What is an accredited college or university?

Colleges and university, including Brandman University, are accredited by a variety of organizations.

With the recent closure of for-profit universities including ITT Tech, the significance of who awards accreditation becomes ever more important. Colleges and universities with different accreditations can’t always transfer credits from one institution to another, frustrating students who feel they’ve done quality work toward earning a degree.

Regional versus national accreditation

While it sounds counter-intuitive, regional accreditation has a higher value in most cases than national accreditation. Regional bodies, such as WSCUC Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC) which accredits Brandman, Chapman University, Stanford University, all the University of California campuses and all the California State University campuses among many others, bestows accreditation on all the programs in the university.

That means that all programs created for the Brandman’s School of Business, School of Arts and Sciences, School of Education and School of Nursing, are accredited on the same level as every other WSCUC-accredited university’s programs. That’s very good news for all Brandman students.

While some for-profit universities are also accredited by WSCUC, the vast majority are state-supported or nonprofit, just as Brandman is. A complete list can be found on the WSCUC website: https://www.wascsenior.org/institutions

There are other accrediting organizations. ITT Tech’s accreditation came from the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools. However, that organization has been on “life support” according to Inside Higher Ed. Paul Fain wrote in a June 2016 article that “The Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools got closer to being terminated … after the federal panel that oversees accrediting agencies voted to de-recognize the council, the largest national accreditor that oversees many for-profit colleges.”

Other regional and national accrediting bodies are listed by the U.S. Department of Education with explanations about the scope of the accreditations:  http://www2.ed.gov/admins/finaid/accred/accreditation_pg6.html

Other accreditations are also important

In addition to highly valued regional accreditations such as WSCUC, universities also seek additional accreditation for specific programs. Universities and colleges that train teachers in California need to be accredited by the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing. An additional accreditation – in this case, a national one with an exemplary reputation – from the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE) is a professional accreditation.

Other organizations whose professional accreditations have national scope and have high standards are the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE) and the Council on Social Work (CSWE). Brandman University has also earned those.

What students need to know

Until stories hit the news, most students probably don’t even think about accreditation when seeking a university. They may focus on reputation, programs, the cost, flexibility and convenience, location and other factors.

But accreditation, as the ITT Tech closure shows, is crucial to students, especially those who may need to transfer credits someday or who plan on continuing their educations beyond the bachelor’s level.

Community colleges, including those in California and Washington, have their own regional accreditation from the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, meaning their programs meet the standards that allow students to transfer to universities such as Brandman.

Students from non-WSCUC accredited colleges, such as ITT Tech, cannot transfer credits unless special exceptions are made. Most universities, including Brandman, are unwilling to do that.

There are other options for those students, however. They can return to community college and then transfer a university. They can also choose a competency-based program, such as Brandman MyPath. While their credits don’t count, what they have already learned will help them move through the competencies more quickly, reducing the time needed to complete their degrees. If they’ve earned certifications from Microsoft of CompTIA, they’ll also be able to use those to move closer to completion. And Brandman MyPath is covered by the WSCUC accreditation, just like all other Brandman programs.

Do your homework

Choosing a college is never an easy decision, especially for adults returning to school after a gap. It takes careful consideration about finances and balancing the obligations of work and life.

It also takes carefully considering the quality of the education being offered and how that education will be viewed by other institutions and employers.

If you want to learn more about what some of the accreditations mean to Brandman programs and students:

CIndy O'Dell

Cindy O'Dell is Brandman University's Communications manager. She writes, edits and photographs for the Brandman News website, which offers news and feature stories about the university. Before joining the Marketing and Communications team at the university, she had a long career in Orange County journalism. When not writing, she can be found reading, playing tennis or joining family members on long dog walks around Irvine, California.

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