Do Your Homework for This New Year’s Resolution: Going Back to School

Returning to college is never an easy decision—especially if you’re one of the millions of students who happen to be over 30 years old. Yet, in 2014, many will make the New Year’s resolution to do just that.

Before deciding where to finish your college degree, experts say it’s paramount to do your research.

“The academic quality of any institution is directly tied to its accreditation, which is an independent review of a school’s educational programs to determine that the education provided is of uniform and sound quality,” says David Hoftiezer, director of Admission at Thomas Edison State College (www.tesc.edu). “An institution that has earned accreditation ensures that it has met established standards of quality determined by the organization granting the accreditation.”

The most recognized and accepted type of accreditation in the U.S. is broken down into six regions of the country, with an agency that accredits colleges and university programs:

•    The Middle States Commission on Higher Education (institutions in Mid-Atlantic states and Puerto Rico)

•    The New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Commission on Institutions of Higher Education (institutions in New England states)

•    The North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, Higher Learning Commission (institutions in the Midwest, Southwest and Rocky Mountain states)

•    The Northwest Accreditation Commission (institutions in northwestern states)

•    The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges (institutions in the southern states)

•    The Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Senior College and University Commission (institutions in California, Hawaii, territories of the Pacific and eastern Asia)

Just as important as accreditation, is ensuring that your college of choice satisfies your needs. If you’re an adult returning to school to finish a degree, some things to consider are: whether you are required to attend classes on campus or whether you can take classes online, how many transfer credits the school will accept and whether you can apply credits for prior learning, including professional training (if it’s pertinent to the degree you’re seeking).

For more information about institutional quality and accreditation, visit the National Advisory Committee on Institutional Quality and Integrity website.

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