The topic of accreditation is a very confusing one. The Department of Education or Education Department (ED) does not itself accredit institutions, per se. However there are approximately forty or so organizations that do that have ties to the Department. Essentially, schools which are accredited are authorized to receive Title IV funding and offer student loans. This is really a big deal. The Department of Education was created as a cabinet level position during the Carter Administration in 1979 and became operational in 1980. At that time there was a debate over the constitutionality of having a Federal platform such as this.
According to the government website, the purpose of accreditation is to:
“…ensure that education provided by institutions of higher education meets acceptable levels of quality. Accreditation in the United States involves non-governmental entities as well as governmental agencies.”
However, there are a lot of disparities within the accrediting community and the schools themselves as related below:
“Accreditation does not provide automatic acceptance by an institution of credit earned at another institution, nor does it give assurance of acceptance of graduates by employers. Acceptance of credit or graduates is always the prerogative of the receiving institution or employer. For these reasons, besides ascertaining the accredited status of a school or program, students should take additional measures to determine, prior to enrollment, whether their educational goals will be met through attendance at a particular institution. Those measures should include inquiries to institutions to which transfer might be desired or to prospective employers.”
To put things in a nutshell, if the government controls your funding, they control you. That is one of the main reasons why many religious bible colleges, online christian colleges and seminaries want no part of this process. While again, many do. Is it any wonder why the larger Christian schools are accredited? Money talks.
Now, I am not really going to bash the government or accreditation, but how do you think the educational system in America is doing? Have we made any great strides since 1980? Is the US at the top of the heap worldwide as it relates to education? I think not. Did everyone, such as myself, who earned their degree prior to 1980 receive an inferior education?
Being an accredited school is a very expensive and time consuming proposition. So expensive in fact, that tuition needs to be raised so high to pay for this luxury. Since costs get passed on to the students, in order to attend school, students MUST take on debt in the form of student loans. This is good for schools, accreditors, and lobbyists, not so good for graduates when you have to pay it back.
Having said that, let me say that I think accreditation is good, just expensive. CTS is actually an Affiliate of the Association of Biblical Higher Education (ABHE), one of the accrediting bodies. Let me make my obligatory disclaimer now:
“Colorado Theological Seminary
is an Affiliate institution of the Association for Biblical Higher Education. As such, it participates in and contributes to collegial and professional development activities of the association. Affiliate status does not, however, constitute, imply, or presume ABHE accredited status at present or in the future.”
When it comes to accreditation, this is a place where you need to examine your motives. Unless your denomination mandates that you go to an accredited school or you are planning on becoming a military chaplain (seems like everyone wants to), or you have some other compelling reason to go to an accredited school, then you may want to consider an unaccredited bible college or seminary with a good reputation and commensurate rigor to adequately prepare you for your ministry assignment.
My suggestion is not to run up a big debt if you don’t have to. I would not want you to find that the church or non-profit organization you are going to be employed by will not be able to pay a salary commensurate enough with your education expenses and other family obligations.
I hope this short treatise sheds a little more light on accreditation and how it should or should not play into your decision on where to receive your Christian education. Again, I think it is a good idea to belong to an accreditation organization where there is some conformity and educational guidance. But there are other organizational venues that can do the same thing for your seminary with way less expense.Schools with memberships or certifications with the latter organizations may very well be the real value proposition. For example, CTS is a Sustaining Member of the Florida Council of Private Colleges (FCPC). This is a great organization which has been fighting daily to keep Christian schools independent of governmental encroachment. This is the same organization that Moody Bible Institute belongs to.
With the current political administration in power, it is very likely that there will be more infringement on Christian values and educational institutions by the non-profit and education czars. So, pay close attention to the “accreditation” issue. The accrediting apparatus of the US is likely to change in some form or fashion in the near future.