What is "accreditation"?

In the U.S., the legitimacy of a school is established, in part, by a system of peer review. Legitimate accrediting agencies such as the Association for Biblical Higher Education(ABHE), Western Association of Schools and Colleges WASC, and the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC) arrange for member schools to review applicants to determine if they meet the organization’s standards. Schools that complete this rigorous review can call themselves “accredited.” Agron & Associates believes that “accreditation helps schools impart degrees that avail students of increased opportunities,” and significantly adds to a school’s reputation. Most importantly, the rigorous multi-year process makes the school more effective at reaching its own goals.

Are all accrediting bodies equally legitimate?

No. Legitimate accrediting agencies are approved by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, the U.S. Department of Education , or both. You can find lists of recognized accrediting agencies online at CHEA and U.S. Department of Education. For further detail see our article Who Tempts College Administrators with Fake Accreditation.

What accrediting bodies do you recommend?

Agron & Associates, Inc. has had excellent experience with the Association for Biblical Higher Education (ABHE) (formally the Accrediting Association of Bible Colleges). ABHE is recognized both by CHEA and by the U.S. Department of Education. Schools that are candidates for accreditation with ABHE can qualify for Title IV financial aid. If your school is not a Bible College, or if you have special needs, we may recommend a different agency.

I found an accrediting agency that promises that we can be fully accredited in 28 days. Will you help us complete their application?

Unrecognized accrediting agencies,sometimes called accreditation mills often make preposterous claims in order to get your money.  Schools are sometimes tempted to use these agencies in order to make prospective students think they are legitimately accredited. Agron & Associates, Inc. helps schools pursue accreditation with CHEA- or U.S. Department of Education-recognized agencies only. For further detail see our article Who Tempts College Administrators with Fake Accreditation.

What does it mean to be "regionally accredited"?

While many legitimate accrediting agencies are organized around an academic discipline (e.g., ABHE) or modality (e.g., DETC), some of the oldest and best U.S., accrediting agencies are organized along geographical lines. The six regional accrediting associations are listed on our Links page. Many people consider credits from regionally accredited institutions to be among the most transferable in the country.

How long does it take to achieve accreditation?

The standard ABHE timeline is eight years (i.e. four years to achieve candidate membership, and four more years to achieve full accreditation). However, most of the benefits come when your school achieves candidate status (i.e. access to Federal Student Financial Aid, increased transferability of credits). A school that is having trouble reaching candidate or accredited status can be granted one extra year at either point. Stronger schools may be able to move faster than eight years for accreditation (especially with help from Agron & Associates, Inc.).

What does accreditation cost?

This is a difficult question to answer. Annual fees to an accrediting agency depend on which agency (and may partially depend on your size). The biggest expenses are not fees to an accrediting agency, but changes you must make to earn accreditation (e.g. add an administrator, conduct an annual opinionated audit, add to your library). In order to afford these new expenses, you will benefit by hiring Agron & Associates, Inc. As part of our accrediting services, we will help you enhance your fundraising program (e.g. generate multiple streams of income, set up an annual fund, increase the number of donors to your program, identify potential major donors).

What does it mean to be "state approved"?

Most states have an agency that reviews schools before allowing them to use certain academic terms in their name such as “college” or “university.” For example, California schools apply to the Bureau for Private Postsecondary and Vocational Education, or BPPVE. If you are forming a new school, the first step may be to seek state approval. Agron & Associates, Inc. can help your school develop the documentation needed to pursue state approval.

What is a "religious exemption" and should I apply for one?

Most states that require state approval allow religious schools such as Bible Colleges to opt out of the approval process. Such schools are only required to register with the state, but need not seek approval. In general, credits from schools with a religious exemption will not be as transferable as credits from state-approved schools. The decision about whether your school should pursue state approval or only seek religious exemption is a complicated one; Agron & Associates, Inc. can help you make this decision, based on your school’s objectives and capability.

If our school becomes accredited, won't we have to conform to government rules and give up our Christian distinctives?

In a word, no. Accrediting bodies do not try to impose their values on your school (though they will hold your institution to the standards that their members have developed). However, more sympathetic peer review may occur when working with religious accrediting agencies, (e.g. ABHE, ATS, TRACS). ABHE is an association of schools that collectively and uncompromisingly share evangelical tenets of faith. ABHE is operated by its member schools, and is recognized by the U.S. government for its specialized focus on biblical higher education.

How does fundraising relate to accreditation?

Accrediting agencies are concerned about institutional stability. Therefore, they like to see multiple streams of income. A mere two or three income streams are typical for many unaccredited schools (e.g. tuition, board donations, a sponsoring church). If an important board member loses interest, or a sponsoring church splits, such a school could be in serious trouble. Thus, schools will want to develop a larger range of income sources. But, diversifying income streams can also lead to dangers.

In The dying of the light: The disengagement of colleges and universities from their Christian churches (Eerdmans, 1998), James Burtchaell traces the history of 17 colleges and universities that were founded by Christian denominations. He shows that, again and again, denominations failed to provide the necessary financial support for their schools, and the schools abandoned their Christian roots as they sought funding from a wider range of sources. Agron & Associates, Inc. is committed to helping schools develop multiple streams of income without compromising either their Christian values or their academic standards.

Our Bible institute isn't ready for accreditation. What can we do?

ABHE accreditation typically takes eight years. It’s a rigorous process of self-study and peer review. If your school isn’t ready to pursue accreditation, you may want to consider ABHE “affiliate status”. The affiliate program gives your school some advantages of affiliation with ABHE, without the rigor of accreditation. If your school is denominationally affiliated, you may also want to seek the approval of your denomination. For example, churches in the Foursquare denomination can pursue recognition as a Certified Formal Institute. Students in many such institutes have successfully transferred credits to Bible Colleges or even regionally accredited schools. Some colleges and universities will accept credits earned at Bible Institutes based on an arrangement called an “articulation agreement.” Visit LIFE Pacific College for an example of how to establish an articulation agreement with a Bible College. Agron & Associates, Inc. can help your school pursue ABHE affiliate status, denominational recognition, or articulation agreements with colleges and universities.

What sets accredited schools apart from non-accredited ones?

While accrediting bodies set their own minimum standards regarding such elements as faculty qualifications, curriculum, and library resources, the hallmark of an accredited institution is the operation of two ongoing processes:
The Institutional Research (IR) process: Your school establishes a mission statement, and develops educational program goals and objectives based on that mission. Over the course of the year, the IR process assesses these goals and objectives and determines where the school may be missing its own internally determined standards.

The planning process: Based on any shortcomings identified during the IR process, as well as any shortfalls with respect to the accrediting agency’s standards, the administration prepares a five-year plan. The first year of that plan is the most detailed and includes a budget and staffing plan.

Agron & Associates, Inc. excels at helping schools articulate their mission, goals, and objectives, as well as offering one- and two-year plans for building Institutional Research and planning into the life of the school.

What is a "self-study"?

As part of the process of pursuing accreditation, you will typically prepare three documents:
An assessment plan, showing the Institutional Research plan and results;
A compliance document, showing how your school compares to the accrediting agency’s standards; and
A planning document, containing the five-year plan.

In some ways, preparing these documents is comparable to writing a dissertation. However, broad participation across the institution is absolutely required. You will send a one to two-foot stack of papers to your accrediting agency. To validate your findings (and process), the accrediting agency will send five people on a two to three day site visit to your campus.

What is SEVIS?

Following the attack on September 11, 2001, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, now Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), developed a system for assessing a school before allowing that school to accept students from outside the U.S. The Student and Exchange Visitor System (SEVIS) is a Web-based system by which approved schools help citizens of other countries apply for a U.S. academic (F-1) visa. Agron & Associates, Inc. can help your school complete the ICE application (I-17) and issue I-20 forms through SEVIS.

We have a distance education program; can such a program be accredited?

Yes. Accrediting agencies will consider distance programs (e.g., independent study, online courses) as long as the agency’s quality standards are met. Members of the Agron team are experienced in helping schools develop a high-quality distance program.

My school isn't in California. Can Agron & Associates, Inc. help me?

Our firm is based in the San Gabriel Valley in Southern California, but we help schools throughout the U.S. via phone and the Internet. We can also arrange intensive site visits and web conferencing. See our page on Consulting Services for details on both our on-site and distance options.