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Accrediting Agencies Play Important Part in U.S. Higher Education

This is the VOA Special English Education Report. And this is the fifth week of our Foreign Student Series about higher education in the United States.

Earlier, we talked about the first steps to take if you want to study in America. We also discussed the differences between a college and a university. And we looked at online education.

We said last week that students should find out if a school that interests them is accredited. But just what does that mean?

Accreditation is a process. The goal for a college or university is to show that its programs meet accepted levels of quality. The United States Department of Education does not accredit schools. But the law requires the secretary of education to publish a list of private accrediting agencies recognized as dependable.

Accrediting agencies are nonprofit organizations. They develop educational goals, then they examine schools to make sure those goals are met.

The first step in the process is for a college or university to request accreditation. Then the school does a study of itself to measure its performance against the requirements.

The accrediting agency sends a team of specialists who decide if the school meets the standards. The agency will observe an accredited college or university every few years.

Schools must be accredited in order for students to receive government financial aid. Accreditation also makes it easier for students to move credits from one school to another. And going to an accredited school can help in getting a good job later.

One accrediting agency is the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. It says the United States has more than four thousand accredited colleges and universities that award degrees. More than two thousand five hundred other accredited programs do not award degrees.

The agency's Web site lists schools and programs that are accredited by recognized organizations in the United States. And it talks about when to a suspect that a program is not really accredited. The address is c-h-e-a dot o-r-g ( Again, c-h-e-a dot org.

And that’s the VOA Special English Education Report, written by Nancy Steinbach. You can find the earlier reports in our series at voaspecialenglish dot com. Next week, learn about government rules for students who want to study in the United States. I’m Steve Ember.