College Accreditation and Why You Should Give a Damn (Part II)

Previously, on Sons of Anarchy…oh wait, no. I was talking about college accreditation. Anyway, here is one of the scenarios that I see happening all the time.

Student: I want to transfer to the U of My State, but they won’t accept my credits. I paid $29,000 for a 9-month associate’s degree in business and now I want to finish my bachelor’s degree. Why won’t they take my work?

Me: Oookay. Where did you attend college for your associate’s?

Student: The Online College of Knowing Stuff. They gave me a free laptop when I signed up.

Me: Ah, I see. So, there are a few things here. First, The Online College of Knowing Stuff is considered a proprietary, or for-profit, institution. The U of My State is a nonprofit college. Often, this difference results in differences of accreditation. And unless credits are judged by the same yardstick, you can’t move them around between colleges. I’m so sorry.

Student: But the recruiter said they were accredited and that my credits would transfer!

[Break from reality for quick voice over]

AAAAAH! I tell you, if I had a dime for every time I heard this from a friend, a relative of someone I know, a student…the biggest lesson here is really ASK QUESTIONS. Lots of them. Probing questions. And if you’re paying $29,000 for a 9-month course, you’d better be damn sure you know what you’re getting out of it.

[Back to awkward conversation]

Me: I’m sure they were accredited, but did you call the U of My State to find out if they accepted credits from the Online College of Knowing Stuff?

Student: Uhh. Nope. Crap. What does this mean?

Me: Probably that you will have to start from scratch at the U of My State if you are serious about going on for a bachelor’s degree. Some of your credits might transfer as electives. If I were you, I’d meet with an academic advisor and find out.

It’s a depressing conversation in which the student feels that they:

  1. Are being jerked around by me, a know-nothing twit
  2. Have been had by the Online College of Knowing Stuff
  3. Are saddled with $29,000 worth of student loans and have to retake two years’ worth of classes
  4. Are hopelessly discouraged, and now they won’t go on to pursue any more education.

The last one is the most heartbreaking to me. Unfortunately, it is often people who are considered economically disadvantaged in the first place that run into this problem because they don’t have the resources or the family/friend knowledge of this annoying, knotty accreditation problem.

Hopefully this has been informative for you. Next time you are talking to a young person (or an older person!) looking to make a decision about pursuing higher education, see if they have considered whether or not, and how, their potential college is accredited. You might save them a lot of pain and money and discouragement in the long run.

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