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Intro to Graduate School Accreditation
By Christina Couch
College accreditation - graduate school accreditation.  Find out who accredits, and why college accreditation is so important to your future.Before you send in your application, make sure that your graduate school is receiving grades on par with your own. That means checking to make sure your next institution of higher education is accredited by a legitimate accrediting agency before you enroll. Operating like a pass/fail grading system for colleges and universities, accreditation is an independent body’s stamp of approval, ensuring that you will receive a high-quality graduate education, that your education will be recognized by employers, and that you will be eligible for federal financial aid as well as for private educational loans. Here’s the skinny on how accreditation works and how you can get the low down on your school.

Who Accredits?

Several hundred private organizations across the country accredit higher education institutions—some legitimate, some bogus.

The most widely accepted accrediting agencies are the six regional accrediting bodies in the United States: the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, the North Central Association of Schools and Colleges, the Middle States Association of Schools and Colleges, the Southern Association of Schools and Colleges, the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, and the Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges. Working in tandem with one another, these bodies are recognized by both the Council for Higher Education Accreditation as well as the U.S. Department of Education.

Students taking online or distance learning classes will also want to make sure that their institution is accredited by the Distance Education Training Council (DETC). While the DETC does not use the same evaluation criteria as regional accreditation agencies and does not ensure that students from all DETC accredited schools will receive the same access to federal financial aid as their regionally accredited counterparts, a stamp of approval from this organization will ensure that your distance learning courses will meet a high standard.

To Find Out More

Check out your graduate school’s accreditation status by logging on to the Council for Higher Education Accreditation’s online accreditation database at www.chea.org.

Christina Couch is a freelance writer based in Richmond, Virginia, and Paris, France. Her writing credentials include MSN/Encarta Online, CollegeBound Teen, and Studentscoop.com.

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