Tips on How to Validate a School's Claims
Is the school operating legally, accredited, have complaints been filed and will your credits transfer?
Is this a good school? That's the question you should ask of every prospective college and university. Each institution will be proud of some statistics or aspects of their institution and they'll downplay their weaknesses. The school's catalog should describe each program's curriculum, course offerings, grading policy and graduation requirements.
Although the state of Minnesota does not rank postsecondary educational programs or institutions, there are several ways to determine the quality of different programs. Use the strategies listed below to help determine whether a school's claims are accurate.
Watch out for promises to award credits solely on the basis of your statement of previous life or work experience. Legitimate credits based on "lifetime learning" will require you to document specific knowledge that is equivalent to classroom work.
Is the School Operating Legally in Minnesota?
Most private and out-of-state institutions operating in Minnesota are required to be either registered or licensed by the Office of Higher Education or other state agencies. Licensed and registered institutions offering degrees are required to meet educational and financial standards, protect student records and provide accurate and useful information to prospective and current students.
If you have questions about registration or licensure of private institutions, e-mail the Office of Higher Education at firstname.lastname@example.org or call (651) 259-3976 or (800) 657-3866.
The following institutions are exempt from licensure and registration:
- Minnesota public State Colleges, State Universities and the University of Minnesota.
- Out-of-state institutions offering online/distance education programs to Minnesota residents through the State Authorization Reciprocity Agreement (SARA). A list of states participating in SARA and institutions in those states authorized to offer online/distance education programs to Minnesota residents is posted on the SARA website. Learn more information about how to evaluate online education.
- Minnesota state agencies licensing the following occupational training providers.
|Training Provider||Licensing Agency|
|Barber Schools||Minnesota Board of Barber Examiners |
|Commercial Driving Schools||Minnesota Department of Public Safety |
|Cosmetology||Minnesota Board of Cosmetologist Examiners|
|Flight Schools||Minnesota Department of Transportation |
(651) 234-7183 or (800) 657-3922
|Nursing Assistant Training||Minnesota Department of Health |
(651) 201-5000 or (888) 345-0823
|Real Estate and Insurance||Minnesota Department of Commerce |
(651) 296-6319 or (800) 657-3978
Is the School Accredited?
An important way a school can show that it offers quality education is to become accredited. Accreditation means the school has been approved by a non-government agency that reviews schools in a region or occupation. A school should tell you whether it is accredited and who has accredited it.
Accreditation is a voluntary process. While an unaccredited provider may provide worthwhile courses (particularly if a degree is not important to you), you don't have the assurance of this external review. Beware of statements that accreditation doesn't matter.
To become accredited, institutions and programs must demonstrate that they meet standards established by the accrediting agency. There are two types of accrediting agencies:
- institutional accrediting agencies that establish standards for the entire school
- specialized accrediting agencies that establish standards for programs in specific fields of study, such as nursing or engineering
Warning: Phony operators have created their own "accrediting" bodies with legitimate-sounding names.
The federal government reviews and recognizes accrediting agencies. Ask the school which federally recognized accrediting agencies have approved it.
If you are preparing for a licensed profession or are seeking professional certification, you should make sure that the program or course satisfies any specialized accrediting requirements. You may not be eligible for licensure or certification if the program is not recognized by a particular specialized accrediting agency.
Private training firms which do not offer degrees usually do not qualify for or seek accreditation. For computer training, look instead for certification by computer software firms such as Microsoft, Cisco Systems or Novell.
See our Employment in Minnesota and College Accreditation consumer information page.
Can You Transfer Any Credits?
Each institution sets its own policies for accepting credits transferred from other institutions. Promises about transferring courses should be checked carefully. Transfer problems are a large cause of student confusion and disappointment.
If you have taken courses that you would like to transfer to a new school, ask the admissions or registrar's office to review your transcript before you enroll. Courses you have taken before will not automatically transfer, even if they are from an accredited institution.
- From which types of institutions do you regularly accept credits?
- What kind of information is considered when making decisions regarding credits from other institutions?
- Have you accepted credits from the school and program I am now considering?
Minnesota Transfer provides a statewide guide on transferring prior credits between Minnesota institutions.
Have Any Complaints Been Filed Against the School?
The Office of Higher Education accepts complaints about the schools it licenses or registers. At your request, Office of Higher Education staff will provide information regarding formal complaints that have been substantiated following investigation.
The following agencies or organizations may provide information regarding complaints:
- The school's accrediting agency
- Better Business Bureau
651-699-1111 or 800-646-6222
- Commercial Driving Schools
Minnesota Department of Public Safety
Minnesota Board of Barber and Cosmetology Examiners
- Flight Schools
Minnesota Department of Transportation
(651) 234-7183 or (800) 657-3922
- Real Estate and Insurance
Minnesota Department of Commerce
(651) 296-6319 or (800) 657-3978
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