Online colleges have become a popular alternative to on-campus programs, especially for those who are working and cannot attend college full-time. Many online colleges offer all of their classes online, so students can work on earning a college degree at their own pace and from the comfort of their own home.
However, not all online colleges are accredited. Some online colleges even turn out to be nothing but “diploma mills” allowing students to do little work and still receive a degree. It is very important that you choose an accredited school in order to gain the maximum benefit from your college degree. No matter what your field of study, there is an accreditation organization that governs education in that area. Be sure that your online school meets these accreditation standards to ensure that you are getting a valid degree and are receiving an education that will prepare you for your future career.
How Can I Find Out if My Online School is Accredited?
You can find out if your online college is accredited by visiting the United States Department of Education database. While this will give you instant information about your school, you should also check your region’s accrediting body.
Regional accreditation is often more important than national accreditation to future employers. This may seem contradictory, but regional accreditation organizations have more influence over the curriculum and programs at a school than national organizations. In addition, regionally accredited colleges usually accept transfer credits only from other regionally accredited schools. Among colleges, regional accreditation is considered the standard for determining the value of a curriculum or program.
There are six regional accreditation organizations that govern programs in various geographical areas. Find the one that governs your area or the geographical area in which your online school’s home office is located. If your online school has regional accreditation, it will come from one of these organizations.
The NEASC accredits colleges based in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
NCA accredits schools in Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, the Navajo Nation, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
The MSA accredits schools in Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
SACS accredits schools in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.
WASC accredits schools in American Samoa, California, Guam, and Hawaii.
The NASC accredits schools in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington.
What If My School is Accredited by Some Other Organization?
Some online schools seek national accreditation from organizations such as the Distance Education Training Council or DETC. While many employers accept DETC certification as proof of the validity of an online degree, you may experience trouble if you try to transfer from your online school to a regionally accredited college. Many regionally accredited schools do not accept credits from an online school which has only DETC accreditation and not regional accreditation. However, if you attend an online school with one regional accreditation your credits will easily transfer to another regionally accredited university, even if the college is accredited by a different organization.
Specific programs in your online school may be accredited by a private organization. For example, many nursing programs are accredited by the National League for Nursing Accreditation Commission or NLNAC. While regional accreditation is important, it may also be important that your online school seeks specific program accreditation. This guarantees that you are receiving a quality education in your field and that your classes will be challenging, up-to-date, and will prepare you for a career in your chosen field.
Choosing an accredited school may limit your online college choices, but accepting the importance of attending a school with accreditation can pay off later in life. There are many accredited online schools, so make sure to find one that meets your needs.