Sunday, March 18, 2007

Nationals' Transfer of Credit Problem

National accreditation is conferred on vocational, "career" and technical schools. Most of them are for-profits. Even if the offer degrees they are still, well, vocational, "career" and technical schools, let's say VCTs. They are over 50 national accrediting agencies which accredit such varied schools as landscape design, denture making, medical assistant and so on. Some of these agencies also accredit supposed academic schools, such as well Crown College. However, generally regionally accredited schools will not accept credits from nationally accredited schools. Here is an article that does a good job of summarizing regional vs. National Accreditation which is taken from the Education USA website.

You should also be aware that many U.S. institutions that hold regional accreditation do not recognize credits or degrees earned at other U.S. institutions that are nationally accredited. This will be important to you if you decide to transfer from one U.S. institution to another part way through a degree program, or if you plan to pursue degrees at different U.S. institutions; for example, a bachelor’s degree from one school and a master’s degree from another.

Another article on accreditation from

Issues to Consider

When deciding which type of accreditation is right for you, there are several issues you may wish to consider.

The main issue is the transferability of credits from one institution to another. While nationally accredited institutions will usually accept credit from regionally or nationally accredited institutions, regionally accredited schools often do not accept credit from nationally accredited institutions.

This also means that if you hold an Associate's degree from a nationally accredited school, you may have to start over if you later decide to pursue a Bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited school. Similarly, if you hold a nationally accredited Bachelor's degree, you may not be eligible to enter a Master's program at some regionally accredited institutions. Considering that state colleges and universities are regionally accredited, and are an inexpensive local option for many students, this is definitely something to keep in mind.

Many regionals refuse to accept nationals' credits for transfer is because they claim they are inferior and they are. Regional accreditation is much more academically oriented and stringent. Nationals' accrediting standards are not as strict and they are more oriented to preparing people for careers or vocations, not providing a "well rounded education." Of course, nationals say that is not true and the fact that their accreditors are recognized by the Department of Education shows they are the equivalent. The Department of Education does not run any schools or even accrediting agencies! It simply decides what minimum requirements an accrediting agency must meet. Now of course national accredited schools will make a lot of supercilious arguments since they have a conflict of interest! It has something to do with .... the bottom line and it is hurt by the fact that the education is perceived as inferior when their credits don't transfer AND less students are going to be inclined to attend their schools if they can't transfer. Look at Crown College, when they were ordered to distribute a paper to each of their students explaining that their credits don't transfer, they just ignored it. It was better to risk the court's wrath that potentially lose students.

Saturday, March 17, 2007

National's Legislative End Run Around Reality

As I have pointed out earlier, nationally accredited schools ("nationals") credits generally do not transfer to regionally accredited schools ("regionals") while regionals' credits almost always do. According to the ACCSCT only 18% of nationals' credits were accepted by regionals. Why is this, because regionals have much more rigorous accrediting standards than nationals do, and there are only six regional accreditors while there are numerous national accreditors. Regionally accreditors almost exclusively accredit academic oriented institutions. National accreditors accredit schools which teach denture making, landscape design, cosmetic and beauty, massage, acupuncture, schools just to name a few. So, nationals are generally offering, well selling, an academically inferior product. This has historically left them feeling, well a little bereft and more importantly, costs them money and affects their bottom line, and remember, most of them are for profit, bottom lines are important. Now, in a free market one would expect them to improve their product, i.e., apply for regional accreditation, nothing is stopping them, well outside of the that fact that would have to spend more money on faculty and facilities, thereby cutting into their ... bottom line. There goes that bottom line thing again. However, there is another way! Lobby! Have the federal government, more or less declare them to be equal. Think presidential signing statement. It's amusing how capitalists who love the free market versus regulation, can fall out of love with the free market very quickly when it fails to accomplish their goals. Fickle, huh. Profit can be. Imagine, the government telling one car dealership that they have to accept another dealer's cars for trade in without any discount. Rather anti-free market I should think. Well that is what the nationals are doing. Now of course they will tell you that they are being discriminated against. What they are doing is tantamount to:

That's like say I'm selling GEO's and my customers are upset because they cannot trade their GEOs in for BMWS. Now I could retool my factories to make GEOs, of course it would mean that I would have to spend a great deal of money and abandon my business model which is, hmmmm, well to make GEOs because they are cheaper to make oooorrrrrrrrrr I could just lobby the federal government to prohibit BMV dealers from not accepting my GEOs in trade for BMVs just because they are GEOs. In other words, they would have to evaluate each GEO, to make sure it is indeed inferior to a BMV. The basis and rationale for my request would be the proposition that since both GEOs and BMVs are cars, there is no reason for GEOs to be "discriminated" against by being valued less than BMV. Amusing, huh?

Yes, for some time now, for-profit colleges have been lobbying a friendly congress (well until 2006 at least) and administration to amend the Higher Education Act or promulgate regulations in order to stop the haughty regionals from rejecting credits from the nationals solely because they are, well, nationals. At this point I will cite the Association of Collegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers most cogent argument explaining why here. If you can take the time you will have received a encapsulated argument against the nationals attempts to rewrite federal law in their favor. Caril Lynn Hennessy also makes a good argument against this legislative end run. Understanding all of this might take a little bit of history.

Coming back to the nationals big argument is that the Department of Education does not distinguish between national and regional accreditation when it comes to eligibility for federal educational grants and loans, the currency of higher education and of course what allows for profit education -- these students don't pay for the education, at least not initially, we the tax payer does --- hmmm, I sense another blog post. So if the Department of Education makes no distinction why should the accreditors? Hmmm, in other words a GEO and a BMV are both cars as far as the government is concerned so why should one be valued over the other . . . other than, well one is better than the other one.

Conflict of Interest in For-Profit Education - Part 1

Is a quality education akin to any other commodity? To some extent one could make that argument. When you have persons making a profit off of providing you with an education several problems are created. The biggest one is the conflict of interest that is created. You are interested in getting a good education, the for-profit educators are interested in ... well making a profit. Now those who have an unflinching love affair with capitalism will tell you this is a good thing, that free markets are better for everything, that somehow they are like fires that burn out impurities. That the best way to succeed is to make a better product. Actually, that's not quite true as we have seen repeatedly. One can succeed by foisting an inferior product on the unsuspecting or unsophisticated public and that's what a lot of for-profit schools do. Certainly Crown College has did just that and succeeded rather well!

Thursday, March 15, 2007

National vs. Regional Accreditation

Hey, you probably thought that accreditation was accreditation, right? Wrong! That's the way some of these nationally accredited schools trick you.

There is regional and national accreditation. Regional accreditation has been around for awhile and the vast majority of these schools are non-profits and academic. National accreditation is a somewhat recent phenomena and grew out of a desire for for-profit schools to gain more legitimacy. The vast majority of nationally accredited schools are vocational or technical in nature.

If you want to go to an truly academic school you go to a regionally accredited school. Every public university is regionally accredited. Every private university of any merit is regionally accredited. We are talking about University of Washington, Washington State University, Stanford University, the University of California school system, New York University. These are "real" schools and they are accredited by six regionally accrediting agencies. And generally they accept each other's credits which is the most important aspect of things.

National accreditation is conferred on vocational schools, even if they offer degrees. They are over 50 national accrediting agencies which accredit such varied schools as landscape design, denture making, medical assistant and so on. Some of these agencies also accredit academic schools, such as well Crown College. However, generally regionally accredited schools will not accept credits from nationally accredited schools.

Regional accreditation is far better than national accreditation, especially where its most important and that is the transfer of credits. I personally think its a a no-brainer but you have many institutions which are nationally accredited which want you to think that there is no difference between the two. Of course, they have a conflict of interest!