As required by majority vote, I was required to research possibilities for CLE (continuing legal education) training. Specifically, I was asked to check out the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC) and determine whether or not this national accreditor is acceptable for members of our Network. Therefore, my findings follow.
DETC is a "national accreditor" recognized by the United States Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). DETC accredits entire institutions and the programs they offer. Since DETC only accredits institutions that offer more than half of their programs through distance learning, the Accrediting Commission’s examining teams are experienced specialists and practitioners who ensure that an institution’s programs and services are designed and delivered appropriately for distance learning.
Is national accreditation equal to regional accreditation?
Yes. The U.S. Department of Education recognizes all accrediting bodies in the same manner. For instance, a regional accreditor, such as the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, has to undergo the SAME rigorous process as a national accreditor (i.e., DETC) in order to be recognized. The process employed must meet the Criteria for Recognition, which can be found in Federal regulations. The Criteria do not differentiate between types of accrediting agencies, so the recognition granted to all types of accrediting agencies -- regional, institutional, specialized, and programmatic -- is IDENTICAL.
Sadly some people still believe that regional accreditation is superior then national accreditation. This belief is not only false, but has caused many graduates of nationally accredited schools problems. For example, there are some regionally accredited colleges that refuse to accept credits earned at nationally accredited colleges simply because of their accreditation status. The credit transfer issue is basically due to "snobbery" practices that are discriminatory, to say the least. Luckily this "snobbery" is rapidly diminishing. In fact, Congress, the Department of Education, and the Department of Justice have been investigating this anti-competitive practice by higher education.
Is distance learning a real way a paralegal, or other legal professional, can continue their education?
The National Association of Legal Assistants (NALA), National Federation of Paralegal Associations (NFPA), and the American Association on Paralegal Education (AAfPE), all acknowledge that distance education is an acceptable method of paralegal training.
Almost all Colleges and Universities nowadays offer some courses via distance education.
Should employers accept distance learning degrees and/or diplomas?
Yes, why shouldn't they? If the U.S. Department of Education and/or Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) view distance learning as a legit way in gaining an education, why would employers disregard a degree/diploma earned via distance learning?
Employers should only worry about whether or not a degree/diploma came from a school accredited by an agency recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and/or CHEA (i.e., DETC).
Ten years ago distance education wasn't taken seriously. Nowadays, however, probably due to technology advancements, distance learning is taken seriously and is only questioned by older generations. Did you know that some teens can now "attend" virtual (online) high school? It's true!
Can you recap what you learned about DETC accreditation?
- DETC accreditation is valid.
- DETC accreditation is equal to regional accreditation in the eyes of the Secretary of Education and CHEA.
- DETC accreditation ensures that the school it accredits is a legit school that helps students gain a real education.
Can you offer evidence that supports your information?
Yes. Click here to read a letter that was written by the U.S. Department of Education. This letter confirms that DETC, and other national accreditors, are equal to regional accreditation. Furthermore, it proves that DETC is a valid accreditor.
DETC has a lot of valuable information on their website that concerns accreditation. Additionally, they have wonderful info about the regional vs. national issue. Click here to visit their website.
Have you ever taken courses at a nationally accredited (i.e., DETC) school?
I have taken courses at both regionally and nationally accredited colleges; however I never knew much about accreditation until I started to research this issue. I earned a Degree in Paralegal Studies from a regionally accredited college and have earned numerous certificates from a DETC accredited college that specializes in legal careers. (The courses at the "regional college" were taken on campus, whereas the courses taken from the "national college" were taken off campus.)
I even tested the "national college" by enrolling in a legal course (in Civil Litigation) I had already taken at the "regional college". Both college's had me studying from the same textbook and offered similar assignments/tests that covered the textbook material.
I felt that I had learned valuable information from both college's and am very happy with the learning experience.
(Note: As mentioned above, I learned about the different types of accreditation while researching this topic for our members. Back when I tested both colleges, I was only testing whether or not the distance learning college was equivalent to what I was learning in the classroom. Regardless, the test is relevant for this discussion.)
So, would your Network accept nationally accredited diplomas/degrees?
Yes! It is a fact that national accreditation is equal to regional accreditation, so who am I to say that it isn't? There is no valid reason why I, or anyone, should ever disregard a diploma/degree earned at a nationally accredited school. If the U.S. Department of Education and/or Council for Higher Education Accreditation acknowledge it as valid, then I'm inclined to agree with them.
Don't be brainwashed into believing differently. In the real world employers only care whether or not the degree/diploma came from an accredited school.