Cherry Hill Seminary is working steadily towards our goal of becoming an accredited seminary. In the United States educational accreditation is a peer review process coordinated by accreditation commissions and the members. Accreditation requirements vary, but are generally quite stringent, going beyond standards for state licensure. The process is costly and can be expected to take several years to complete. Programs must run for at least three consecutive years before application.
Why is accreditation important? It is the standard method by which an outside evaluation team reviews an organization using a consistent set of standards. Students attending an accredited school may be eligible for student loans. Those who earn a Master of Divinity will be eligible to apply to become a chaplain in our armed forces. Accreditation as an outside, unbiased verification of our quality will encourage talented faculty to teach for Cherry Hill Seminary. Most importantly, prospective students will be assured that they are investing in their future with an institution of worth.
We plan to apply for accreditation from the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC), a non-profit educational accreditation agency in the United States specializing in the accreditation of distance education institutions. DETC was established in 1926 and is recognized by Council for Higher Education Accreditation and the United States Department of Education as an accreditor of institutions of higher education. DETC standards are congruent with those of the S.C. Commission on Higher Education, under whose authority Cherry Hill Seminary falls.
Many times we are asked if our degrees are legal; the answer is yes. However, degree-granting authority is different from accreditation. Such licensing by the state ensures that a school has met at least minimum requirements for the degree being offered, and allows for the professional oversight of a state higher education commission. Most states, however, exempt religious or theological training from licensing. The State of South Carolina Commission on Higher Education has granted this exemption to Cherry Hill Seminary.
Although as an institution whose sole purpose is religious or theological training that originates in the State of South Carolina, Cherry Hill Seminary is exempt from oversight of the South Carolina Commission on Higher Education, our goal is voluntarily to meet the same standards for licensure that would be required of a non-religious school.
That means that the education you will receive at Cherry Hill Seminary in your master’s program today is legal, it is intellectually challenging, it will open you up to new paths of spiritual growth, and it is one that will fully provide you with the tools you need for Pagan, Earth-based and interfaith ministry.
We are also often asked if we will ordain our students; we do not. Individuals who wish to serve their communities as a minister come to Cherry Hill Seminary for their education. A specific religious group may choose to endorse and affirm someone as a minister through ordination.
Finally, we are often asked how long it will take to become accredited. The full standards are posted at the DETC link given above. At this time, our main challenges are due to funding, though we have made huge strides in our programs and staffing.
Is there a way for you to help us move forward with this goal? Definitely! The most effective ways to help us include: a) being a student; b) bringing in other students; c) making a contribution each year; d) asking others to contribute; and e) telling everyone you possibly can about the treasure that is Cherry Hill Seminary.