What you need to know about going back to college

Those who want to finish their college degree should know that it is a realistic goal but one that requires careful research before selecting a college or university.

First, you should determine whether the school you are considering is accredited.

“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 Admissions 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 regional accreditation. There are six geographic regions in the U.S. with an agency that regionally accredits college and university higher-education 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)

In addition to accreditation, you should ensure that your school can meet your needs. If you are an adult returning to school, find out whether you are required to attend class on campus, and ask how many transfer credits the school will accept and whether you can earn credit for prior learning, including professional training.

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