You may be surprised by the number of unfamiliar terms associated with college and college life. Undergraduate, TA, accreditation, Greek life, the FAFSA—high school counselors and college admissions officers use these terms every day. Unfortunately, they don’t always stop to explain what each term means.
The “College Speak” series explains the college-oriented vocab that you need to be in the know and focus on the more important questions, such as “which school would be the best fit for me?”
Today’s terms are:
- proprietary/for-profit schools, colleges, and universities;
- national and regional accreditation.
Proprietary/For-Profit Schools, Colleges, and Universities: These post-secondary institutions are similar to private schools in that they’re not operated by a government. Proprietary schools differ in that they are run as a business, with the intent of earning a profit.
Proprietary schools come in many different shapes and sizes and offer undergraduate and graduate educations of various lengths. A large number of proprietary schools are vocational schools.
Proprietary schools may have one or more physical locations or offer their education exclusively online. Proprietary schools that offer online courses often compete for the students who would otherwise enroll in community colleges or local vocational schools; the lack of required travel and the ease of admission are similar.
A note of caution with regard to proprietary schools: many are nationally accredited while public and private schools are regionally accredited (see below). It may be difficult to continue an education that you begin at a proprietary school at a nonprofit public or private school.
National and Regional Accreditation: Accreditation is a good thing. It means a reputable group has vouched for the quality of a school, and the school meets certain quality standards.
National accreditation may be granted to a post-secondary school by one of many national accrediting bodies. Most national accrediting bodies concern themselves with specific types of programs that are “vocational, technical, and career in nature,” and many proprietary schools are accredited by one of these groups. Some national accrediting bodies have broader considerations, and these tend to accredit the less-vocational and more academic proprietary schools.
Regional accreditation is granted by the regional accrediting agency that serves the region in which a given school is located. (There is one for each region in the U.S.) This accreditation is usually given to nonprofit public and private post-secondary schools with the rationale that they meet higher academic standards.
It may be difficult to begin your education at a nationally accredited school and continue it at a regionally accredited school. Some schools with regional accreditation “have general policies against accepting any credits from nationally accredited schools.”
Schools without either type of accreditation are ideally avoided. You may run into trouble getting financial aid or even a job. There may even be legal repercussions if you try to get a job from an employer that requires an education from an accredited school.