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Foreign Student Series: Accreditation Explained

In part six, we discuss the quality control process used in U.S. higher education. Transcript of radio broadcast:

This is the VOA Special English Education Report.

Now, we continue our Foreign Student Series for those of you considering an American college or university.

One of the things you should make sure of is that the work you do will be recognized in your own country. Employers and schools are more likely to accept your American education if it came from an accredited program.

Accreditation is a process used for quality control. Across the United States, there are eighty accrediting agencies for higher education. These are private, nonprofit organizations. They develop educational goals, then examine schools to make sure the goals are met.

The first step is for a college or university to ask for accreditation. The school then measures its performance against the requirements.

After that, the accrediting agency sends a team of specialists to decide whether or not the school meets the standards. Accredited schools are observed every few years to see how they are doing.

Accrediting organizations must be recognized by either the federal government or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. Almost half of all the agencies are recognized by both CHEA and the United States Department of Education.

Higher education groups created CHEA in nineteen ninety-six. But students who want to receive federal student aid must attend a school accredited by a government-recognized agency.

Foreign students might wonder why they should care much about all this. After all, foreign students in most cases do not receive aid from the United States government.

But accreditation is also meant to tell employers that your studies met a set of quality standards. And accreditation can make it easier to move credits from one school to another.

Seven thousand institutions and more than nineteen thousand programs were accredited by American organizations last year. Among them were almost five hundred foreign colleges, as well as foreign campuses of American universities.

All accredited schools and programs can be found on the CHEA Web site, It also has advice about how to avoid worthless educational programs and accrediting agencies. We will talk more about that subject next week.

And that's the VOA Special English Education Report, written by Nancy Steinbach. Our Foreign Student Series is online at I'm Steve Ember.