What’s all the hubbub about accreditation?
For art and design schools, accreditation is through NASAD, the National Association of Schools of Art and Design. Membership, made possible only through an in-depth peer review process, equates to a stamp of authenticity for art and design programs across the country. Whether you’re interested in an independent, free-standing college of art and design or a program inside a larger college or university, accreditation ensures a comprehensive education that meets academic standards leading to graduation.
Guidelines and principles for art and design programs cover a wide range of issues including: admission to undergraduate study, art and design curricula, liberal arts degrees with an art or design major, combination degrees in studio and art history, baccalaureate degrees in art education … and the list goes on.
The benefit to you is academic value; standards for educational quality are set and met.
Accreditation initially came into popularity as a guide for transferring acceptable credits from one institution to another. There needed to be uniformity; the coursework and education at each school needed to be comparable. In today’s marketplace, where cost is often the driver that moves students from one program to another, comparables are as necessary as ever. However, each institution has its own requirements for transfer credits, so you’ll need to confirm what is acceptable in each individual program. If this is a concern, contact the admissions office. They’ll help you out.
I often think accreditation comes into play for for-profit institutions. Different in name and mission from non-profits, their goals are not just the altruistic education of their students. For them, accreditation provides a level playing field on which they can market themselves equally.
Whatever schools you’re considering, my suggestion is to add accreditation to your research list. While visiting college websites make sure they’re accredited. I usually find it in the “About Us” section.