The most frequent question we are asked about our degree program is: “Are you accredited?” In most cases the asker of this question knows very little about accreditation in the USA. For some reason it is a magic word that defines the quality of an academic program in the minds of many. In most countries, the process of educational accreditation is conducted by a government agency. The accreditation process was developed in the United States in the late 19th and early 20th century. For example on March 29 and 30, 1895, 36 school, college, and university administrators from seven Midwestern states met at Northwestern University for the purpose of organizing an association of colleges and schools in the North-Central States. The federal government began to play a limited role in higher education accreditation in 1952 with reauthorization of the GI Bill for Korean War veterans. With the creation of the U.S. Department of Education and under the terms of the Higher Education Acts of 1965, as amended, the U.S. Secretary of Education is required by law to publish a list of nationally recognized accrediting agencies for higher education. Accreditation is said to be “voluntary”, but there is really nothing voluntary about it. In order for students of an institution to receive federal loans and other benefits, and virtually all institutions participate in these programs; a school must be accredited by an agency approved by the government. The basic idea originally behind accreditation was to protect the consumer, organize schools in a geographic district. It was also to establish five criteria for accreditation: (1) mission and integrity, (2) preparing for the future, (3) student learning and effective teaching, (4) acquisition, discovery, and application of knowledge, and (5) engagement and service.
In recent years the federal government has increased its dictates to accrediting agencies to in turn dictate policies to schools, such as student learning outcomes, racial issues, participation in programs and other matters. Accrediting agencies have the power to kill a school’s programs, which in turn closes the doors of the school. They become the gatekeepers for the federal government. Whatever the federal government puts money into; sooner or later it will try to control it.
There are numerous accrediting agencies, accrediting every imaginable subject. In all cases they are an outside influence and control in a school’s program. They require large financial payments; determine the faculty’s qualifications; the administrative organization is dictated; requirements for student admission and participation in decisions, and much more.
One of the reasons for the federal government becoming more involved in higher education in America is because of the proliferation of Degree Mills. These are so-called schools, colleges, universities and seminaries that offer shortcuts to the “degree of your choice” for money and little or no study. Here are a few of the recognizable characteristics of a Degree Mill:
- It has no campus or physical facilities for delivering instructions.
- It doesn’t list faculty members and their qualifications in advertisements.
- Address is a post office box or e-mail address.
- They are registered in one state and operate out of another state.
- They offer degrees solely on the basis of life experience; no classes required.
- They require a brief paper (5 to 15) pages for a degree.
- No student ever fails or is rejected.
- You pay for a degree rather than specific course hours; hours not required.
- You may select the degree of your choice.
- Some confer counterfeit diplomas of legitimate schools.
- Claim accreditation by bogus or “in house” accrediting agency.
- Degree may be obtained in a few days after payment is received.
- Faculty degrees are from same school offering degrees for sale.
- A listing of alumni with recognizable names to entice students.
- Little or no interaction with professors or administration.
- No entrance requirements or letters of recommendation required.
- Degrees offered in esoteric and pseudoscience such as astrology, natural healing, and religious literature.
- Claims affiliation with respected schools and organizations.
- Issues fancy and ballooned transcripts and letters of recommendation.
- Located outside the United States.
- Claims exemption from accreditation because of “separation of church and state.”
These are just a few of the red flags that may signal you are dealing with a Degree Mill. The field of academic integrity is a serious one. It is tragic that higher education in America, which was begun in churches (e.g. Yale, Harvard, Princeton, etc) for the main purpose of training ministers, has evolved into a multi-headed monster. That corruption, ethical issues, and loss of purpose has created the all-powerful Department of Education and accrediting agencies. Where does this leave the church relative to her charge to train and send forth workers? Must the schools operated by churches be approved by the government and outside agencies? No! Can you imagine Jesus going to the Roman Department of Education and asking for permission to conduct a school of ministry? Can you imagine Him following the dictates of the rabbinical accrediting agencies? This doesn’t mean, however, that we must settle for mediocrity or inferior quality in ministry education. We must strive to be the best because eternity and souls are at stake. The church related schools must excel in training Kingdom servants.
Any church conducting education programs for training preachers and Christian workers; especially those offering degrees, must set and maintain the highest academic standards. In order to do this, there isn’t a need to be accredited by the government or an outside agency. The Bible contains the perfect principles for “being accredited” by God; and after all, it is His school. I have taken the liberty to suggest the following principles taken from Bible verses as accrediting guidelines for church operated schools:
- We must provide things that are honest before all men (Romans 12:17). This demands that we conduct every effort in our program in an open and ethical way. There will be no shortcuts or attempt just to get by. The highest academic and business standards are required.
- Our goal is to commit to faithful men what our approved teachers have been taught so they may be able to teach others also (2 Timothy 2:1-3). This requires sound teachers and a demanding program of study. These men must qualify according to God’s standard for faithfulness. They are practicing ministers; not theorists.
- We are committed to developing a curriculum for studying to show ourselves approved unto God (2 Timothy 2:15, kjv). This curriculum will contain courses that challenge the best in a student; not just a few papers or fill-in-the-blanks as the total requirement.
- Our goal is to be faithful stewards with all the resources God has given us; including our students (1 Corinthians 4:1, 2). We will be held accountable.
- We are committed to teaching our students the things Jesus has commanded us to teach (Matthew 28:18-20). We are His servants doing Kingdom business; we must be prepared.
- When there is a conflict we will obey God rather than man (Acts 5:29); always speaking the truth in love (Ephesians 4:15).
- We are known by our fruit (Matthew 7:16). Therefore, we must equip our students with knowledge, skills and character in order for them to glorify God in ministry by being fruitful and above reproach.
- We must provide a curriculum requiring “books and parchment” (2 Timothy 4:13). This will require reading and writing assignments; musts for learning.
- Our curriculum includes equipping students for the various works of ministry (Ephesians 4:11-16). This requires laboratory (ministry setting), textual, and field training.
- In everything we do our number one objective is to glorify God in the church (Ephesians 3:21). This can only occur with an honest curriculum delivered in a sound academic and spiritual setting. We seek the A-U-G- degree: Approved Unto God.
- The local church and mission field will be the laboratory for developing and applying ministry skills learned in our program. A student must be involved in ministry.
- All awards and degree will be EARNED through the completion of all assignments.
- Our number one objective is to prepare students for ministry. We have no desire to train students for other vocations. If churches are looking for well prepared and balanced servants, trained on a high academic level in ministry, we offer our students as a choice. They are approved by the church where they were trained and by God. There is no higher accreditation! They aren’t trained in “secular academic subjects.”
- To meet the previous five criteria (paragraph 3, page 1) for accreditation (and more) without joining or being affiliated with any government agency.
- To continually evaluate all programs in light of God’s word; the Bible is our accrediting manual. This will always demand THE BEST!
While we are not accredited by any government agency, we are authorized by State Law to grant degrees within the boundaries of theology, religion, ministry, biblical studies, etc. with the degree connotations being in harmony with these disciplines. This narrows the scope of our offerings and curriculum (i.e. degrees in Biblical Studies). This is harmony with the First Amendment of The United Sates Constitution.
I hope this brief article has shed some light on our status and philosophy relative accreditation. We have no quarrel with schools that choose to be accredited by the government and outside agencies. Ours is a work of the local church; thus, only in need of God’s approval. Therefore, we seek to be accredited by God, which should please churches and those involved in ministry education.