A term that is often used to describe a college or trade school that offers HVACR technician training is “accredited”.  I think that, for the most part, when a potential student sees this term on a school’s website or in a brochure, it gives them a sense of confidence that the instruction they will recieve there is going to be of a certain quality. And, I would agree with that most of the time. If an educational institution has taken the time to apply (and pay what is often a hefty fee) for accreditation, it likely means that they are interested in providing a quality training experience. 

It also means something else.

The bottom line, $$wise, on getting accredited as a school or college is that with that process accomplished, the students who attend there will be eligible for government-sponsored financial aid programs. Translation: When someone enrolls in an HVACR training program, the financial aid office at the school will be able to assist them in applying for grants and loans to help cover the cost of tuition. Sometimes it’s all the funding needed for a training program…. books, tools (if the school you enroll in offers them as part of their training package)… along with tuition. And sometimes this financial aid covers most of the cost, but not all, or, it may work out in an individual situation, that it only covers a small part of the cost of an education. It varies according to the price of the education and the individual situation of the student.

Moving on about this subject…..the question that most people don’t stop to think about is, “Does accreditation necessarily guarantee a quality education?”

Well, from my perspective, the best answer to that question is, that it could. I recall from quite a few years back that an admissions representative for a college in New Mexico wanted to get me enrolled in a Masters program, and his school was not accredited (translation: I would have to pay all tuition costs out of my pocket). His take on that issue was that, “Harvard isn’t accredited by anybody,” because they didn’t need to be. “After all,” he argued, “who could accredit Harvard University?”

I don’t know if what he was telling me at the time was the truth, but if you do some research on Harvard University today, you find that they are listed as being accredited by the New England Assocation of Colleges and Schools. And, if you do some research on this accrediting association, you find that it is located in Bedford, Massachusetts, which is 20 miles from Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

(By the way, in doing research on Harvard, you also find that one of Harvard Univeristy’s web sites is www.harvarduniversity.com , which drives home the point that I made earlier about any educational institution being a business.)

Hmmm….20 miles apart, huh….depending on how suspicious one was, one might wonder who really operates that association….even though they’re listed as being the accrediting body  for more than two-thousand schools, some of them vocational education schools. Well, I”m not one to ascribe to conspiracy theories, so I doubt that the accreditation process for Harvard University is a rubber stamp process….but I mention this idea to make a point.

If a school says they are accredited, your question should be “by whom?” And, once you get an answer to that question, ask what the accrediting body requires of the school in order to be awarded accreditation. Does it amount to only paying a fee? Or does it mean that team of curriculum experts visited the school, evaluated the lesson plans and instructors, and observed what goes on in the lab? If a team visited the school, did one of them follow up on the school’s placement records and confirm what they showed? Was there a member of the team who underst0od how to evaluate the financial aid practices of the school?

I realize that asking these questions of an admissions representative of a school could result in them looking at you as though you were from another planet, or, somebody might be downright insulted by being asked such questions, but I still think you should ask. After all, it’s your money, whether it comes in the form of a Pell Grant (which usually amounts to a maximum of $5,550.00 per year) or government gauranteed loans, or you pay your tuition out of your pocket.

If you’re going to invest the time, effort, and money into an HVACR education, you should approach it as you would when purchasing any product or service from any business.

Until next week.

Learn from yesterday…..Live for today…..Look forward to tomorrow

Jim

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