The Great Books Program (for grades 9th and up), consisting of 8 courses (8 semesters/4 years) has been recognized by the prestigious American Council on Education as a college-level program. All Great Books Program are recommended for college credit by the American Council for Education (ACE CREDIT) and by numerous colleges and universities. The American Council on Education is the major coordinating body for all the nation’s higher education institutions. To our knowledge, no other homeschool program has received such recognition. The ACE CREDIT College and University Network The numerous colleges and universities listed on the linked page (below), are those which actively support and connect the ACE credit recommendations by helping students use them in certificate or degree programs.The Joint Statement on the Transfer and Award of Credit by the American Association of Collegiate Registrars and admissions Officers, the American Council on Education, and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.
1. What is accreditation? Few can agree on one meaning – hence the plethora of accrediting bodies and standards. The dictionary defines it as: “The granting of approval to an institution of learning by an official review board after the school has met specific requirements.” In the United States, accreditation is an entirely voluntary process, done by private, nongovernmental agencies, so the term official becomes problematic at the outset. As a result of this lack of central control or authority, there have evolved good accrediting agencies and bad ones, recognized ones and unrecognized ones. One accrediting organization is not legally designated as being superior over another. Consequently, the acceptance of diplomas, transcripts, and transfer credits for students who are home schooled or enrolled in a particular program are according to the requirements of the receiving institution.
2. What does accreditation have to do with education and learning? Nothing directly. Accreditation has to do with which school one attends, not with the student or what the individual student has learned. Ironically, some of the worst public schools and private schools are accredited, as are some of the worst colleges. Some of the finest are not – finding insufficient reason to seek accreditation. Their good reputations precede them.
3. What then, is the purpose of accreditation? Accreditation has one main function: to weed out “diploma mills” and other assorted educational scams – that is, most accrediting bodies have it as one of their stated purposes to “assure quality education,” in some manner, and to try to give parents, students, other schools or the government some assurance the educational institution being reviewed is legitimate and meets some, usually minimal, standards. How that is done or attempted widely varies, as do the standards used and the quality of the private accrediting bodies themselves. Parents and students sometimes use accreditation as one means of determining if they wish to attend a certain school or educational program about which they know little. Schools and colleges sometimes consider accreditation as a factor in accepting transfer of credits earned at other colleges and universities. The US Department of Education considers accreditation as one factor in allowing Pell Grants and other forms of student loans to be used at colleges or universities.
4. What usefulness does accreditation have for an elementary or high school level homeschool program? The answer to this question, in our opinion, ranges from nothing to practically nothing. When accreditation is sought below the college level, the primary reason is, generally, simply to provide parents with some comfort level that the program is legitimate (i.e., of at least some minimal quality) – not a scam of some sort. Some parents consider accreditation important due to confusion and misinformation about accreditation at the elementary and secondary level of education, which we hope these FAQs will help dispel. Predictably, some schools that do seek and obtain accreditation at the elementary or secondary level tend to tout that fact for marketing purposes by exaggerating its utility at that level. To be fair, some schools, and even some accrediting bodies, quite accurately state that the utility of accreditation at the elementary/high school level is simply a comfort factor for parents – assurance by a 3rd party the program or school is neither a scam nor a diploma mill, and meets some minimal standards. If a parent or student has a real concern whether the homeschool program they are considering is legitimate or merely a diploma mill or scam, they really need to investigate the program more (such as read up on it on its website, talk to others using the program, etc.). There are no federally recognized accreditation associations specifically for elementary and secondary schools (that includes the six regional accrediting associations, which are so recognized at the college level only). Good accrediting bodies (i.e., those making a serious attempt to determine which schools or programs they review are good or bad[as in diploma mills] at the elementary and secondary (high school) levels, each set their own standards and criteria for making their judgments, and are not governmentally recognized at that level. Here are the criteria often examined by accrediting bodies (note that, having been designed for physical colleges, very little of it has much to do with evaluating homeschool education programs): 1. Curricula 2. Faculty 3. Facilities, equipment, and supplies 4. Fiscal and administrative capacity 5. Student support services 6. Program length, tuition, and fees in relation to academic objectives 7. Program length, tuition, and fees in relation to credit received 8. Student achievement (job placement, state licensing exams, etc.) 9. Student loan repayments 10. Student complaints received by or available to the accreditor 11. Compliance with student aid rules and regulations including recruiting, admissions practices, calendars, catalogues and other publications, grading practices, advertising and publicity, and so on.
5. Is the Academy’s homeschool program accredited? Yes. However, there is a common misconception that homeschoolers are actually attending a “school.” By definition, that is not the case. Homeschooling (perhaps an unfortunate label to define what is better described as home education) does not involve attending a school – in fact, that is precisely why most parents opt for it. At most, besides providing their particular curriculum for use at home, homeschool programs offer some educational counseling, minimal tutoring, and grading. Homeschooled students attend to home, not to a school (except as a legal fiction in some states in so-called umbrella charters) which “independent study” students join to receive state aid. As private homeschoolers, the parents are the ones who ultimately provide “accreditation” for their child’s education. That is to say, the quality of home education depends, and is assured, not by some 3rd party or accrediting body, but by the parents. It cannot be otherwise and still be homeschooling. Homeschooling is legal in all 50 states (subject to various requirements in many of them). It is scarcely credible that a parent would conduct a scam in the education of their own children. By its very nature, home education should be independent of the kind of oversight by the state necessary for them to verify that your child has completed whatever standards you choose to use. There are a few private accrediting bodies set up to review independent elementary and high schools, which review homeschool programs.
6. What about your online classes? Our online discussion classes are part of a distance education program conducted, not by parents, but by moderators. Our homepage, our high school Great Books Program and Theology Online courses have been recommended for college credit by the American Council on Education. Unlike accreditation at the high school level, college credit recommendation is meaningful for students moving on to one of the many colleges and universities which accept ACE recommended credits.
7. Does accreditation of a secondary (high) school level homeschool program make courses taken from them eligible for college credit? No. To our knowledge, only ACE (American Council on Education) or AP (Advanced Placement) recommended courses would ordinarily be considered by a significant number of colleges and universities for college credit. Accreditation of an elementary or secondary level homeschool program has nothing to do with college credit. Obtaining accreditation from one of the private elementary or secondary accrediting bodies would not result in any college credit.
8. What about transferring into a public or private high school after homeschooling for a number of years? Does accreditation or lack of accreditation affect that case? We have had one student (we know of) several years ago decide to return to public high school. In that case, the principal of the school took the position the school would do their own evaluation of the educational level of the student. Using an unaccredited homeschool program or one accredited by some body or other could, and probably would, have resulted in precisely the same reaction – homeschoolers are not appreciated by most school officials as they lose significant revenue for each student taken from the school system. One can therefore expect occasional, punitive reactions from some principals, using various excuses to justify such, but not from most, and that is increasingly rare. However, that is not altogether unreasonable. If a student or parents decide to get back into the educational establishment at the elementary or high school level, then they will have to play by the rules of that school. It is within the competence of the school systems to determine where they wish to place students in their systems, and whether or not to accept transcripts, or require new testing such as placement tests or SATs etc. In the US the county superintendent, or another school district official, is usually responsible for approving what will be accepted at local schools, where such approval is needed, whether accredited or not.
9. Is it necessary to have attended an accredited high school (or high school level program) to apply to or attend a college or university? No. The great majority of students are accepted into colleges based on an evaluation of their application (the student essay has recently taken on significant screening importance), the results of their Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) or American College Testing (ACT) scores and their high school level Grade Point Average (GPA). The high school’s accreditation or non-accreditation status is not a factor in the evaluation of a high schoolers eligibility for college admission, except perhaps in the increasingly rare case. A school’s accredited status from any accrediting organization does not provide a legal guarantee that a student will be accepted in any private or public transfer institution. A student may petition for admission to any public education entity and request to be accepted based on any of his transcripts, course descriptions, attendance records, diploma, standardized test results, and any other documentation. The student may also request to subject himself to standardized academic tests to confirm his mastery of the subject area(s) that he claims to have mastered, at the grade/education level or competency he claims to have achieved. Perhaps 20-25 years ago, some colleges and universities did consider the accreditation status of the applicant’s high school. But few now. Why not? The answer may be summed up in one word: homeschooling. Because of the growing number of homeschooled students that are applying for college admission, as well as the fact that the best colleges and universities across the country are actively recruiting homeschooled students, the accreditation issue is moot in the college admission process (there may be and probably are a few remaining exceptions to this). The ever-increasing numbers of homeschooled students (estimated at over two million now) and the demonstrated quality of their education documented in the eloquence of their application essay, their stellar achievements in a wide variety of extracurricular activities, and in their outstanding SAT and ACT scores and GPAs have required nearly all colleges and universities to eliminate school accreditation as a criteria in their admission policies. Keep in mind, virtually all public schools are accredited or certified by one entity or another – and colleges well know such accreditation guarantees absolutely nothing.
10. Does accreditation of a college or university have any more importance than it has for elementary or high schools or homeschool programs? Yes. Accreditation of colleges and universities (rather than of elementary and high schools and homeschool programs, which we have discussed above), has some important, though indirect, benefits: 1. The US Department of Education will not approve student loans to attend most non-accredited colleges and universities. So if one is anticipating applying for a student loan, one probably ought to select an accredited college or university. Here again, even the accrediting body may be bogus, so one has to make sure the accreditation is accepted by the US Department of Education (such as by one of the six regional college accrediting bodies or the American Academy of Liberal Education). 2. Foundations sometimes will not consider grants to non-accredited colleges or universities. This is, of course, largely irrelevant to parents or students. 3. There are a number of bogus colleges and universities – diploma mills – with which parents and students are completely unfamiliar and cannot easily discover much about. A serious college level accreditation review by a legitimate review team can certainly weed out the worst of the lot, to be avoided. 4. Students often transfer from one college or university, or later select a graduate or postgraduate program at a college or university different from the one initially attended. Naturally, they want their credits from the original college or university accepted/transferred to the latter one. Colleges and Universities, with few exceptions, are entirely free to accept or reject transfer of credit for courses taken elsewhere, and very often reject some or all of the college level work done elsewhere. In making their decision about whether or not to accept transfer of credits from another college or university, accreditation is one factor often considered. However, there is no predicting this, as standards and methods vary widely. It is up to the individual college or university to accept or reject official records from another school or program, based on their own internal policy. It is definitely best to check with the particular colleges and universities one plans to attend to determine what their transfer of credits policy is, before one invests much time and treasure at one, hoping to transfer later. Simply assuming one can freely transfer credits from one college to another has often resulted in serious disappointment. Even different departments in the same university often have different transfer of credits policies and standards. It is not something one should leave to guesswork, if one can avoid that.
SUMMARY Our Academy homeschool curriculum is used in all 50 states, and in over 30 foreign countries by thousands of students. It can fairly be said, and we often hear, that parents and students widely regard it as the most serious and academically challenging (and rewarding) of home education programs available. You may judge that for yourself. It is fairly easy to find parents or students familiar with our program (begun in 2000 A.D.), and we have literally hundreds of pages of information, testimonials and articles on our approach online at our website. Our materials are, for the most part, from major publishers and include as a core the well-known great classics of literature. Accreditation of colleges and universities does have some indirect relevance and utility, for them, listed in four points, just above. There are a number of problems with the accreditation process in the US, even at the college level – such as the tendency to uniformity and to stifle creativity and new educational approaches and technologies (such as online education). With respect to our online classes, we decided that obtaining the review and recommendation of the American Council on Education for college credit was worthwhile for our students since moderators, conduct those classes online. We did that and ACE recommended six hours per semester for a total of 48 hours for the eight semester program for our Great Books Program and three hours credit for each of our four Theology Online courses. The Academy expressly makes no claims regarding the acceptance of our certificates, diplomas, courses, credits or transcripts by any specific state or public school district, state, government agency, community college, college, university, private or public transfer institution, parent, military branch, or any other organization. Information concerning the acceptance of our diploma, courses and/or transfer credits should be directed to the admissions official at the public or private educational institution well in advance, prior to seeking enrollment in their institution or programs. Parents enrolling their students in the Academy homeschool program and/or Great Books still need meet all applicable local and state homeschooling requirements. Helpful information on local homeschooling laws may be obtained at:
In the US: http://www.hslda.org/laws/default.asp In Canada: http://www.hslda.ca/provlaws.asp