Students earn academic credit through schools. So what does that mean for your internship, residency, or gap-year program? Do you need to start a school for your graduates to get credit? Here’s why you will need a school to offer an accredited gap year program, but you don’t need to worry about starting your own.
The Truth about “Credit”
Let’s first understand what we even mean by “credit.” Giving someone credit for completing a particular course or program means you are establishing a value system for that work that others will recognize. For example, your church might require prospective members to take a particular class in order to join the church. In doing this, you are establishing a specific value for this class. The people who will recognize this value are the other members of your church who will now call your graduates “members.” In this scenario, you do not need a school to tell you that this class counts as credit. Your church provides all the credit that your graduates need.
Schools help establish a credit or value system that is recognized beyond your church or ministry. Most people would not list completing a new member’s class on a resume. The reason for this is simple: outside of your church, that class does not count for anything. But a person might list a training or degree program that they completed through a school. The reason people value school credit differently is because because school credit can be applied toward degree completion, which carries both social and marketplace value.
Accreditation Communicates Value
Accreditation is a method that some schools use to communicate a value system for their classes and degree programs. It begins with an authoritative organization, the accreditor, who validates a school against a set of standards. Schools who wish to receive accreditation from a particular accreditor work to meet the given standards and show that they have the resources and quality control systems to keep meeting those standards. Higher education institutions may be regionally accredited or nationally accredited. The US Department of Education sets standards for the various accrediting organizations.
In some ways, accreditation harkens back to the days of trade guilds. For example, a bunch of blacksmiths in a given area might get together and say, “If you want to call yourself a blacksmith, you have to heat and smash the metal in just this sort of way.” Anyone buying a frying pan from said group of blacksmiths are then assured that the metal in that pan was heated and hammered in just the sort of way that blacksmiths say it should be. This is supposed to increase the odds that the frying pan you just bought is worth the money. Schools do the same thing, except instead of selling frying pans, they sell education.
The primary value that accreditation brings to a school is a perception of quality. It’s a promise, of sorts, that certain standards are being kept. Your program may give training that is as good or better than anything an accredited school can offer. But whether others perceive and believe that value is another question. Those high-quality candidates you are hoping will apply, may need assurance that your program can still lead to accredited degree outcomes.
Why Your Students Want Credit
If you want the best candidates for your training program, you may conclude that those students want academic credit. There are many reasons for this:
- Students need help assessing whether you have a quality program.
- Students may need a finished degree on their resume to even land an interview at many churches or ministries.
- Students also may want assurance that you are as committed as they are in their educational goals.
Accreditation is a way for you to meet each of these needs. But, as you will see, your training program does not need to be accredited, itself, for students to gain academic credit through your program.
So Does This Mean You Need a School to Offer an Accredited Gap Year Program?
You will indeed need a school for your students to get the sort of academic credit most serious candidates are looking for. But don’t worry! You do not need to build a school from scratch to make your dream of training quality ministry leaders a reality.
Traditional School Partnerships
Plenty of ministry leaders decide to partner with traditional bible schools or seminaries in order for graduates of their internship, residency, or gap-year programs to get credit. In fact, it has become fairly standard for schools to require some sort of on-site training from a ministry like yours. But these sorts of programs offer what you might call a “bolt-on” approach.
These partner schools provide a pre-set academic package for their students. These packages then get bolted onto whatever you are doing as a ministry. They can’t be customized, changed, or adapted to your ministry. Maybe that is exactly what you need. But most ministries want a more customized approach in order to produce the best ministry leaders for their particular context.
Customized University-Level Programs
A more ideal approach would be to build a program designed for your exact context that has all the perceived value of a school, but without the hassle or expense of building a school. You likely didn’t even know that was possible. But it is! Eleven6 has spent the last twenty years helping ministry leaders like you, do exactly that.
You know your ministry. We know education. And we have the tools and academic partnerships you need to communicate to the world that your program has great value! With our help, you can build the sort of academic grade program you have always dreamed about but did not know was possible.