Accreditation

Discussion in 'Baptist Colleges / Seminaries' started by Martin, Jun 16, 2005.

  1. Martin

    Martin
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    The following has been taken from Southern Evangelical Seminary's new web-site (www.ses.edu). I very much agree with most of what is said here. It goes along with what I have been saying about ATS. Regional agencies are getting better but there is still room for growth.
    _________________________


    Accreditation

    Southern Evangelical Seminary and Bible College is accredited with the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools (TRACS), recognized by both the Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and the U. S. Department of Education.

    FAQ

    Due to the amount of questions we receive based on outdated or plainly false information found on the internet regarding accreditation issues, we offer the following section to this page.

    Is Southern Evangelical Seminary an accredited institution?

    Yes, it has been fully accredited since 2001 with TRACS (Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools), PO Box 328, Forest, Virginia 24551; 434-525-9539. SES is listed as accredited in the official book used by institutions to determine the accreditation status of other schools. It is titled The Accredited Institutions of Postsecondary Education (published by ACE, One DuPont Circle, NW, Washington, D.C. 20036).

    What is the status of TRACS as an accrediting association?

    TRACS is recognized by both the U.S. Department of Education (www.ed.gov) and CHEA (Council for Higher Education Accreditation) (www.CHEA.org), the only two organizations which authorize accrediting associations. As such, it has the same status as the six regional accrediting agencies and every other approved accrediting agency in America. In addition, TRACS is also a member of the International Network for Quality Assurance Agencies in Higher Education (INQAAHE) (www.inqaahe.org).

    Are there degrees of official recognition for accrediting associations?

    No, there are no degrees of accreditation which place one school on a higher level of accreditation than another. All accrediting associations recognized by the Department of Education and CHEA have equal official status.

    Why do some schools not accept credit from other accredited schools?

    Currently, there are no laws mandating that credits be accepted from one accredited institution to another. Hence, each school can set its own transfer and admissions policies.

    Does not the fact that some schools accept credits from regionally accredited schools and not from those approved by other accrediting agencies show that there are degrees of accreditation?

    No, even credits from colleges and universities that are regionally accredited are not always accepted by other institutions of higher learning that are also regionally accredited. On the other hand, there are many regionally accredited colleges and universities that do accept credits from non-regionally accredited institutions.

    Has graduation from SES been a hindrance in getting into university graduate programs?

    No. Many SES graduates have been accepted into some of the top schools in the world, including Oxford University, the University of Notre Dame, The University of Pittsburgh, Texas A & M University, Marquette University, St. Louis University, Baylor University, and others. Still others have been accepted into recognized Seminaries, such as Dallas Theological Seminary, Reformed Theological Seminary, and Southeastern Baptist Theological Seminary.

    Why is SES not regionally accredited?

    Because it is unnecessary. TRACS has the same official recognition as the six regional accrediting agencies; there are numerous schools which, like most TRACS schools, are not regionally accredited. These include the American Dental Association (ADA), the American Bar Association (ABA), and the American Psychological Association (APA). Furthermore, SES students have been able to get into both university and seminary doctoral programs based on the TRACS accreditation.

    Why do some persons downgrade schools that are not regionally accredited?

    Generally it is because they are not fully informed about accrediting agencies. Others have not been updated on the acceptance of TRACS by CHEA (in 2001) which places them on the same level of recognition with the best universities in the country. Finally, there is some provincialism among accrediting agencies in the absence of any laws mandating the recognition of credits from another institution that is not part of their accrediting agency.


    http://www.ses.edu/ses/about_accreditation.htm
     
  2. PatsFan

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    I tend to agree, as well. One of the things that TRACS does not have on its side is history. They are a relatively new accreditation board. I'm convinced that in time as they prove themselves, they will receive more recognition. Until then there are some risks involved with getting a degree from a school accredited only by TRACS. Interestingly, Bakke Graduate University (formerly Northwest Graduate School of Ministry), a TRACS school, has plans to apply for regional accreditation.
     
  3. Broadus

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    TRACS will always suffer disdain from academia at large because of the enmity of the world towards Christianity. I'm glad we have TRACS, and I wish them well. I'm also happy to see quality schools seek regional accreditation. Christian education should come behind no one in scholarship, though RA certainly does not guarantee that in and of itself. I'm fairly ambivalent about seeking ATS accreditation, however. I think TRACS and RA is sufficient, IMO.

    Blessings,
    Bill
     
  4. Martin

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    I agree. Many TRACS schools are great but a school should hold RA or be on its way to gaining RA. However there are some major seminaries (etc) that do accept credits/degrees from TRACS only schools, so it is always good to check. For example I have found that both Liberty and Southeastern accept degrees/credits from Southern Evangelical and Luther Rice.

    Martin.
     
  5. Martin

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    I agree. I think ATS hurts schools more than it helps. Why? Their restrictions on online/distance learning, and other forms of off campus studies (extension campuses, etc).

    Martin.
     
  6. paidagogos

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    IMHO, TRACS has improved some but it is still a little weak on the academic side. I would say that some of their schools are less than impressive. Also, they have fewer and generally smaller schools than the RA's. All this adds up to less clout in academia. They're somewhat the poor stepsister like DETC.
     
  7. Broadus

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    I must profess ignorance to the determination of academic strength when it comes to accreditation. I do agree that the academic credentials of the faculties of some TRACS schools are not as impressive as those of conservative, evangelical, RA schools. I vividly remember, however, taking MDiv courses from an SBC seminary extension in Georgia. These master-level courses were no more difficult than upper-level bachelor's courses I took at Georgia Southern. They were nowhere as rigorous as courses I took through SEBTS's extension in Georgia, as well as on-campus at SBTS.

    I use this experience to note that this particular seminary is accredited by both SACS and ATS, but that did not translate into strong courses.

    I do believe that accreditation is important, but it is only a minimum criterion in assessing a school.

    Blessings,
    Bill
     
  8. Nord

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    Bill's last statement is correct.

    Also, I think as someone said TRACS is relatively new and continuing to establish themselves. They have been adding more and more schools of high caliber like SES, BJU, TTU, Mars Hill and so on.

    As was mentioned on the SES site there is large ignorance in general as to what accreditation is (and is not). TRACS has the same recognition as the Regional accreditors but not always the same utility.

    Personally, I would like to see schools skip Regional Accreditation and continue to support and develop the Christian Accreditors. This avoids the compromise issue and also puts muscle behind the Christian schools. I cannot help feel that seeking RA is somewhat of a sell out.

    Last comment is that there is no real proof of any lacking academics in TRACS schools anymore than there is in RA schools. Remember, University of Pheonix is Regionally accredited as are a number of other schools who academic rigour has been questioned (eg NCU at the doctoral level). Please understand that I am not questioning the rigour of these schools just rpeating what has been said elsewhere. I think in the case of NCU they moved to tighten up the problems.

    Also, PBS had a program the other night noting problems in RA universitites in terms of students not really learning or developing. The study demonstrated large numbers of students who never cracked a book nor learned the material and yet had 3.4 (and higher GPA's). They learned to take the tests and there was an unwritten law among professors that "You don't bother me and I won't bothe ryou". Some students had hardly if ever had to write analytical papers. Instead they were taking multiple choice/true and false exams. One prfoessor commented that she could not really have class discussion on substantive topics within the course because the students had neither read nor learned the material. So although RA has a corner on the market, I would not necessarily tout their academic rigour.

    North

    PS I did not catch the end of the program so if anyone knows which PBS program it was I would like to know so I can obtain a transcript.
     
  9. PatsFan

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    I agree that RA does not always signify rigor. I've looked through the TRACS policies and standards. They look really solid. I personally LIKE the idea of schools accredited with TRACS going for RA- -at least until TRACS is more established- -mainly for utility reasons. IMO At present secular universities and employers (especially for counseling-oriented degrees) will take these degrees more serious if they have TRACS and RA.
     
  10. ForHisGlory15

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    It is true that TRACS carries the same recognition as regional accreditation and that there is no technical differentiation in levels. Unfortunately, the world of academia does not bow to technicality, and the reality of leveling exists as clearly as the truth of equal recognition. Both history and size gives regional accreditation an edge whether we like it or not. I am a supporter of TRACS, but I think we need to be honest about its limitations and not allow marketing zeal to overlook the facts. The catalogs and websites of regionally accredited institutions usually cite the possession of "top-tiered" accreditation status. Technical acception can be taken with that claim, but it doesn't change the facts. The world of academia as a whole is not looking favorably on non-regional accreditation, and as more high-profile Christian institutions of a strongly conservative bent join, no matter how academically sound they are, I don't see that disfavor changing. That is the sad, but realistic, state of our world of academia. The school PatsFan cites above is just one example of TRACS-only institutions that have or are seeking regional accreditation because of difficulties. I'm just an advocate of laying out all the facts, and I disagree with allowing marketing concerns to keep us from fully and clearly divulging both the positive and negative realities (not the technicalities)that various non-accredited and accredited degrees carry in our culture.
     
  11. Humblesmith

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    Personally, I'll take the quality of the program over the accreditation. Bluntly, a degree from the most respected school in the country, if it's not orthodox, is a waste of my time and money. And I'm sure you'll have to agree, that just because someone may have a degree from Harvard or Princeton, and have all the academic respectability imaginable, doesn't make them qualified to exegete Romans. In fact, based on the strong liberal, unbiblical tendencies at the most worldly-respected schools, my advice is to look somewhere else.

    If RA improves adademic rigor, great, I'm all for it. Christians should never settle for weak scholarship. If non-RA schools are indeed academically weaker, then don't go there. But it appears to me that in general, the more a school focuses on acheiving academic respectability, the greater the odds are that they'll bend to the latest scholarly fads, rather than sticking to historic orthodoxy. Look what happened to to the Ivy League divinity schools.

    Personally, I don't give a flying flip about whether my school has respectability in the eyes of anybody, or what the name will get me later on in life. What I do care about is "is this the absolute best school to teach me to perform in my role in ministry?" If that means a big name, RA school, great. If it means Bubba University, great.


    My advice is to be very careful about the tendency to be drawn into respectability. Don't trade respectability for orthodoxy, and don't avoid hard classes for easy ones.
    IMHO.
     
  12. ForHisGlory15

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    Humblesmith, although I agree with the heart of everything you're saying, I do not agree with the wisdom of a statement "I don't give a flip about whether my school has respectability in the eyes of anybody." Considering the cost of education, stewardship should give us cause to weigh all the the facts before embarking on such an expense of time and money. In weighing those facts, one might very well discover that limited or even zero respectablility does not imbalance the decision to attend a certain school. I would be supportive of that decision, but I would not be supportive of that decision apart from the weighed facts. This is the reasoning behind my previous post in making an appeal for honest, not market-driven, appraisals of the accepted level of respectability of a degree.

    I totally agree with looking at the quality of a program, especially if you are referring to the specific program within an institution. I have observed that very few discussions on academic excellence center on programs, rather they unfortunately center on entire schools. There are very few schools that are academically excellent across the board, and the less specialized the institution and the more majors they carry, the more this statement rings true. Some programs will be very strong, some will be far less. Again, for various reasons one might even enter a program that knowingly has weaknesses and still believe this is where God has directed them. I have no problem with that, as long as they were given the facts and not some uninformed praise that does not coincide with reality.
     
  13. ForHisGlory15

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    Whoops. You wrote a "a flying flip." I don't want to misquote you! ;)
     
  14. Martin

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    I think the bottom line to this, and the best advice one can recieve, is that we must ask questions. If a person is going to attend a school (for a BA or MA) they should ask any potential future school (for MA or PhD) or employer if they accept credits from the first school. Many RA schools do accept credits/degrees from TRACS only schools, many do on a limited basis, and some do not at all. Therefore if someone is going to attend a TRACS only school with the hope of moving on to a RA school, make sure that RA school accepts degrees from the TRACS only school first. I will say the same about RA schools as well.

    Let me also respond to some things:
    "I'll take the quality of the program over the accreditation. Bluntly, a degree from the most respected school in the country, if it's not orthodox, is a waste of my time and money."

    I agree with part of this statement. It is true that a degree from a respected school is not worth the time/money if the school is of poor factual quality (ie...liberal). I find the historical, grammatical, contextual approach to Scripture (and its history) supports the more conservative views. Therefore any liberal school (no matter how large and well respected) that, for example, wishes to late date the Gospels is not a quality school because such late dates are based more on personal bias than historical fact. That is one reason I now refuse to attend a Duke, Wake Forest, or UNC for a religion degree.

    However I disagree with part of the above statement. Quality without accreditation is fine if one is not earning a degree for professional reasons. However if one is trying to earn a degree for professional reasons accreditation is not a option. Nor does it need to be since there are many fine schools that are fully accredited.


    Statement:
    "I don't give a flying flip about whether my school has respectability in the eyes of anybody, or what the name will get me later on in life."

    Again if one is earning a degree for professional reasons respectability is important. Believe it or not employers DO look at schools! Let me give you an example. Let's pretend that you and I are up for a teaching job at some Christian school. Let's also pretend that we are the only two applicants (if that only were possible). If you have a degree from Dallas Theological Seminary, and I had a degree from Uncle Bob's University guess who is probably going to get the job?? You! Even though Uncle Bob's maybe perfectly good, even though Uncle Bob's maybe accredited, Uncle Bob's does not have the reputation that Dallas does. Maybe that is not fair but that is the way it is. So I do believe respectability is very important (not just w/ teaching jobs but also with preaching, etc).

    Martin.
     
  15. Pipedude

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    Department Chairman Mao recruits new graduate Suzy because Suzy graduated from Harvard, is female, and is non-white: a three-bagger! Although Chariman Mao isn't that impressed with Suzy, she's good enough and it makes the department look good to the Dean, the catalog, and the accrediting association. And if the department looks good, Chairman Mao looks good. He has respectability now and will soon land a new job back in California where he originally came from.

    The department in California is playing the same game. They hire Mao because he makes them look good.

    Talk to an individual involved in this process and he'll readily admit that he sees no correlation between most of the hiring criteria and the hiree's performance in the classroom. But he has to go by those criteria, because his own standing is based on similar criteria.

    Unfortunately, hiring teachers is sort of like the caterpillars that follow one another around the rim of a can until they all die from exhaustion.
     
  16. Humblesmith

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    All of you are correct, of course. I was speaking just a teensy exaggeration to make a point. If your ministry is in a professional position (as is mine), then obviously you'll need the proper credentials. And no one wants to waste good time and money for an education. So I agree with you.

    I guess what got me going was when I saw a couple of threads where people were focusing way too much on academic respectability and cutting edge thinking. One of the main reasons that the church is in the mess it's in now is that the seminary professors in the 1890's desired academic respectability, so they started teaching the liberal beliefs that were being taught at the best European universities. (we can't be thought of as bible thumpers, now can we?) It was slow at first, but a generation or so later, the denominations started the liberal/conservative splits.

    So now, when I see any emphasis on achieving status, it rings a small warning bell in my mind.

    Here's an excellent example of what I mean. Below is a quote (I think from another thread). This person desired to get a:

    "Terminal degree with significant research in a theology-related field--this does not include necessarily investigation of minutiae or the study of some dead fellow’s system but it is a real pioneering advance of knowledge. Preferably, this would include study with some ground-breaking and imaginative scholar who has shown the ability to think creatively. A world-class scholar, as opposed to a hack with a doctorate, draws and outlines a new paradigm. The hack with a doctorate colors inside the lines someone else has drawn. Both have their functions."

    I disagree with this whole-heartedly, and passionately. We have so many theological problems inside the church, that I'll take a school that colors inside the lines, thank you very much. New paradigms tend to end up as old heresies.

    But I agree what Martin, FHG, and Pipedude have said above.
     

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