Are online schools accredited in the same way as traditional schools? Yes! And the classes and curriculum are the same online and in-person. For many people, an online college is an excellent option that allows them to take courses from their desired schools without leaving home. Online schools also offer the fantastic benefit of schedule flexibility, letting students work and care for their families while in school.
For this reason, online college programs are gaining in popularity among students who have just completed high school and older students who are returning to college for second degrees and new career paths. A degree from an online school can offer students the most in-demand degree options, but there is always essential fine print. Do online schools have accreditation?
According to the National Center for Education Statistics, as of 2015, nearly 6 million students enrolled at degree-granting online educational institutions. In addition, the Center reported that almost 30 percent of post-secondary students took at least one distance education or online course and that 14 percent took exclusively online courses.
What Is College Accreditation?
A significant concern in students’ minds as they contemplate beginning a distance education program instead of attending a traditional college or university is whether their degree will be recognized at other colleges and by their future employers upon graduation. One of the most significant indicators of an online school’s role, standards, and educational reliability is its accreditation status. In short, accreditation plays a huge role in online schools’ respectability. Whether an online school is accredited is often the first step in determining if it is the right option for any student.
Accreditation is an important indicator of whether an online school or any postsecondary education institution maintains its educational quality level. This indicator will affect the type and quality of education a student receives. It can also be a helpful indicator of whether an individual can land an essential job in major industry.
The national government backs college accreditation in many countries around the globe. However, in the United States, regional or state-based agencies maintain accreditation. Or, sometimes by nationwide agencies that the federal government oversees.
Why Is College Accreditation Important?
While accreditation usually adds legitimacy to any school’s background, a lack of accreditation could mean the school is too new to have landed this critical distinction. However, in the case of online colleges, students should beware of non-accredited institutions. Many degree mills and poor-quality institutions claim to give degrees but do not have a stamp of approval from a governing agency.
According to the Western Association of Schools and Colleges, one of the many regional accrediting commissions recognized in the United States, the primary reason for college accreditation is to ensure the highest standards in postsecondary education and to improve educational quality in specific programs over time. In addition to this, there are many other benefits to accreditation for online colleges.
Typical Accrediting Criteria
- Students can prove that they have a competent educational background to future employers.
- Students can often have their college credits accepted at other accredited institutions.
- Accredited programs ensure curriculum relevance in a variety of professions.
- Employers can feel confident when hiring new employees who attended accredited institutions.
- Students can more easily land student loans and federal grants.
- Students have a higher level of excellence for admission and graduation.
Overall, accreditation for online postsecondary schools confirms an excellent educational experience with many benefits for one’s future vocation. It ensures that a neutral party has reviewed the institution’s academic programs to certify that it complies with national indicators.
What Are the Different Types of College Accreditation?
Students should look for accreditation from one of the following respected bodies in the United States. Regional accrediting bodies cover six different regions throughout the United States and do not usually accept credit transfers from nationally recognized accrediting bodies. Accreditation could come from one of the following associations.
- Middle States Commission on Higher Education
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges
- North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges
In addition, there are few nationally recognized accrediting bodies. The most significant benefit of accreditation with one of these bodies when taking online classes is that they usually accept credits from most post-secondary educational institutions. However, students should remember that degrees earned from institutions with national accreditation may not be recognized in particular states within certain professions, such as teaching or engineering.
Do All Online Schools Have Accreditation?
Sadly, not all online schools today have accreditation, and students must look for unaccredited schools and those offering fake diplomas or degrees. It may surprise many that there are many unaccredited online colleges. However, a careful search should assure students of the quality level of any particular school.
Most importantly, colleges should list the association or commission that accredits them. Students should also look for misleading phrases. Some schools may state they have international approval or notarization. In addition, some colleges list illegitimate accrediting agencies not recognized across the United States.
How Do I Learn More?
Today, the U.S. Department of Education offers an easy way to look up the accreditation of postsecondary education institutions through a simple search on its site. Because this department oversees federally and regionally recognized institutions, it helps to hold specific colleges and universities accountable for what they promise their students. Students can also turn to the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, a nationally recognized advocate for postsecondary educational quality.
While many reputable online college programs have accreditation, not all schools are. Potential students must guard against educational scams and programs that will not best prepare them for their futures. Federal agencies offer ways to check an institution’s accreditation status. Now students can quickly find out if their online schools have accreditation.
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