Accreditation is a form of independent, professional certification that focuses on schools and programs in a particular field. Accreditation of film schools and programs therefore assures international students and their parents that the institution adheres to certain standards of quality. Which means the programs are delivered by qualified faculty and are constantly updated to follow the changes and meet the needs of the relevant industry. Attending an accredited college or program for film in the US is often thought to make you more competitive on the job market. Accreditation of the school may actually be required for you to qualify for financial aid.
Accreditation in the US takes place at different levels. The US Department of Education, the Council for Higher Education Association (CHEA) and the Association of Specialized and Professional Accreditors (ASPA) make up the highest level, since they grant power to associations that oversee accreditation at the regional, institutional or program level.
Regional: The US Department of Education recognizes 6 distinct higher educational regions, each of which is overseen by a different accrediting body. Regional accrediting bodies oversee the quality of institutions, not individual programs, and in the absence of program-specific accreditation, this is the minimum baseline of quality assurance you should look for. Note, though, that accreditation by these regional agencies isn't automatic: this is voluntary accreditation.
Institutional: Depending on the kind of institution it is (e.g., private, public, community, career, Christian, online, etc.) it may also be accredited by institute-type specific agencies. America's colleges and universities are very different in character and in the programs they offer. Therefore a school may be accredited by one or more organizations. An example of an institutional accrediting agency is The Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS).
Specialized: Specialized accreditation focuses on specific areas of study and individual programs. This is sometimes called professional accreditation, because it means specific programs meet the national standards for that field of study. The category of film covers a range of program areas, and each institution usually has a page on its website listing both institutional and individual program accreditation. There is no specialized accreditation for film schools or programs in the United States; however, some film schools may be accredited by the National Association of Schools of Art and Design (NASAD), as the accrediting association for schools offering programs in visual arts disciplines.
Licensing, Memberships and Affiliations When assessing quality, international students may also want to look at whether a college or program has any memberships in, or affiliations with, professional associations which reflect certain standards of quality, but this is not the same as official accreditation. For instance, CILECT is the association of the world's major film and television schools, and the University Film & Video Association doesn't accredit programs, but members must agree to adhere to the UFVA constitution and bylaws reflecting the association's aim of encouraging excellence in film and video education. Vocational schools (career colleges) need to be licensed by their state, for example the Michigan Department of Labor & Economic Growth.
Recognized Regional Accrediting Agencies
Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Higher Education
New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Commission on Institutions of Higher Education
North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission
Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities
Why Accreditation? The goal of accreditation is to ensure that education provided by institutions of higher education meets acceptable levels of quality. Accrediting agencies have no legal control over institutions or programs; they promote certain standards and approve or renew membership of institutions that apply and meet the accreditation standards or criteria. Certain licensing programs may require that you've been through a course of study with specialized accreditation, because it ensures that you have been taught by faculty qualified to teach in that field. The US Secretary of Education and CHEA each maintain and publish a list of nationally recognized accrediting agencies, and most institutions attain eligibility for Federal funds by holding accredited or pre-accredited status with one of the recognized accrediting agencies.
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