbia Evangelical Seminary is an affiliate institution of the Association for Biblical Higher Education. As such, it participates in and contributes to collegial and professional development activities of the association. Affiliate status does not, however, constitute, imply, or presume ABHE accredited status at present or in the future.

Standing in the GAAP!

The following information is adapted from Walston's Guide to Christian Distance Learning: Earning Degrees Nontraditionally, 4th edition by Rick Walston, Ph.D.

"The people of the land have used oppressions, committed robbery, and mistreated the poor and the needy; and they wrongfully oppress the stranger. 'So I sought for a man among them who would make a wall, and STAND IN THE GAP before Me on behalf of the land, that I should not destroy it; but I found no one. Therefore I have poured out my indignation on them; I have consumed them with the fire of My wrath; and I have recompensed their deeds on their own heads,' says the Lord God" (emphasis added). – Ezekiel 22:29-31

This is a powerful passage of Scripture in which God laments the fact that while there were all kinds of social injustices going on, there was not a single person who would "stand in the gap" and intercede on behalf of the people and ask God for mercy. Then He says that since He found no one who would stand in the gap, he had no choice but to destroy the people.Some of course will decry my use of this passage, and I will readily agree with them that in the grammatical-historical context Ezekiel was certainly not talking about the issue of accreditation. However,he was talking about "oppressions, robbery, the mistreatment of the poor and the needy, and the oppression of the stranger." I find it interesting that many bogus schools with their wild and unethical claims of accreditation do the same things these days. They certainly oppress, rob, and mistreat unsuspecting prospective students. Who will pray for these unsuspecting students? Who will "Stand in the GAAP?"

Standing in the GAAP: Generally Accepted Accrediting Principles

Of course there are more recognized schools than just those under the American-recognized accrediting bodies. Many schools outside the U.S. are recognized and considered accredited equivalent. For example, the Universidade de Brasilia (Brazil), University of Oxford (United Kingdom), the University of Oslo (Norway), the University of Sydney (Australia), University of Tübingen (Germany), the University of Tokyo (Japan), the Potchefstroom University (South Africa), and many others, are all considered accredited/recognized. Yet, none of these major universities are accredited by an American accrediting agency. Therefore, some people in the world of education have developed global-recognition guidelines for all schools around the world: GAAP-Generally Accepted Accrediting Principles. If a school stands within the guidelines of GAAP (Stands in the GAAP), it is considered duly and truly having the equivalent of recognized accreditation in the U.S., even if the word accredited is not ascribed to it (as in foreign universities).

According to GAAP, a school is accredited/recognized if it falls under one or more of these six items below:

1. Accredited by an agency recognized by the United States Department of Education.

2. Accredited by an agency recognized by the Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).

3. Listed in the Commonwealth Universities Yearbook:74th edition, March 1999, ISBN 085143 164 X; two-volumes, 2,556 pages. ISSN 0069-7745. Price: about $260. Internet contact: http://pollux.acu.ac.uk/pandi/cuyinfo.html.The Commonwealth Universities Yearbook 1999 is an international directory providing authoritative information on more than 600 universities in 36 Commonwealth countries: Australia, Bangladesh, Botswana, Brunei Darussalam, Cameroon, Canada, Cyprus, Ghana, Guyana, India, Jamaica, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Malaysia, Malta,Mauritius, Mozambique, Namibia, New Zealand, Nigeria, Pakistan, Papua New Guinea, Sierra Leone, Singapore, South Africa, South Pacific, Sri Lanka, Swaziland, Tanzania, Uganda, United Kingdom,West Indies, Zambia, Zimbabwe and, by special arrangement, Hong Kong.

4. Included in the Australian Qualifications Framework (AQF) (http://www.curriculum.edu.au/aqfab.htm, P.O. Box 609, Carlton South 3053, Victoria, Australia. Tel: (03) 9639 1606 Fax: (03)9639 1315 Email: aqfab@curriculum.edu.au) The AQF was established by Australia's Ministerial Council for Education, Employment,Training and Youth Affairs (MCEETYA). The AQF is the policy instrument by which Australian governments which are members of MCEETYA vouch for the quality of Australia's education and training providers.(AQF inclusion status is a matter for MCEETYA to determine.) Once a school is included in the AQF, it is then listed by the Australian National Office on Overseas Skills (NOOSR) in their guide Country Education Profiles. The Country Education Profiles is a guide that describes the education systems of over 90 countries and provides guidelines on the assessment of educational credentials from these countries. The Profiles guide is comprised of 87 booklets grouped into 5 geographical regions (interestingly,Dr. John Bear wrote 15 of those 87 profiles, including the United States profile). The booklets can be purchased for individual countries, as geographical region sets, or as a complete set.The geographical region sets are: Africa; Americas; Australia and its immediate neighbors; Europe and the Subcontinent, and the Middle East. Contact at: http://www.deet.gov.au/noosr/infoman/2recog.htm

5. Listed in the International Handbook of Universities (IHU), published by United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO). International Handbook of Universities (15th Ed), $245.00, Hardcover, 1500 pages,February 1999, Stockton Press; ISBN: 1561592226. The IHU is distributed by Grove's Dictionaries Inc., of New York, and their web page can be accessed at: http://www.grovereference.com/Academic/IHU.htm. For you Amazon.com customers, the IHU can also be purchased through their web page: http://www.Amazon.com. The IHU contains exhaustive and current data on over 5600 institutions in more than 170 countries. The IHU is officially verified by the International Association of Universities (IAU), which was established in 1950 to encourage and give institutional form to links between universities and colleges throughout the world. The IHU also contains information on the IAU, its officers,and publications.

6. Listed in the World Education Series, published by PIER, the Project in International Education Research (a consortium of many agencies): http://www.aacrao.com. These various books can be purchased through: American Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers. One Dupont Circle, NW, Suite 520, Washington,DC 20036-1135, (202) 293-9161, e-mail: info@aacrao.com (http://www.aacrao.com/pubs/internated.html#worl). The World Education Series provides information on institutions, admission and program requirements, the grading system, credentials awarded, continuing education, study abroad,and linkages with U.S. institutions. The World Education Series was sponsored originally by AACRAO; publications issued by the Joint Committee on Workshops were joint projects of AACRAO and NAFSA; the World Education Series is now published by the Projects for International Education Research (PIER) Committee of AACRAO/NAFSA and The College Board.

The Harvard University Accreditation Legend

People often repeat the rumor that Harvard University is not accredited. Harvard University is and has been accredited by its regional agency since 1929. Their last review was in 1997, and they are not scheduled for another review until 2007. More germane, perhaps, for this book is their theological accreditation. The Divinity School within Harvard has been accredited by the Association of Theological Schools (ATS) since 1940.

For many people, accreditation is something that they simply accept because someone told them it was good, right, or the best. Their ignorance of this topic reminds me of a quote: "That must be wonderful; I have no idea of what it means." –Moliere

A school does not have to be accredited to be good. However, if the school's literature is lying about their so-called "accreditation," it is not a good school.

For even more information on this topic and surrounding issues, refer to the following Coffee Talk articles: The Falsification of Academic Credentials (#16) | Of Doctoral Degrees and Martial Arts (#30)

© Rick Walston, 1999. All rights reserved. No part of this information may be reproduced, stored in a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any other means electronic, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise without the prior written permission of the copyright owner.

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