Accredited vs. Unaccredited Academic Institutions: Everything You Need to Know


Every student with the goal of obtaining a degree needs to consider accreditation. Accreditation is the difference between prospective employers respecting a degree or not. Students who attend unaccredited academic institutions undermine their education and future employment opportunities. Today’s students should focus on attending academic institutions with favorable post-graduation employment options. Plenty of academic institutions that meet those guidelines are accredited. Many reputable colleges and universities in Maryland have full accreditation. The rest of the country also hosts many reputable academic institutions with accreditation. Before selecting a school, students should learn if an academic institution is accredited or not. The following information will help students learn about why employers care about accreditation, how a student can find out this information before enrolling, and what a student can do if already enrolled in an unaccredited school.

Behind Accreditation and Why It Matters

Accreditation publicly indicates that a school has met and continued to maintain a high standards as established by an accreditation agency. Accreditation agencies are responsible for assigning accreditation statuses to schools that meet their rigorous standards. These accreditation agencies have thorough processes to help them determine whether a school meets their requirements. Depending on what school they review, they look for certain academic attributes. Some accreditation agencies specifically examine certain types of schools, such as medical schools. Yet, all schools examined by accreditation agencies often meet similar overarching principles applied across many fields. A majority of accreditation agencies require schools to have a clearly defined mission that aims to educate and serve attending students, while also ensuring the school has enough resources to achieve their mission.

Schools subject to accreditation agencies also must undergo periodic external reviews, in addition to internal review programs. Some are subject to unannounced external reviews. These reviews ensure accredited schools continually meet the standards of their accreditation agency. The U.S. government is not responsible for accrediting schools. They currently do not regulate accreditation anywhere in the country. Instead, they appoint governing bodies or accreditation agencies to handle the task. The U.S. Secretary of Education maintains a database of agencies believed to be reliable authorities for accrediting schools across the country.

How to Find Out Your School’s Accreditation Status

The government provides a free database search through the Department of Education. The student need only select the state where the college is located, provide the name and address of the school, and the program will list all accreditations assigned to that school. If it shows up in the DOE database, then the student can be assured that the school is properly accredited. The database can also be used to search according to accreditation agency, in case the school has provided ‘proof’ of their accreditation.

Accredited Maryland Academic Institutions

Accredited academic institutions benefit students who are seeking degrees. A student who earns a degree from an accredited academic institution may potentially earn a job within their field of study after graduation. In fact, graduates with accredited degrees may earn more in wages, when compared to those who do not have one. Since the higher end job market does require a degree, it is important for students to know that their school has proper accreditation.

Most reputable academic institutions, including popular colleges and universities, have been accredited by federally recognized accreditation agencies. This means that students who attend these institutions will eventually earn degrees that will be acknowledged and accepted by employers. An accredited degree informs a potential employer that a student completed a degree program recognized as a reputable form of education and job training for that particular position. It also means a student does not have to worry about being passed over for certain job opportunities. Degree program credits from an accredited academic institution can be transferred to another school. Transferring credits is helpful when a student wants to change their school. Most reputable accredited academic institution will not accept credits transferred from an unaccredited institution. It is important for students to enroll at an accredited academic institution for that reason among others.

Unaccredited Maryland Academic Institutions

Unaccredited academic institutions can be dangerous for unsuspecting students, especially if they do not know the institution’s accreditation status. It can be too easy for a student to get caught up in an unaccredited academic institution. The appearances of these universities can be deceiving for many reasons. Unaccredited academic institutions do not offer any form of federal financial aid for prospective and attending students. The institution may be unable to obtain federal funding because they do not have approval from reputable accreditation agencies.

Many unaccredited academic institutions earn bad reviews from current and former students. These complaints typically detail poor educational quality, in addition to any other warning signs like high course fees. An unaccredited educational institution may award students numerous course credits, but not provide adequate coursework to warrant gaining that many credits. This is a common signal of an unaccredited institution. Some academic institutions say they are accredited by reputable organizations, but if the agency is not one recognized by the Department of Education, it is likely a scam known as an ‘accreditation mill’. An accreditation mill is an agency that poses as a reputable accreditation agency that awards accreditation to disreputable academic institutions.