What is Accreditation?
Accreditation is an organized way of determining the acceptance of credits or degrees from any particular institution. In most countries, the government regulates colleges and universities. The United States is unique in that accreditation is a voluntary process governed by independent accrediting agencies that may or may not be recognized by the federal government. The license to operate a college or university is regulated by the state government and is not considered accreditation. Each state has different guidelines concerning universities, seminaries, and Bible colleges.
Is Minnesota Graduate School of Theology Accredited?
Yes, Minnesota Graduate School of Theology (MGST) maintains accreditation with an international Christian accrediting organization that shares the school's objectives of encouraging and maintaining sound Christian scholarship with the highest academic achievement. There are two reasons why MGST did not seek to be regionally accredited or be registered with or in association with the U.S. Department of Education. First, because MGST students attend distance education classes at campuses across the United States and around the world a traditional regional accreditation does not fit the scope of MGST. Second, because MGST has assumed a position of not wanting to have any governmental influence on what may or may not teach, MGST has submitted to accreditation with a strictly independent Christian accrediting organization. In each accreditation review, MGST received a rating of Comprehensive Member with Honor, which is the highest accreditation status.
Different Types of Accreditation in the USA
Regional Accreditation: There are six private corporations, referred to as agencies, that provide accreditation for universities within certain regions of the country. The federal government recognizes these agencies and lists all colleges accredited by them in a publication produced by the Department of Education. Many excellent colleges and universities have chosen to become regionally accredited, while others of equal standing and reputation have chosen, for Biblical or theological reasons, to remain non-regionally accredited.
Professional Accreditation: Almost 100 different professional accrediting associations such as the American Dental Association, The American Bar Association, the American Psychological Association, and the National Home Study Council, have been established to provide accreditation for a particular field of study or professional occupation.
National, International and Distance Education Accreditation: Since accreditation is purely voluntary, and since all accrediting agencies are private corporations, many agencies have formed to provide recognition in areas where regional or professional accreditation has left gaps. For instance, in the past, no college or seminary offering all three levels of instruction (bachelor, master, doctoral) through distance study, has ever been regionally or professionally accredited. Minnesota Graduate School of Theology specializes in distance education often called theological education by extension. Therefore MGST has embraced the accountability of being reviewed and accredited by an independent national accrediting organization.
State Accreditation: The term “state accreditation” is a misnomer, as states do not provide accreditation for colleges or seminaries.
Are Degrees Accepted from Non-Regionally Accredited Schools?
Yes, for decades schools have found acceptance based on the merits of their programs rather than their form of accreditation. In a study, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services documented acceptance of nontraditional or non-regionally accredited programs. Of the thousands surveyed, 97 percent of graduates from these schools gained acceptance into the traditional graduate school of their choice. Another 94 percent experienced no problems in graduate school admission because of having an unaccredited degree. Furthermore, 99 percent of the holders of nontraditional degrees felt that their degree was as good as, or better than the degree offered by a traditional regionally accredited school. Also, a survey of the top personnel officers at 81 large corporations indicated they felt that a nontraditional degree was just as useful as one received even from a traditional school with a “strong reputation.” As the report said, these findings “run counter to some popular beliefs” (Sosdian, Sharp). Ultimately, MGST believes that the merit of the program of study and the performance of the student will be the determiners of success.
Sosdian, Carol P. and Laure M. Sharp, The External Degree as Credential: Graduate’s Experiences in Employment and Further Study, Washington D.C., U.S. Department of Health, Education and Welfare, 1978.