Guest Blogger: Dean Robert D. Burrus, Jr. This post was originally shared on WilmingtonBiz.com on August 1, 2016.
To most people, the word “university” suggests an education-based institution in which academic degrees are conferred to individuals completing the required curriculum. One might not realize that the term can be used by any entity, for example, Trump University, PwC Open University, and Google University. None of these examples are universities in the way most people use the term: These entities use the term liberally to suggest an enhanced education in a specific area. Satisfaction with the educational offering depends largely on what one expected to get out of the experience. The use of the word “university” has the potential to become a legal matter depending on individual state and consumer protection laws. Trademark law does not prohibit the use of the word “university” in a name. The point to this is that the use of the word “university” does not necessarily imply that an institution is offering a quality educational experience.
When it comes to the delivery of an education from a baccalaureate, masters or Ph.D. degree-conferring university, the determination of quality derives from a voluntary process of accreditation. Accreditation creates a culture of continuous improvement and provides evidence that the individuals leading classes have the appropriate professional certification. Accreditation also provides standards, evaluation, monitoring and periodic re-evaluation to ensure the institution delivers on its proposed offering.
The University of North Carolina Wilmington (UNCW) is accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS). SACS is a private, nonprofit organization founded in Atlanta, Georgia, in 1895 and serves as the regional body for the accreditation of degree-granting higher education institutions in 11 Southern states (from Virginia and Kentucky down to Florida and west as far as Texas). UNCW was first accredited by SACS in 1962 and had its accreditation reaffirmed in 2013; its next reaffirmation is set for 2023. The rigorous process includes an off-site and on-site review by a committee of eight to 10 individuals to ensure that the institution is in compliance with federal requirements, comprehensive standards, and core requirements. Review reports are evaluated by The Committees on Compliance and Reports, the executive council, and the full board of trustees before a final decision on reaffirmation is reached.
Taking it a step further, the Cameron School of Business (CSB) at UNCW is also fully accredited by the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB). The lengthy and time-consuming process of reaccreditation occurs every seven years to ensure continuous improvement in the educational offering. Being accredited by AACSB is a major milestone for a business school, especially when you consider the fact that less than 5 percent of the more than 16,000 business schools worldwide have successfully earned AACSB accreditation. AACSB accreditation provides evidence that the business school has passed rigorous standards for quality and it’s hard earned.
Higher education is expensive: it’s an investment in the future. If you’re looking for assurance that the education you’re working hard to attain will benefit you in the future, it’s worth your time and effort to determine if the university in question has received accreditation from a recognized institution. Schools that lack accreditation are suspect.