| ACCREDITATION OF GRAD COLLEGES IN FLORIDA
| Accreditation is a form of independent, professional certification that focuses on schools and programs in a particular field. Accreditation of universities and colleges in each state offering grad programs therefore assures you and your parents that the school adheres to high quality standards. Which means the programs are delivered by qualified faculty and are constantly updated to follow the changes and meet the needs of the relevant industry or working world. Attending an accredited school or program is often thought to make you more competitive on the job market.
Please note that the information below is a general guide for students researching American grad schools, and is applicable to all states. For the most current and specific details, students should also refer to individual state higher education agencies, as well as individual universities and colleges offering graduate programs.
Accreditation of all higher education institutions, including graduate schools, in the US takes place at different levels. At the highest level, governmental and other agencies govern and recognize the accrediting bodies. For instance, the US Department of Education, the Council for Higher Education Association (CHEA) and the Association of Specialized and Professional Accreditors (ASPA) grant power to associations that oversee accreditation at the regional, institutional or program level. When checking on a grad school's accreditation, make sure the accrediting body is one that is approved by CHEA or ASPA.
Regional: The US Department of Education recognizes 6 distinct higher educational regions, each of which is overseen by a different accrediting body. This type of accreditation is for a university or college as a whole, not for individual grad programs. Accreditation by these regional agencies isn't automatic: this is voluntary accreditation. The regional accrediting agencies for universities and colleges in the US are:
Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Higher Education
New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Commission on Institutions of Higher Education
North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission
Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities
Institutional: Depending on the kind of grad school it is (e.g., private, public, Christian, online, etc.), it may also be accredited by institute-type specific agencies. Some examples are:
Online: Distance Education Training Council (DETC)
Private: Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS)
Christian: Transnational Association of Christian colleges and Schools (TRACS)
Specialized: Specialized accreditation focuses on specific areas of study and individual programs at different levels. This is sometimes called professional accreditation, because it means specific programs meet the national standards for that field of study. Graduate schools in each state cover a huge range of programs, and each institution usually has a page on its website listing individual program accreditation. Some examples of the many specialized accreditation for programs at the graduate level are:
Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB)
Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET)
National Council for the Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE)
American Library Association Commission on Accreditation (ALA)
Accreditation Council for Occupational Therapy Education (ACOTE)
American Psychological Association (APA)
Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)
Council on Social Work Education (CSWE)
National Association of Schools of Music (NASM)
National Association of Schools of Public Affairs and Administration (NASPAA)
When assessing quality of a graduate school or program, international students can also look at whether a school or program has any memberships in, or endorsements by, professional associations which reflect certain standards of quality, but this is not the same as official accreditation. For instance, the Council of Graduate Schools (CGS) does not accredit programs, but is a national organization committed to maintaining and promoting the quality of America's graduate education providers.
The goal of accreditation is to ensure that the education provided by graduate schools in the US meets acceptable levels of quality. Accrediting agencies have no legal control over institutions or programs; they promote certain standards and approve or renew membership of institutions that apply and meet the accreditation standards or criteria. Certain licensing programs may require that you've been through a course of study with specialized accreditation, because it ensures that you have been taught by faculty qualified to teach in that field. The US Secretary of Education and CHEA each maintain and publish a list of nationally recognized accrediting agencies, and most institutions attain eligibility for Federal funds by holding accredited or pre-accredited status with one of the recognized accrediting agencies.