Accreditation plays a pivotal role in maintaining high standards and ensuring the quality of education provided by schools. Recent legislation in Florida, requires that existing schools offering professional nursing degrees achieve accreditation within 5 years of first offering a professional nursing program. In the future, any school wishing to obtain licensure of a professional nursing, must obtain institutional accreditation before being able to obtain a license. Even if you are not a nursing school, obtaining accreditation offers many benefits, such as improved reputation, providing clear guidelines for institutional processes, and access to federal funding for students.
A school does have op
tions when selecting an institutional accreditor. However, choosing the right accrediting agency can be a daunting task. In this blog post, we'll highlight five common mistakes schools make when selecting an accrediting agency and provide guidance on how to avoid them.
Mistake 1: Neglectin
g Research and Due Diligence
One of the most significant blunders schools make is not conducting thorough research on accrediting agencies. It's crucial to gather comprehensive information about potential agencies, including their reputation, track record, and the specific criteria they use for accreditation. Schools have a variety of options, including agencies that lean more towards private, schools and those that lean more towards public institutions. Some are adapted to shorter, career training, dome specifically for distance education, and others for higher degree off
How to Avoid:
· Request references from other schools that have been accredited by the agency.
· Investigate whether the agency is recognized by reputable education authorities, especially by the Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA)
· Ensure that the
agency is in good standing with the United Stated Department of Education.
Mistake 2: Failing to Match Accreditation Goals with School Mission
Every school h
as a unique mission, vision, and educational approach. Accreditation should align with and support these principles. Choosing an agency that doesn't resonate with your school's core values can lead to a misalignment of objectives. This can lead to poor outcomes, such as not achieving initial accreditation, or causing the school to extensively re
-write internal policies and procedures to come into alignment with accreditation criteria.
How to Avoid:
· Clearly define your school's mission and educational goals. We recommend creating a 5-year strategic plan that clearly outlines your school’s growth plan, including adding new programs of locations. Evaluate if your accreditor has any limits or conditions on future expansion.
· Evaluate whether the accrediting agency's standards and expectations align with your school's philosophy.
· -Carefully review the publicly available standards of accreditation and determine how well these align with current operating processes.
Mistake 3: Ove
rlooking Flexibility and Adaptability
Selecting an accrediting agency that employs a rigid, one-size-fits-all approach can stifle innovation and hinder the growth of your educational institution. It's essential to choose an agency that recognizes and supports the diverse needs of your school.
How to Avoid:
· Inquire about t
he agency's willingness to work with schools to achieve accreditation goals. For the most part, accrediting agencies will hold to their accreditation criteria, but there may be room within the criteria for flexibility and innovation.
· Seek feedback from schools that have undergone the accreditation process with the agency.
Mistake 4: Ignoring Costs and Resources
Accreditation often in
volves financial and resource investments. Failing to consider the associated costs and whether your school has the necessary resources can lead to unnecessary stress and financial strain. Schools should consider the coat of adding additional employees to meet accreditation standards or hiring a consultant to assist them through the process.
How to Avoid:
· Develop a clear budget for the accreditation process, including any fees charged by the accrediting agency. There will certainly be several visits and documents that a school will have to produce, and each has an associated cost.
· Assess wheth
er your school has the manpower and resources required to meet the agency's accreditation standards.
· Consider the use of an educational consultant to provide some guidance along the path to accreditation.
Mistake 5: Disregarding Accreditation Renewal and Ongoing Support
Accreditation is not a one-time event but an ongoing process. Some schools overlook the importance of continuous improvement and fail to plan for accreditation renewal. A new school typical
ly is given a 2-year grant of accreditation. That means that almost immediately the school has to start preparing for the next accreditation cycle.
How to Avoid:
· Establish a system for regular self-assessment and improvement in line with accreditation standards. Each accreditor has its own improvement planning guidance, and schools should closely read these, and set up systems to obtain needed data, and take action.
· Ensure that the accrediting agency provides ongoing support and resources for schools.
Selecting the right accrediting agency is a critical decision that can significantly impact the quality and reputation of your school. By avoiding these common mistakes and conducting thorough research, schools can make informed choices that align with their mission and lead to educational excellence.
Remember, accreditation is not just a badge of honor but a commitment to continuous improvement and providing the best possible education for your students. Choose wisely!
For help with selecting an institutional or programmatic accreditor, we invite you to a complimentary discovery call to see how Cole Middleton Group can assist your school with achieving your accreditation goals..