The Benefits of Accreditation

Accredit1 verb
ac·cred·it  ə-ˈkre-dət

accredited; accrediting; accredits (transitive verb)
1: to give official authorization to or approval of:
a: to provide with credentials especially: to send (an envoy) with letters of
(E.g., accredit an ambassador to France)
b: to recognize or vouch for as conforming with a standard
(E.g., The program was accredited by the American Dental Association.)
c: to recognize (an educational institution) as maintaining standards that qualify the
graduates for admission to higher or more specialized institutions or for professional
2: to consider or recognize as outstanding
(E.g., an accredited scientist)

There are numerous areas of service in our public life for which we demand a person who has official “accreditation.” Consider, for example, the choice of a surgeon. On the whole, I believe all of us would be much more comfortable utilizing the services of a surgeon who has been educated in a reputable (accredited) institution and who has proven his/her knowledge and skill to a group of qualified evaluators (accreditors). A surgeon’s certification by this accrediting body would give you confidence that he/she is qualified and, thus, can be trusted. The same might apply to an accountant, or a mechanic, or a financial planner. When we’re placing our well-being (whether physical, financial, or mechanical) in the hands of another person, we want to know that this person knows what they’re doing and that they can successfully deliver what they are promising. This kind of assurance is provided, in great part, by the work of accreditation.

Lutheran Brethren Seminary (LBS) operates under this type of professional and educational accreditation.

LBS is accredited by the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools, or TRACS for short. TRACS is an international accrediting agency, working with post-secondary schools from all over the world. They were founded in 1979, and they currently accredit just over 100 schools in twenty-six states and eight overseas locations. Their mission is “to promote the welfare, interests, and development of postsecondary institutions whose mission is characterized by a distinctly Christian purpose” (see

TRACS is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).

The Process of Accreditation
LBS began the process of accreditation in earnest in 2008. We received candidate status with TRACS in 2009 and had the “candidate” label removed in 2012. This process began with a thorough analysis (called a self-study) of all aspects of our organization, including our governance policies and procedures, financial qualifications, faculty credentials, student learning outcomes, student services, and publications. This self-study led to a site visit by TRACS representatives, which ultimately culminated in an appearance before the TRACS commission, at which time LBS was officially granted its accredited status. Since that time, LBS also received accreditation for a distance education option (2013). Maintaining this status involves regular and ongoing assessments, including an Annual Operations Report (which could be considered a mini self-study) as well as more in-depth reports carried out at five- and ten-year intervals. The ten-year assessment involves a new self-study.

What Accreditation is Not
Engaging with an outside accrediting body in the way LBS engages with TRACS may raise some concerns about influence: Does TRACS influence LBS’s statement of faith, mission statement, or course content? The answer to all of these questions is, “No.” TRACS does not require any specific statement of faith (our statement of faith remains the exact same statement of faith held by the Church of the Lutheran Brethren), mission statement, or course content. They do not tell us what we should believe or what we should teach. They only prompt us to clarify these details and to assess if/how we are functioning in a way that is consistent with them. In other words, TRACS does not tell us what to believe or teach, rather they prompt us for evidence that shows whether (and to what degree) we are functioning in line with what we say we believe or teach.

Benefits of Accreditation
So, what benefit is there to accreditation? And, why do we believe it is important for LBS to be accredited?

  • Accreditation serves our students and our churches by helping LBS be as effective as possible. Accreditation prompts LBS to review and clarify our policies, procedures, educational outcomes, and support resources so that we can best serve our students and accomplish our mission statement. This process invites LBS into regular and consistent self-evaluation. I can honestly say that we carry out some form of self-evaluation at LBS every month. This self-evaluation helps us to sharpen our aims and procedures by bringing about greater clarity and alignment with our policies and outcomes.
  • Accreditation helps our students who desire to go on with more schooling. Because LBS is accredited, our graduates are able to gain access to doctoral programs as they pursue advanced degrees. CLB congregations often benefit from this, too, since a number of these doctoral programs are completed by those who are currently serving as CLB pastors. 
  • Accreditation has served a number of our graduates who have gone on to ministry as military chaplains. The U.S. military requires their chaplains to have gained a Master of Divinity degree from an accredited institution. 
  • Lastly, accreditation connects us with other like-minded Christian educational institutions and provides the opportunity to learn from them and, in some cases, serve them in their accreditation journey. These professional relationships have proven very beneficial for LBS faculty and staff in our teaching and administrative roles.

The accredited status that LBS has achieved and maintains is not the result of any one person’s work. It is a team achievement. At the risk of missing someone by name, I want to acknowledge the following individuals who have invested much time and energy into this achievement: Mr. Mike Berry, Dr. Eugene Boe, Dr. David Veum, Dr. Allan Bjerkaas, Dr. Margareth Alexandersen, and Kathy Garvin. Because of the work of these individuals—and now the ongoing work of those who continue in their roles—LBS is able to offer high-quality education and ministry preparation in service of the Church of the Lutheran Brethren. To God be the glory.

Dr. Brad Pribbenow is the Dean of Lutheran Brethren Seminary.

1Accredit Definition & Meaning - Merriam-Webster

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