When deciding which criminal justice program to attend, the accreditation issue is very important. There are certain things that you should know about accreditation.
1. What is accreditation?
Accreditation means that a school and its programs have been peer reviewed through site visits by bodies recognized and authorized by the US Department of Education to do so. It, therefore, ultimately means that degrees obtained from accredited schools are recognized across the nation and are accepted as valid by employers.
2. Who are the recognized accreditation bodies?
The US Department of Education funds eight accreditation bodies. There are six regional accreditation (RA) bodies and two spin-offs of two of the six RA bodies.
These bodies are authorized to grant accreditations to schools falling within their specified regional jurisdictions.
These bodies are:
? the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont);
? the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia);
? the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools (Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands, and Panama);
? the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, New Mexico, South Dakota, Wisconsin, West Virginia, and Wyoming);
? the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (California, Hawaii, the territories of Guam, American Samoa, Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of Palau, Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands, the Pacific Basin, and East Asia); and,
? the Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges (Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah and Washington).
The two spin-offs are:
? the Western Association’s Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities (see WICHE Best Practices), and,
? the North Central’s Higher Learning Commission (see NCA Best Practices).
If your school is accredited by one of these eight (8) groups, which receive U.S. Dept. of Education funding and operate primarily by site visit-peer review, then you need not worry — your school has the best accreditation there is.
3. Are there other accreditation bodies?
There are other accreditation bodies and many online schools proudly advertise that they are accredited by one or the other of these bodies. But these so-called accrediting bodies are themselves not accredited so that their accreditations are not worth the paper they are written on.
Out of all these other accrediting bodies there are some that are simply blacklisted and not recognized while there are others that may be accepted as valid in 30 per cent of the organizations that matter. Employers, on the other hand, are likely to reject outright degrees given by schools accredited by these other agencies.
4. Is there a list of blacklisted schools or a list of schools whose degrees are not recognized?
Yes, at present there are two such lists. One list has been prepared by the state of Michigan and another prepared by the state of Oregon. Employers use these lists to check whether a particular degree from a particular school is worthless or not.
5. Is accreditation a really important issue?
Yes! It is the most important issue when you are deciding which criminal justice school you should enroll in. If the school you enroll in is not accredited, then the degree that you earn after spending a lot of money and effort will not be worth the paper it is written on. You will be a sucker of the worst kind!