The subject of whether accreditation matters when it comes to Christian colleges is important because it addresses the institution’s academic and public standing. It should not be confused with licensing, which establishes grounds to operate within a state and which qualifies them for approval with the Federal Government or the Department of Education. Although accreditation is a voluntary process, it carries much weight because it speaks to an institution’s level of credibility, accountability, recognition and reputation. From the employment and academic perspectives, status counts. Therefore, accreditation must not be taken lightly.
Accreditation helps to ensure that the institution upholds certain study ethics and code of conduct. This has significance to their level of operation, their program offerings and their grading system. To achieve accreditation status, colleges must pass several examinations to meet certain criteria. This process is done by a specified body to ensure delivery of high-quality education.
An institution that is not answerable to a governing body is left to take matters into their own hands. Students want the assurance of being able to present a matter to higher authority if necessary. Accreditation means that an institution must be accountable for any academic decisions they make. This accountability includes the weight carried by their credit hours. It is usually easier to transfer college credits from an accredited Christian college. No worthwhile accredited college will automatically accept credits from a non-accredited Christian college. This dilemma often forces students who desire to transfer to repeat certain courses or take additional ones.
Three types of accreditation distinguish education at the tertiary level. Regional accreditation focuses more on the academics and is non-profit. National accredited schools are also non-profit. They have no geographic limitations, and their specialty is vocational training and technical and career-oriented programs. Institutions that offer professional degrees like law seek professional or specialized accreditation. Not all accreditation bodies are the same. Since some are more recognized than others, it is important for Christian colleges to seek accreditation with one of high recognition. Like secular colleges, accredited Christian colleges also seem to be more recognized in the world of academia.
Without the accreditation process, colleges have greater latitude to confer degrees simply for the monetary benefits. However, accreditation holds them to stricter graduation criteria. In years past, Christian colleges have been less favored by employers, unless it was a religious organization to which a prospective employer made application. This stigma has changed for the better, especially if the degree is from an accredited Christian college; it has greater value when job seeking. In the employment arena, accreditation helps to distinguish authentic degrees form paper mill degrees.
Non-accreditation does not mean that a Christian college cannot deliver high-quality education. Some have opted out because they do not want to be affected by regulations that oppose their religious philosophies. However, for students to protect their investments of time, money and effort, they need to play it safe. Since earning a degree is all about securing one’s future, attending an accredited Christian college seems to be a better investment.