Improving Education Through Accreditation

by Carmina Cianciulli, Assistant Dean for Admissions at Temple University's Tyler School of Art
Improving Education Through Accreditation

As students navigate their way through countless college catalogs and websites, they frequently run into a series of confusing abbreviations regarding accreditation. Accreditation is not only an important factor in a student's decision, but will have far-reaching consequences should a student find it necessary to transfer into another institution, or be interested in pursuing graduate study.

The accreditation process is used to bring about educational improvement, and establish and maintain high standards for education. Accreditation is based on a set of standards, rigorously and periodically reviewed. In the US, there are six regional academic accrediting associations:

Accreditation by any of these associations generally means that the coursework can be considered for transfer credit into baccalaureate programs. Transferability of credits depends on the policies of individual institutions, and the coursework requirements in particular majors. Schools that are regionally accredited by one of these associations generally recognize credits that are appropriate to the reporting institution's baccalaureate programs.

In addition to these academic accreditations, there is a special accreditation for art schools - membership in the National Association of Schools of Art and Design. NASAD was established in 1944 to "improve educational practices and maintain high professional standards in art and design education" (see http://www.arts-accredit.org/nasad/pur.html). According to the NASAD website, among their objectives are:

  • To establish reasonable standards centered on the knowledge and skills necessary to develop academic and professional competence at various program levels.
  • To foster the development of instruction of the highest quality while simultaneously encouraging varied and experimental approaches to the teaching of art and design.
  • To evaluate, through the process of accreditation, schools of art and design and programs of studio art and design instruction in terms of their quality and the results they achieve as judged by experienced examiners.
  • To assure students and parents that accredited art and design programs provide competent teachers, adequate plant and equipment, and sound curricula, and are capable of attaining their stated objectives.

A third accreditation is available through the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology (ACCSCT). Accreditation through ACCSCT is "a means of assisting private career schools and colleges to become stronger and better institutions by setting standards of educational quality. Accreditation supports the efforts of institutions to achieve maximum educational effectiveness for students, employers and the public. It also provides an assurance of quality and establishes eligibility for participation in federally funded programs" (see http://www.accsct.org/getting/get_mainframe.html). Students from ACCSCT schools should contact their school's advising or guidance office to obtain a list of colleges or graduate schools that will accept transfer credits from the host school. Many of these students will find that credits from ACCSCT schools do not readily transfer into most college and university baccalaureate programs.

Ultimately, it is the student's responsibility to research the transferability of credits from their host school to other colleges and universities. Students who wish to pursue graduate degrees must be especially concerned about understanding the accreditation of schools and colleges. Many graduate programs will only consider students with a baccalaureate degree from an academically accredited institution. Although there are some exceptions, students are encouraged to think ahead and contact graduate programs to find out about their specific program requirements.

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