Accreditation typically refers to national, regional, or some form of specialized endorsement. If a university is accredited, its program, including staff, teaching, and curriculum have been evaluated according to established standards. These standards are determined by panels of education experts. Christian universities may or may not be accredited by an accrediting agency.
There are multiple ways to evaluate the quality of education and many factors to consider. The United States Department of Education recognizes specific agencies that develop standards and perform evaluations in an effort to ensure high quality education and accountability. In order for universities to participate in the federal grant and loan programs, they must be accredited by a recognized accrediting agency. Thus, if a Christian university offers federally-funded grants and loans such as Pell Grants, Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grants, and Federal Stafford Loans, it is accredited by a recognized agency.
There are other forms of accreditation that can meet specific education and professional goals. For example, the International Association for Christian Educational Accountability, “the Biblical alternative to secular accreditation”, was developed to address some of the shortfalls of standard avenues for accreditation and provide an international theological accreditation. Another option for Christian universities is accreditation through the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools, which is recognized by the Federal Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.
Accreditation, however, is not always assurance that a university provides high-quality education. Likewise, not being accredited is not an indication that the education is lesser quality. The accreditation agency may have lower standards than a given university strives for, or the university may change its curriculum in ways that fail to meet the accreditation standards during the time interval between reevaluations. The United States Department of Education recognizes issues with accrediting agencies, noting that there are accrediting agencies that offer bona fide accreditation even though they have not fulfilled all of the criteria to be listed with them, and there are also “accrediting mills” that provide accreditation simply for payment, similar to how some universities operate as diploma mills.
In conclusion, there are Christian universities accredited by agencies recognized by the United States Department of Education. Generally, these universities post their accreditation status on their websites and may offer federal financial aid. Some Christian universities may have a theological or other form of accreditation. And some Christian universities may have no formal accreditation. However, accreditation is only one factor that should be used in determining whether a university will meet a student’s needs. While access to federal financial aid programs may be a consideration in choosing a university, the cost of accreditation can be exorbitant and result in higher tuition. Universities that do not take this expensive route may offer superior education and have extra funds to provide grants for students in financial need. Universities being considered for attendance should be researched and evaluated according to education and career goals of the student. Accreditation may not be necessary if the university otherwise meets these goals.