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Why accreditation matters

By Dr. Lisa Breja

Accreditation is important to educational institutions and to college students and their families. The purpose of accreditation is to ensure that an institution has met and is maintaining a high level of standards set by an accrediting agency.

While accreditation may not be at the top of the mind of students, attending an unaccredited institution may mean that you will not be eligible for federal financial aid, you will not be able to transfer credits to another school, and you will not be able to sit for professional licensure in your chosen field.

There are two basic types of accreditation: institutional and programmatic accreditation.  Iowa Valley Community College District is accredited as an institution by the Iowa Department of Education and by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC). The U.S. government does not regulate accreditation, but rather appoints other organizations to do that job. HLC is the regional accrediting agency that provides that level of accreditation for IVCCD.

Institutional accreditation involves periodic oversight, a rigorous review of how an institution meets overarching principles of accreditation, a comprehensive evaluation and site visit.

Some programs, such as those in the health occupations field, undergo additional accreditation by associated professional agencies. These professional agencies may be best able to judge a program’s educational quality and ensure the program is aligned with employment certification and licensure requirements. The Iowa Board of Nursing, Commission on Dental Accreditation, and the Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs provide specialized accreditation for IVCCD nursing, dental assisting and medical assisting programs, respectively.

College courses provided by high school and online instructors also undergo specialized accreditation to ensure that high levels of quality are maintained. These courses are reviewed regularly to ensure that content is relevant, well-designed and presented appropriately.

Creating a culture of continuous improvement of academic quality is a key part of maintaining accreditation. Monitoring student progress, making improvements to courses and programs, and striving toward academic excellence are happening on a daily basis in our colleges to ensure continued accreditation.

Dr. Lisa Breja is the Institutional Researcher and HLC Accreditation Liaison Officer for Iowa Valley Community College District.

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