Unaccredited degrees matching the quality of an accredited degree

Discussion in 'Accreditation Discussions (RA, DETC, state approva' started by Pastor Lincoln, Jan 21, 2019.

  1. How do accredited schools and licensing boards examine credentials? Looking at transcripts from an unaccredited school would not be sufficient on it's own.
  2. Steve Levicoff

    Steve Levicoff Well-Known Member

    You know, I don’t even know whether Lincoln is your first name or last name (or if it is your name at all), so I’ll proceed as if it’s your first name since I don’t like to use titles (for anyone, including myself). So, Linc…

    Grab a cup of coffee (any Mormons reading can grab a cup of decaf) and kick back for a reality check. I’ll even make it a cordial reality check, since I think your heart is in the right place.

    First, it’s too early for you to worry about accredited schools accepting unaccredited credentials. You had admitted that you have no college credits but have taken courses from the Christian Leadership Institute (an interesting choice for a practicing Pagan). What we do not know and cannot discern is which Christian Leadership Institute you have taken these courses through. There are at least six CLI’s that come up on a basic Google search, located in as wide a range from California to Colorado to Maryland. There are additional CLI’s that are listed as part of other parent organizations. We may be able to provide additional, more constructive feedback if you provide your CLI’s web site, or at least the city and state in which they’re based.

    Next, how are the courses you have taken been marketed? Does your CLI purport that they are college-level courses or continuing education/personal interest courses? If the latter, they will not transfer as college level. If they are purported to be college courses, an accredited school would likely look at the credentials of the person who taught the course and might want to see a syllabus for the course.

    (A syllabus is essentially an enhanced course description and outline, and is generally written for all major colleges and universities. It can become part of the accreditation review process. For an example of a syllabus, here’s one I wrote over 25 years ago in my early days of teaching: https://repository.library.georgetown.edu/bitstream/handle/10822/556495/se0298.pdf?sequence=1. Yeah, I know it’s old, but since the friendly folks at Georgetown were kind enough to include it in their database, it’s an easy one to cite.)

    As a general rule, however,, both accredited schools and licensing boards require that your credentials come from an accredited school. Most of the time, that means regionally accredited, not a national accreditor such as DEAC. (Yes, campers, of course there are exceptions, but I’m citing a general rule here. So lighten up.) In counseling, some states will allow you to hasten the process of board certification if your graduate program is accredited by CACREP (see note below).

    Now, about your game plan . . . I encourage you to look around a bit more before you commit to doing an undergrad degree at Capella. First, there are many cheaper and faster options out there. Second, Capella is a for-profit, and I’m already known for considering for-profit schools to be satanically evil. Are they credible? Well, they have a credible accreditation. But you can still do a lot better (and much cheaper) at any number of non-profit colleges with regional accreditation.

    Assuming your CLI courses do not transfer to a degree program (and I doubt that they will), that means you’ve got to pull off at least 120 semester hour credits to earn a bachelor’s degree. And it doesn’t matter where you do that, as long as the degree is legitimately accredited. In other words, even if you decide to eventually enroll in a master’s in counseling program at Capella, they will accept you regardless of whether you earner your bachelor’s there. (Remember, they’re a for-profit, and most of them will accept anyone who walks in the door with cash to spend.) And by the time you’re ready to enroll in a master’s program, I think you’ll find a lot more options out there and will decide to go for something other than Capella.

    If you are looking at mental health counseling, remember that all states now have some form of counselor licensure, ranging from voluntary title acts (anyone can counsel for a fee, but must be licensed to use the term or abbreviation LPC), to mandatory practice acts (only those who are licensed can counsel for a fee).

    By the way, as a side note, Capella was the first online school to become accredited by CACREP, the accreditor for graduate-level counseling programs. CACREP accreditation makes it easier to sit for the counseling board exams leading to licensure in many states. I have to admit that I was impressed when Capella pulled that one off in the early days. For the uninitiated, if memory serves me, the acronym stands for Council for the Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs. They are (or at least were, in my teaching days) affiliated with the American Counseling Association and with NBCC (the National Board for Certified Counselors), whose certification exam is used for licensure by many states.

    Okay, now breathe . . . With all the choices that are available, you will naturally go through a phenomenon known as “information overload” – in other words, too many choices. But the only choice you have to make right now is how to pull off a bachelor’s degree, which in itself will likely take a year or two. (There are faster ways of doing it, but you’ve really got to know the system to pull that off. And, nothing personal, you don’t know the system that well at this point. So keep learning, make careful choices, and you will ultimately succeed.)
    Phdtobe likes this.
  3. sanantone

    sanantone Well-Known Member

    Licensing boards are inflexible when it comes to accreditation; the requirements are usually law passed by the legislature or standards voted upon by board members.

    A lot of colleges and universities are inflexible when it comes to accreditation. I would even bet that most are inflexible when it comes unaccredited schools. The only exception I've seen is when a new, unaccredited, public college is waiting for accreditation and other public colleges in the state agree to accept their credits. I've come across at least one community college district that recommends prior learning assessments (PLAs) for courses taken at unaccredited schools. Accreditation can be verified through CHEA, the Department of Education, or the websites of programmatic accrediting bodies.
    Pastor Lincoln likes this.
  4. I know that when Bob Jones University and Pensacola Christian College were unaccredited, their nursing graduates got licensed.
  5. sanantone

    sanantone Well-Known Member

    That's probably because the licensing board didn't require accreditation or considered schools that were applying for accreditation. In Texas, the Board of Nursing approves nursing programs, and the Texas Workforce Commission licenses career schools that operate within Texas. TWC pretty much does what an accreditor does to make sure that schools adhere to standards. California also has some licenses that only require that the school be state-approved. But, just about every other Texas license that requires a degree requires that the degree come from an accredited school.
    Pastor Lincoln likes this.
  6. Garp

    Garp Active Member

    Bob Jones U and Pensacola Christian College were anomalies in regards to licensure. Good quality education though not accredited (at the time). Notice they both are now.

    Then there legions of unacredited schools issuing substandard credentials with no oversight out of small churches and basements.

    Even brick and mortar unaccredited schools like Louisiana Baptist University are finding doors closing to their graduates. For example, I understand that Liberty U and Luther Rice no longer take their credits or degrees.

    No one has to take credits much less from unaccredited schools. When it happens it is case by case. I would submit to you that times are changing and there are reasons that BJU and PCC became accredited.
    Pastor Lincoln likes this.
  7. cookderosa

    cookderosa Resident Chef

    I submit that they wouldn't even bother looking at a transcript.
    You'll find this in many fields, especially the one I'm most familiar with (nutrition) but it's a non-starter. If you want license X, you must comply with the requirements. Separately and apart, you may want to become a change advocate for such things (nutrition is full of non-RDs hoping to get their hands on a license to practice nutrition by challenging the existing requirements or advocating for a change of requirements) but in the meantime, it's very black and white.
    Pastor Lincoln likes this.
  8. Louisiana Baptist University might want to raise it's standards, even the California Graduate School of Theology gained accreditation recently.
  9. Steve Levicoff

    Steve Levicoff Well-Known Member

    Unlikely to happen - Louisiana Baptist (which I have considered a degree mill for many years) is way too homegrown. That is, way too many of their faculty have one or more (or even all) of their own credentials from LBU. You can get away with that if you're a Harvard or Yale, but not an unaccredited mickey-mouse school in Louisiana, which has traditionally been notorious for religious degree mills.
    Yes, in South Carolina and Florida, as well as a few other states. But I've known many BJU nursing grads over the years who were unable to get licensed.
    Well, duhhhh . . . But I jest. I don't think that times have changed as much as those schools have changed. Specifically, they finally admitted that accreditation was not an enemy. In BJU's case, that determination extended to SACS. In PCC's case, they're satisfied with TRACS. In both cases came the realization that a DOE-approved accreditor was not necessarily out to get them. And, regardless of whether a school finally accepted a relationship with SACS and/or TRACS, the reality was that it opened their student body to federal funding. The way tuitions have grown far faster than the general rate of inflation, it boils down to the schools' survival.

    Also consider BJU's sordid history when it came to race relations - they barred black students until the early 1980's, and it cost them their tax exemption in a famous 1983 Supreme Court case. If they still discriminated, they never would have gotten regional accreditation. It was a radical change in their behavior that finally warmed both SACS and TRACS up to them.

    Will PCC follow and pursue regional accreditation? Unknown, but the precedent set by BJU could influence them. At this point, PCC and BJU are all that are left as the Big 2. (The Fundies once had a Big 3, just like we have in distance ed. The third school was Tennessee Temple University, which closed a few years ago, leaving us now with the Big 2.)
  10. At the rate LBU is going, their degrees will only be good for small churches and ministries in said churches. I agree that LBU is substandard though higher quality than Patriot Bible "University".
  11. heirophant

    heirophant Well-Known Member

    Licensing boards are usually governed by state law, which specifies the educational requirements necessary for licensing. That often involves possession of degrees with particular accreditations. Since they are governed by legislative acts, they don't usually have a lot of wiggle-room. In addition to suitably accredited degrees, there may be additional requirements such as particular coursework, so many hours of supervised practicums and so on.

    Admissions applications to graduate school will go through the admissions office, then on to the graduate department. The former screens them for basic institutional admissions requirements, which will often demand possession of an accredited degree. The latter decides which of the already-screened applicants will be a good fit for their department.

    Applications for academic employment are a little different. Accreditation may or may not be an important factor. In many cases, those doing the hiring won't pay much attention to accreditation, but will concentrate on the research reputation of the department that awarded the applicant's doctorate. Not just the awarding department's research reputation, but its research reputation in the specialty that's being sought. Plus recommendations, publications and all that.

    I remember arguing with Degreeinfo about this in the past. Many were insisting that it's impossible to get academic employment without an RA doctorate. And I posted a long list of individuals with PhDs from Rockefeller University who were teaching in high-prestige departments without an RA degree. (Rockefeller is NY Regents accredited.) Maybe all the Nobel Prizes help.

    Actually several of the NY Regents schools are in this category, awarding very competitive PhDs. Cold Spring Harbor Laboratory is legendary among molecular biologists and has produced multiple Nobels. The American Museum of Natural History has its own in-house PhD programs. It's famous in areas like paleontology. Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Institute awards its own PhDs. None of these degrees are succeeding either because of or in spite of their NY state accreditation. They succeed because of the reputation of the awarding institutions. The accreditation just makes their students eligible for federal loans.

    The thing is, this particular pathway isn't going to be available to graduates of non-accredited DL doctoral programs. Or most of the accredited ones for that matter. No research reputation and no Nobel prizes.

    The non-accredited religious schools that you post about certainly aren't going to meet that criterion, unless they raise their game tremendously beyond where it is now.
    Last edited: Jan 22, 2019
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  12. Maybe if Louisiana Baptist University raised their standards that could achieve TRACS accreditation, they might fair much better in the academic world. If LBU does not then their degrees would only be useful for church settings or ordination as a Pastor. (Needed to fix a typo)
  13. heirophant

    heirophant Well-Known Member

    Their credits might transfer to whatever schools accept TRACS credits. (Probably mostly other TRACS schools). It might make their graduates more employable at TRACS schools and some of the many little unaccredited seminaries.

    I've posted before about a currently non-accredited religious school that I personally like, that's impeccably credible and is doing everything right. (It's currently an RA candidate with WASC. Their biggest accreditation hurdle isn't their sterling academics but their small size.)

    I have no hesitation at all in saying that degrees from this school match the quality of accredited degrees and I would have no hesitation about putting one of their degrees on a cv.

  14. Neuhaus

    Neuhaus Well-Known Member

    I will note that there have historically been some exceptions to the "unaccredited schools are crap to licensing boards" and that exception comes in the form of state approval.

    Say you open a school in NYS and get approval to offer an MSW from the board of regents. Then you get approval from the Department of Education for that degree to actually be licensure qualifying within the state. In theory, you have an unaccredited degree program that would qualify you to become an LCSW in NYS.

    In reality, that would most likely only fly for not having programmatic accreditation. The Board of Regents is a stickler. No fly by night schools offering advanced degrees here. Whether you were granted approval by some RA body or by the Board of Regents itself, they would likely insist that your school be actively pursuing accreditation. However, with that aside, it would still be possible to have an MSW that wasn't programmatically accredited and thus of almost no licensing utility outside of the state.

    Oregon at least used to publish a list of unaccredited schools that were not only legal for "use" in Oregon but also qualified graduates to sit for certain licensing exams. CA had something similar before they decided to go the way of (forgive me, Levicoff) RA, NA or the Highway.

    So there are some very specific situations where it could happen. But, generally speaking, you cannot get an unaccredited degree and then attempt to get a license through a reputable licensing board. It won't be considered unless that school already did the leg work to show that state and that licensing board that they are the exception to the rule. For you, as the student, there is nothing to do.

    Which is why people skirt licensing laws! My wife spent tens of thousands of dollars to work around NYS's ridiculous licensing law that basically stated that none of her experience outside of the state was worth a damn. (The story, for those who may not recall, is that she was required to work for X number of years under a therapist with her out of state experience not qualifying. So she started an LLC and paid a licensed therapist to serve as a consultant to the LLC for the purpose of supervising her). Many more just hang out a shingle as a "Pastoral Counselor" or a "Life Coach" and do the same job with no oversight.

    Not far from my office is a woman who is a minister (I think actually some mainstream denomination) and who maintains a private pastoral counseling practice with her absolutely non-licensure qualifying PhD from UIU. A classmate of my wife's from grad school got tired of the licensing slog and set up as a psychoanalyst in a state that doesn't regulate psychoanalysis.

    I offer this only to point out that licensing isn't nearly as tight as people would often assume. While hardly the wild west (though mental health licensing seems that way sometimes) there are plenty of gaps between the laws that allow Naprapaths, Naturopaths, Homeopaths, Pastoral Counselors, Psychic Healers and every other sort to operate without ever hanging a state license on their wall. I'm not saying that's a GOOD thing but it is a thing.
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