Higher Education…”Have you chosen….wisely.”

In Florida there a wide variety of healthcare education choices vary from outrights scams to stellar educational programs.   What I would like to counsel in this blog entry is to do your research and make your selections with the future in mind.  The two things I would like to focus on accreditation.

How many of you remember the scene from Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade where Donovan drank from what he thought was the Holy Grail only to die a horrific death; whereas Indiana Jones “chose wisely” after much thought and discussion and drank from the real Grail?  When I think of choosing an institution of higher learning I often think of this movie.

There are many factors influencing a person’s choice in which college or university to attend.  As a former instructor, and now marketing/recruiting person, I find it interesting in how people arrive at their decision on a school.  I often think high school students undergo the college selection process in a more methodical way than some adults.  Now I don’t want to paint the issue with a broad brush, but I often see second-career/non-traditional students pressured by life’s realities in the selection process.  High school children will often have their parents assist in the process and if the teenage doesn’t do the actual research on the institution the parents most certainly will (after all it’s often their money they are spending).

At the institution I work at we have a very large non-traditional student population (second-career, mom’s going back to school after their kids go to kindergarten, adults with no previous college, single parents) and life’s pressures often influence their decision and not always in a positive manner.  These students often focus on the fastest way to achieve their degree and not the best way to receive it.  In our institution we deal strictly in the health sciences; our programs include nursing, x-ray tech, ultrasound tech, occupational therapy, and others.  Adult learners and non-traditional students feel they don’t have the luxury of time that a high school age student does so they can make poor decisions.  They are not looking for the college experience of parties, dating, Greek life, and the typical rites of passage that the typical student will undergo.  They are looking for the quickest way to make a better life for themselves and their children (if they have any).

So here are my two thoughts on accreditation.

Regional Accreditation–You will want this level of accreditation over schools that are “nationally accredited.”  It sounds counterintuitive that “regional” accreditation is better than “national” accreditation, but trust me…it is.  Examples of schools with regional accreditation are your local state universities, community colleges, and even large private universities (e.g. Notre Dame, Stanford, and Princeton).  The main issue with regional over national accreditation will be transfer of credits.  The other issue may be acceptability of your degree by employers. (http://bit.ly/MN1me9)

Program Accreditation–(specifically healthcare education like nursing, ultrasound, x-ray, occupational therapy, etc.) by selecting an accredited program it means you have chosen a program of study that has voluntarily submitted its curriculum, clinical sites, and instructor/professor information to comply with the standards and guidelines for accreditation.  Oftentimes non-accredited programs will be much easier to get into over accredited programs.  A good rule of thumb is “if a program is hard to get into…there’s a reason for it.”  That reason is usually academic excellence and a proven track record of competent graduates.  The other reason to select an accredited program is because it might affect the ability of when, and if, you can sit for the national licensure/registry for your given profession.  However, not all programmatic accrediting bodies are created equal.  As in everything, do your research so you are well equipped when making your decision.

Considering all those things, your choices in education should open doors for you and not narrow them.  Don’t forget to keep your eye on the future as well.  If you want to pursue management opportunities in healthcare you will need at minimum a bachelor’s degree if not a master’s degree.  Selecting a program and institution where you credits will transfer is extremely important.

So, when considering going back to school, for whatever reason, be sure you examine an institutions accreditation be sure to… “choose wisely.”

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