RA, NA & EducationUSA: Mixing Apples & Oranges

It’s always been a mystery to me why EducationUSA (i.e., the US State Department – on behalf of the US Government – on behalf of the American taxpayer) represents all “officially accredited” institutions of higher education in its 400+ advising centers around the world.  After all, there is absolutely no comparison between regionally accredited (RA) and nationally accredited (NA) schools, in terms of quality. 

It pains me to see two US universities side-by-side on an EducationUSA Facebook page, one accredited by The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA), one of the regional accrediting agencies, and the other by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS), whose mission is “to advance  educational excellence at independent, nonpublic career schools, colleges, and organizations  in the United States and abroad.”

As I mentioned in a previous post, among the nearly 1000 institutions that ACICS has accredited are the Bergin University of Canine Studies, Golden State College of Court Reporting & Captioning, Golf Academy of America, ITT Technical Institute, Kaplan Career Institute, and the Le Cordon Bleu College of Culinary Arts, in addition a few that are active in Vietnam.  Many are for-profit companies.   

Case in Point

The EducationUSA-HCMC Facebook page recently posted information about scholarships offered by Virginia International University (VIU), an ACICS-accredited school in northern Virginia.  It also posted the following information from the school’s website in the form of a comment, effectively serving as a mouthpiece for VIU:  At VIU, we are committed to setting a new standard in higher education. Through our student-centered approach, we endeavor to provide the most positive environment for learning available anywhere… 

Below VIU were a post and comment about the University of Evansville, “a modestly-sized, independent, United Methodist affiliated liberal arts university located in Evansville, Indiana” that happens to be regionally accredited.  (This university also offers scholarships for international students.)   

What are the key differences between these two institutions?  One is cost – VIU’s annual undergraduate tuition is $8,328 per year while Evansville’s is $30,556.  The other is the type of institutional accreditation.  What they have in common is that both are “officially accredited” and promoted by their country’s government worldwide.   What a bargain, right?  The fact that Evansville is regionally accredited and VIU is nationally accredited, galaxies apart in terms of quality assurance across the board, is not taken into consideration.  From the perspective of students and parents outside of the US they are similar and comparable

This is not likely to happen in my lifetime but here is what should happen, IMHO:  the US government should represent only the gold standard of US higher education, which means regionally accredited colleges and universities.  Don’t pretend that NA schools are somehow in the same league as their RA cousins and don’t actively promote them as a valued US export.  With the marketing money at their disposal NA institutions are more than capable of doing that on their own.   


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