One concern with deciding whether to attend a university is whether or not it is accredited. Bowie State University and University of Maryland University College are regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. However, I found out that another accreditation is important in counseling, CACREP (Council for Accreditation of Counseling and Related Educational Programs), and the Department of Defense requires one to hold a degree from a CACREP accredited university in order to qualify to work as a Tricare Certified Mental Health Counselor. While there is a grace period through the end of 2014 for people who don’t have the requirements to obtain them, I needed to know if Bowie State University is in the process of getting CACREP accreditation and, if so, when they expect to receive it, since the DoD is the most likely place for me to seek employment after graduation, especially as long as we live overseas.
Before contacting the school, I went to CACREP’s site and looked up some information. On their Student FAQs page, I found out that as long as the school receives accreditation within 12 months of me graduating, then I will still be considered a CACREP graduate, even if the program is still in the process when I actually graduate. I also learned the process can take up to two years, which would make it kind of tight depending on when I graduate and when they are accredited.
Then, I contacted the school using the Contact Us link on UMUC-Europe’s page of required courses for my degree. I mentioned I had seen in the description for the counseling programs: “The DoD has recently confirmed that in order to qualify for employment with the DoD in a counseling position, a degree from a CACREP-accredited institution is required.” I had not seen any mention that Bowie State University is CACREP accredited, but I had seen in the course catalog that the counseling degrees follow the standards published by CACREP. I asked if Bowie State University was in the process of seeking CACREP accreditation and if, so, if there was a projection for how long their process might be.
Someone responded the next day that the director would contact me when he returned, about a week later. When I had not been contacted a few days after that date, I wrote them again and asked if they could have him contact me or provide an email where I might be able to directly contact him. Later that day, he emailed me saying, “Thank you for your interest in our graduate programs. The new DoD rules concerning CACREP do not go into effect until 1 January, 2015. Our Stateside program at Bowie State University is in the initial stages of pursuing CACREP accreditation. The self study and approval process can be quite lengthy, but if all goes as planned, BSU hopes to have CACREP approval by 2014.”
This seemed like good information to have, but I noticed that word “Stateside”. I am not Stateside. So, I asked if the Stateside program being awarded CACREP accreditation would apply those those going through the program through UMUC-Europe. He responded that it was his understanding that once the Stateside program secures CACREP accreditation, it could extend to the overseas program in Europe and that he would learn more as the process progresses.
With this information, I figured the best thing to do would be to just go ahead and apply to the program. If, as they stated, they are following the guidelines from CACREP accreditation already, then hopefully they will have no problem getting approved. The other option would have been to put off grad school, but since we have no guarantee of where we will be next or what educational opportunities might be available there, I could have ended up in the same position again, but a few years older. I figure it is better to expand my education, even if I may not qualify for certain positions, than to spin my wheels and do nothing…and still not qualify.