l l ll l l Exploding the Myths about DETC Accreditation A Primer for Students

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1 Expoding the Myths about DETC Accreditation A Primer for Students

2 Distance Education and Training Counci Expoding the Myths about DETC Accreditation: A Primer for Students Prospective distance education students are faced with a bewidering number of choices in seecting an institution that is best suited to achieving their educationa goas. They aso face a confusing forest of institutions promotiona caims of being the best or most respected schoo. This primer is intended to hep the prospective student of an onine or distance education schoo or coege sort out the confusing caims made about accreditation and about different accrediting agencies. This guide wi hep dispe some common myths, and wi hep provide students with a basic understanding of what DETC accreditation is and how it can hep them make a good choice of where to study. In their quest for information on onine institutions, woud-be students often consut a number of sources, primariy from Web site searches. These searches may produce equay bewidering, and at times, unreiabe and inaccurate information. What is accreditation? Accreditation assures students that an institution or program has met certain academic and ethica standards of quaity. To gain wide acceptance in the United States, a accrediting associations need to be recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and/or to be recognized members of the Counci on Higher Education Accreditation. A visit to either the Department of Education or the CHEA Web site istings of nationay recognized accrediting groups, one wi see that the groups are divided according to their scope of accrediting activity, geographic region or subject areas. How can I te if an institution is accredited? Recognized accrediting organizations provide pubic ists of the institutions they accredit. For a compete ist of recognized accrediting organizations and access to their accredited institutions or programs, view the CHEA Directory of Recognized Organizations or visit the U.S. Department of Education s Office of Postsecondary Education Web site. DETC, the other nationa accrediting bodies and the six regiona accrediting associations share a common phiosophy in regard to assessing institutiona quaity and effectiveness. They espouse, generay speaking, the same bedrock principes and use argey the same kind of quaitative standards to evauate institutions and protect students. They each beieve in peer review and in the phiosophy that the two major goas of accreditation are to hep students and the pubic make informed choices, and to hep institutions improve. Whie they naturay are not a the same and do not a have the same eve of experience or expertise in evauating onine earning, they a have a goa of heping students. This guide is written to hep the prospective onine and distance student make sound choices that are we suited to their interests and needs. 2 Expoding the Myths About DETC Accreditation

3 Distance Education and Training Counci Myth 1: DETC s accreditation process is not as rigorous as regiona accreditation. The reaity is, DETC has specific, reevant, comprehensive standards and poicies crafted and perfected for more than a haf century aimed soey at the distance education enterprise. DETC evauators gain access to onine courses to vaidate that sound instructiona practice is being consistenty foowed. DETC reviews begin with submission of curricua, which is sent to mutipe reviewers. In addition to the materias, reviewers evauate onine components of the courses to ensure sound instructiona practice is being consistenty foowed. Their evauation reports become part of the on-site review team s process, which aows the team to focus on verifying the reams of data provided in an institution s Sef-Evauation Report. Whie this process compresses the institution s site visit to a few days, the overa process takes many months. DETC emphasizes the quaity of the programs and the demonstration of student earning. DETC requires of each institution annua reporting on student satisfaction rates, course competion, program graduation rates and, when reevant, third-party test pass rates as part of a metrics-based outcomes assessment process. DETC does a comprehensive review of its standards annuay, and changes are issued every year. For exampe, in the ast few years, DETC has impemented a new process for outcomes assessment, added a new readiness assessment process for appicants, and added new standards on the reputation of schoo owners, the use of accreditation from unrecognized accrediting agencies by appicant institutions, and the quaifications of facuty teaching genera education. Myth 2: Credits from DETC academic degree programs are not transferabe to traditiona coeges. In reaity, the standard principes of good practice, as pubished by CHEA and as endorsed by higher education groups ike the American Counci on Education and the American Association of Coegiate Registrars and Admissions Officers, state that acceptance of transfer credit from one institution to another is aways eft to the discretion of the receiving institution, and that transfer of credit is not guaranteed by any reputabe institution. These principes aso hod that credits shoud not be denied soey on the basis of the source of accreditation of the sending institution. When receiving institutions foow these generay accepted principes of good practice in credit transfer, the acceptance of DETC institutions academic credit is high. Some 70% of DETC graduates who attempted to transfer their credits report that they were successfu. Expoding the Myths About DETC Accreditation 3

4 Distance Education and Training Counci Myth 3: Onine programs offered by DETC institutions are of esser quaity than programs from regionay accredited institutions. When compared to regiona institutions, many DETC institutions use the same earning management patforms, the same textbooks, and have facuty with equivaent credentias. The criteria for evauating facuty are the same, and in fact some facuty at DETC institutions contemporaneousy teach at regionay accredited institutions. Some universities accredited by DETC aso hod dua accreditation with a regiona body, and over the years they have reported DETC s process was far more thorough and stringent than the regiona process in areas reated to program review, consumer protection, business standards, succession panning and distance education. DETC recognizes and appreciates the body of expertise and distinguished history of regiona accrediting associations, and as such has chosen to compare academic degree programs offered by DETC institutions to simiar degree programs offered by regionay accredited universities. Before an institution can offer a new course, DETC requires an in-depth, content-focused review by a subject speciaist aways a quaified facuty member at a regionay accredited institution (to ensure aignment with the curricuum standards at regionay accredited universities). Using a form that invoves more than 250 questions, the subject speciaist is abe to make fair and precise judgments on the comparabiity of programs to regionay accredited institutions curricua. DETC institutions report annuay on their student satisfaction rates. Some 97% of a students in a DETC institutions in the 2009 survey said Yes to the foowing survey question: Did you achieve, or wi you have achieved upon competing your studies, the goas you had when you started the course or program? Myth 4: Regiona accrediting groups have more experience in evauating distance earning than DETC, and have greater recognition from the government. DETC enjoys the same nationa recognition from the U.S. Secretary of Education and the Counci for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) as the regiona associations. The criteria for recognition are identica for DETC as for the regiona bodies. Neither the Secretary nor CHEA makes any distinction between the types of agencies being recognized. The counci s soe function is the evauation of distance education, and DETC has been perfecting its standards and procedures for evauating distance institutions for more than a haf-century. DETC has conducted more than 1,500 on site accrediting reviews to distance earning institutions during the past 55 years, incuding severa of the very argest distance institutions in the word. Regiona bodies, meanwhie, ony recenty have entered the fied of distance accreditation. 4 Expoding the Myths About DETC Accreditation

5 Distance Education and Training Counci Myth 5: Regiona accrediting groups have stronger consumer protection standards than DETC. DETC mandates a student-friendy, nationa, minimum tuition-refund poicy for its members, as a part of its extensive consumer protection standards, found within in the DETC Business Standards. Regiona bodies have no such minimum targeted for distance earning programs. To protect the taxpayer, DETC institutions eecting to participate in Tite IV Federa Student Aid programs must foow, in addition to the DETC Business Standards, a separate set of additiona standards above and beyond what the Federa reguations require (e.g., the maximum annua revenues an institution may derive from Tite IV is capped at 75% of their tota revenues, not the 90% Federa aw permits). Of any accrediting association today, DETC has some of the most precise, prescriptive and comprehensive standards addressing advertising and promotiona practices, targeted specificay toward distance earning. The DETC Business Standards address a aspects of promotiona tactics, from honesty in advertising to prescribed anguage for enroment forms and discaimers for credit transfer. Myth 6: A accrediting bodies are the same. One ony needs to do a cursory review of the Web site of each of the more than 20 recognized institutiona accrediting organizations to ascertain the wide variety of approaches, standards and practices used. The diversity of American higher education is attributabe in part to the different evauation approaches taken by each of the different accrediting associations. What sets DETC apart, and makes it unique, is the fact DETC is the soe accrediting organization staffed, organized and equipped to focus entirey on distance education as a method of teaching and earning. Distance education accreditation is not a sideine at DETC; distance education is the reason we exist. Expoding the Myths About DETC Accreditation 5

6 Distance Education and Training Counci Concusion We hope this guide has been hepfu in giving some background on what distinguishes DETC from other accrediting organizations, and why DETC accreditation is an onine student s best friend when it comes to making the right choice in where to study. So if you are trying to decide on an onine or distance schoo, be sure to consider the advantages and protection you wi get from enroing with a DETC accredited institution: DETC accredited institutions must deiver on their promises to students to maintain their accreditation. Accredited status with DETC means students, parents, and members of the pubic can trust that knowedgeabe educators and potentia empoyers have reviewed the institution to ensure its programs offer students a quaity education that wi fufi their goas. DETC has a rich and distinguished history dating back neary 85 years. It has heped countess hundreds of institutions to become better, and has aided miions of students. It has heped protect the pubic from being mised by dipoma mis. At the end of the day, what DETC is trying to do is hep peope ike you gain a good education from a reputabe distance education institution, and ensure you re treated fairy whie doing so. Distance Education and Training Counci th St. NW, Suite 2 Washington, DC Expoding the Myths About DETC Accreditation

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