GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT ACCREDITATION
Accreditation is a process that gives public recognition to institutions that meet certain standards. It is a promise that an institution will provide the quality of education it claims to offer. Accreditation assures the student that the institution operates on a sound financial basis, has an approved program of study, qualified instructors, adequate facilities and equipment, approved recruitment and admission policies, and advertises its courses truthfully.
The U.S. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION
The United States has no Federal ministry of education or other centralized authority exercising single national control over post-secondary educational institutions. The individual States assume varying degrees of control over education, but in general institutions of higher education are permitted to operate with considerable independence and autonomy. In order to ensure a basic level of quality, the practice of accreditation arose in the United States as a means of conducting non-governmental, peer evaluation of educational institutions and programs.
[Source: Nationally Recognized Accrediting Agencies and Associations: Criteria and Procedures for listing by the U.S. Secretary of Education and Current List (September 1996), Department of Education, Office of Post-secondary Education, p. 1. - Quoted from the web site of the Department of Education, where they are briefly describing this report. The Department of Education web site is located at: http://www.ed.gov]
A SOBER ANALYSIS OF ACCREDITATION
There is secular education and there is religious education. Secular schools seek secular education, whereas schools of theology, seminary schools and divinity schools receive church accreditation via their own churches or ecclesial jurisdictions.
Religious institutions are not required to obtain secular accreditation, because they do not offer academic programs and degrees. Purely academic and religious interests are different and hence engender separate realms of jurisdiction.
Secular accreditation agencies in turn are recognized by governmental accrediting agencies or agencies accredited by the Department of Education. Religious accrediting is recognized by various religions and Christian denominations which have no secular interest, since their authority is founded on spiritual grounds.
Secular academic education is not superior to church education. Both have different aims and purposes, each enjoying their own validity. It is like civil authorities should not be dictating standards of Christian education, in much the same way as a police officer would not be directing the worship of God.
Strong arguments have been made against theological education being accredited by agencies of government, because this could be perceived as contrary to the principle of Separation of Church and State, indicated by Christ himself when he said, "Render unto Caesar the things that are Caesar's, and to God the things that are God's" (Mark 12:17)
THE SPIRITUAL ASPECT OF ACCREDITATION
Over the years the word as used by those involved in higher education has acquired various interpretations, but basically it indicates that some outside body of educators have examined a school and found it to be doctrinally, academically, and financially reliable, and has certified that it meets their ethical standards. The purpose is to simply assure the public that the school is a reputable establishment.
There is no requirement for federal, state or regional accreditation of a religious institution. As a matter of separation of Church and State, civil government has no authority to regulate religious education or which certificates or religious degrees upon completion of such education may be issued. A casual survey of Church history shows that such linkage with the political and secular eventually leads to infringement upon conscience, bondage and corruption, a violation of the religious conscience and sovereignty.
DIVINITY SCHOOL ACCREDITATION
Religious Schools are church accredited and constitute a ministry for the purpose of theological/spiritual education and often the training of clergy. Prior to enrollment, students should not assume that credits will be accepted by secular and other private schools, colleges, businesses or governmental agencies. It is the responsibility of each student to check with school districts, businesses and other institutions in order to determine whether such credits will be accepted.
In order to maintain authentic and uncompromising integrity in teaching or training clergy, as guaranteed in the constitutional right of separation of Church and State, religion does not seek secular, i.e. governmental, recognition and usually rejects interference of such. The degrees earned at a religious school are not academic, such as university degrees, but church credentials that are useful in general and are usually required for ordination.
The United States Department of Education (USDE) does recognize that "a number of post-secondary educational institutions and programs that elect not to seek government accreditation ... may provide a quality post-secondary education" (see statement on the USDE website).
Religious school credits have been accepted at many traditional institutions. It remains the prerogative of admission or evaluating officials at each institution of higher learning, business and agency (on a case-by-case basis) to decide whether they will accept credits.
www.ed.gov - United States Department of Education. The mission of the U.S. Department of Education is to ensure equal access to education and to promote educational excellence for all Americans.
www.accrediting.com - International University Accrediting Association. UNESCO is The educational arm of the United Nations Department of Education
www.chea.org/international/multi-lateral.html - Council on Education Accreditation (CHEA)