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Some people look down on degrees earned from for-profit universities, thinking that a private university or non-profit college offers a better education. However, accreditation parameters are set by the state and are the same for all educational institutions. If a university master's program is accredited, it passes all the tests—whether the university is for-profit, private, or non-profit.

Accreditation agencies check the overall quality of the coursework to make sure the right information is being taught to students in master's programs. Next they look at the whole program so it's approved to grant degrees. All courses and programs in a certain college may be accredited, meaning the whole school is acceptable, or everything is examined on a case-by-case basis and the school may receive program or departmental accreditation.

The main thing accreditation does for students is ensure that credits can be easily transferred between colleges if the student changes locations. Even then, the new school looks at each course (even if the student earned a degree) and may reject any that don't reach their standards.

The Accreditation Procedure for Degree Programs

The process begins with a collaboration between the accrediting agency and the college. Each school measures itself against established standards and has the opportunity to improve courses and programs before moving to the next stage. Once the self-assessment period is past, the accrediting agency conducts an on-site evaluation.

Agency representatives visit the college and look everything over from top to bottom. Once the representatives are satisfied that the program does indeed meet standards, the agency grants probationary or full accreditation status and lists the institution in the database.

The process doesn't end there, however. Colleges are continually monitored and reevaluated to make sure they stay up to standards.

As you can guess, accreditation is a long and expensive process involving many person-hours. Not every college chooses to go through the accreditation process.

Should You Attend a Non-Accredited Degree Program?

The education you receive from a non-accredited school is probably top notch. If you're going to school for knowledge and career enhancement, a master's degree from just about any school will get you what you want. If you're going to school so you have a particular university's name on your resume, you should enroll in that university.

Here's an interesting fact: the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) reports that almost half of women attending for-profit graduate programs received a substantial amount of financial aid, compared with about 20 percent in traditional public institutions. Statistics are about the same for men.

Getting a master's degree can be expensive and you need to compare financial aid packages between universities. Non-profit universities have limited scholarship funds for graduate students. When you request information from graduate schools, ask about your financial aid options.

Read about accelerated learning and distance education masters programs, or explore how you can get a master degree online [MD06].

Ready to search for an accredited masters program? Use the GraduateSchools.com graduate school finder to request free information!