How To Find Out If An Online School Is Accredited
Students interested in an online college or university should be particularly careful to make sure the school is accredited. Most online programs in the United States today are not degree mills and expect the same level of academic performance from their online and on-campus students. However, the risk remains and prospective students interested in a particular school or program should verify its accreditation status as soon as possible, even before applying. This is because there’s little point in completing an application, possibly paying an application fee and writing an admissions essay to a school that’s not accredited.
But how can a student know for sure? The following is the process by which prospective students can tell if a particular school is accredited by a recognized accrediting agency.
Check the School’s Website
Most accredited educational institutions will have a link to their accreditation status on the bottom or corner of their front page. At the very least, it should be easily found through the website’s search function. If looking for programmatic accreditation, the prospective student will probably need to find the accreditation information on the specific program’s homepage.
What Is Accreditation Guide To Accreditation And Alternatives
Learn what the accreditation status of a college, university, or program means to you before you apply.
If youâre applying for community college, university, or even college-level coursework, youâre likely faced with many choices. Not all educational institutions and programs offer the same level of quality. Checking that a college is accredited is one way to verify that it meets certain minimum quality assurance standards. Accreditation can look different in different countriesâthe standards used and the processes that a college or university must follow may vary.
In the United States, the Department of Education doesnât certify or accredit colleges and universities directly. Instead, the Department recognizes several independent accreditation agencies to take on this role. In this article, youâll learn more about what accreditation is, how US schools get accredited, how to verify accreditation, and why it should matter to you as you make decisions about your own learning journey.
Middle States Commission On Higher Education
From its founding in 1919 until early 2013, MSCHE was a unit of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools . These days, however, the accreditor is an independent body.
MSCHE provides accreditation as well as pre-accreditation of higher learning institutions in Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, and the US Virgin Islands. The agency also accredits schools in any other geographic area it accredits those in the US and across the globe.
Don’t Miss: What Are Core Classes In College
You Can More Easily Transfer Credits
Transfer students should check that the school they’re transferring to will accept the academic credit they earned at their original institution. Learners who complete classes at an unaccredited institution may need to retake those courses if they decide to transfer to another institution.
While not all universities readily accept all credits earned from another accredited college, your chances of having them accepted are much higher than if you’d attended an unaccredited school.
What Is Regional Institutional Accreditation
Regional accreditation agencies oversee institutions that place a focus on academics that are state-owned or non-profit colleges or universities. There are six regional accrediting agencies for higher education institutions in the U.S. These agencies oversee institutions within their particular clusters of states.
The six agencies are:
- Middle States Commission on Higher Education
- NY, NJ, PA, DE, MD, Washington D.C.
Also Check: How To Pay For Your Kids College
What Is Regional Accreditation
Regionally accredited schools strive to uphold strict academic standards. They are often considered more prestigious than nationally accredited schools. If you are considering transferring to a regionally accredited school, be aware that it may only accept credits from other regionally accredited institutions.
Regional accreditation is the oldest accreditation system in the United States. It encompasses most nonprofit colleges and universities as well as some for-profit schools. There are also some regionally accredited online programs, known for their general education programs more than their career-driven ones. There are six regional accrediting agencies within the United States, detailed in the table below.
Regional And National Institutional Accrediting Agencies
The following regional and national accrediting agencies are recognized by the Secretary as reliable authorities concerning the quality of education or training offered by the institutions of higher education or higher education programs they accredit. Ed.Gov
Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges 1967/2011/S2016Scope of recognition: the accreditation of postsecondary, non-degree-granting institutions and degree-granting institutions in the United States, including those granting associate, baccalaureate, and masters degrees, that are predominantly organized to educate students for occupational, trade and technical careers, and including institutions that offer programs via distance education.
Michale McComis, Executive Director2101 Wilson Boulevard, Suite 302Arlington, Virginia 22201
Distance Education Accrediting Commission1959/2012/S2017Scope of recognition: the accreditation of postsecondary institutions in the United States that offer degree and/or non-degree programs primarily by the distance or correspondence education method up to and including the professional doctoral degree, including those institutions that are specifically certified by the agency as accredited for Title IV purposes.Title IV Note: Only accredited institutions that are certified by the agency as accredited for Title IV purposes may use accreditation by this agency to establish eligibility of its degree and/or non-degree programs to participate in Title IV programs.
Recommended Reading: What Is The Best College For Music Education
What Is The Benefit Of Having An Accredited Degree In The Job Market
How will employers view an accredited degree versus a non-accredited degree?
The Benefits of Having a Degree
The benefits of having a degree in the job market are tremendous. Workers with an associates degree earn an average of 25% more than workers with only a high school diploma, and workers with a bachelors earn over 70% more. For many jobs, having a degree is necessary to be hired at all, or to be promoted beyond a certain level. The benefits of higher education are projected to increase in coming years.
The Importance of Being Accredited
However, it cannot be just any degree. Obtaining an accredited degree is absolutely essential if you hope to garner the career success you deserve. Accreditation is a process in which outside agencies evaluate a schools programs to ensure that they meet applicable academic standards. Without accreditation, it is impossible for employers to know whether your diploma is from a legitimate institution or whether it is from a diploma millâa company that offers degrees in exchange for money and little academic work. Academic institutions are equally skeptical of degrees from non-accredited schools, so it can be extremely difficult to transfer credits from a non-accredited institution to an accredited one.
Knowing your Accreditation Agencies
How Long Do College Credits Last Before They Expire
Different educational institutions have different policies regarding whether or not your college credits expire. Some schools will allow students to take an extended break from their studies while still retaining their credit hours. Others will revoke an entire semesters worth of credit if a student does not complete all of their courses within one year. In addition, there are caveats regarding how long those credits will be valid for use toward degree completion.
So, in general, how long do college credits last? It depends on your college and the course you are pursuing.
Don’t Miss: How To Get College Credit For Life Experience
You Might Receive A Low Quality Education
Some unaccredited programs are known as degree mills or diploma mills. These unethical institutions basically sell you a degree with a very short education time framesome as little as five dayswith very little actual learning taking place. If you see an institution advertising that they can get you a degree in a significantly shorter time period than other institutions, this may be a clue that this is a diploma mill.
Verify Accreditation Of A College Or University
New Jersey Department of Education certification regulations require that college credits are shown on the transcript of an accredited institution of higher education.
Accreditation and accredited mean a status attained by an institution through voluntarily meeting standards for academic degree programs and/or college credit-bearing courses set by a nongovernmental entity recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education.
Individuals seeking New Jersey educator certification or substitute credentials that require college credits must submit transcripts from an accredited institution of higher education. If a college or university has been accredited by one of these recognized agencies, then credits from their transcripts can be evaluated for certification purposes.
Please note, per below, that accreditation does not provide automatic acceptance of course credits.
Don’t Miss: What Shots Do You Need Before College
Southern Association Of Colleges And Schools Commission On Colleges
As the name suggests, SACSCOC accredits colleges and universities in the Southern states. They include Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia. The accrediting agency also accredits schools in Latin America and other international sites approved by the Board of Trustees.
SACSCOC has accredited more than 13,000 US public and private institutions ranging from preschool to college level.
What Types Of Accreditation For Colleges Are There
The U.S. maintains no federal regulation of higher education as it concerns academic quality and standards. Instead, each state maintains its own policies.
Since many state governments only provide loose oversight, some schools may engage in dishonest practices and deliver low-quality education. Independent accreditation bodies are a good way for prospective students to verify an institution’s educational merits.
The two main types of accreditation for colleges are institutional accreditation and programmatic accreditation.
Also Check: Did President Trump Go To College
How Schools Get Accredited
The process of obtaining accreditation has several steps. First, an accreditation agency works with an educational institution to establish reasonable criteria that must be met to receive accreditation. A school then conducts a self-evaluation with these criteria in mind. If the school determines that it meets the criteria, then it hosts an outside evaluation team sent by the accrediting agency. Once the team is satisfied that the proper standards have been met, the agency officially grants accreditation to the institution. Once this accreditation has been granted, the agency continues to monitor the institution, and occasionally launches a full reevaluation, to ensure that it continues to meet the standards.
How Do You Know If A Program Is Accredited
For those seeking higher education degrees, it is as important to know if a program is accredited as it is to know the schools accreditation status. School and program accreditation ensures that higher educational institutions operate according to high quality standards set forth by regional, national and professional organizations. These standards help to define curriculum content, best practices for instruction, and provide the framework for graduates to successfully transition into their careers. Additionally, appropriate accreditation is required for schools to take advantage of financial aid opportunities.
Recommended Reading: Do You Have To Go To College
Accredited Universities Are More Rigorous
Dont confuse academic rigor with hard classes. What this really means is that you are taking courses from a faculty who are recognized as having strong credentials, and are evaluated on their teaching and their ability to keep up with changing trends in their field. That means most, if not all, professors at that university have the highest degrees available in their field.
Accreditation Makes Transferring Credits Easier
You may decide to take courses at a less expensive university or college to get some of your general education requirements done. But if you dont attend an accredited institution, it is highly unlikely that your credits will transfer, and you wont be able to count them towards general education at an accredited institution.
If you are thinking of getting some General Education courses under your belt, Outlier offers high quality courses at a low cost. Plus all our classes are accredited through a top 60 university, the University of Pittsburgh, so Outlier credits should transfer to wherever you need them to.
Also Check: How Much Is The Average College Tuition
Is It Bad To Attend A Non
There are many disadvantages that come with going to a college without accreditation. This is especially true for low-income students as they will not be eligible to get federal and state financial aid. Credits earned at a non-accredited school may not transfer and degrees may not be accepted by employers.
First things first: just because a college has no accreditation doesnt mean right away that its a fake.
If truth be told, there are actual higher learning institutions out there that are legit but without any accreditation. Typically, these schools chose not to participate in any accreditation process for various reasons.
For instance, its not unlikely for a college or university to feel that getting accredited is a breach of its religious or political views.
However, its also important to keep in mind that some non-accredited institutions are completely bogus schools, many of which can be considered diploma or degree mills.
Different reasons exist why its not a good idea to attend a college without any accreditation. Leading the list is the fact that only accredited institutions get federal or state funding.
So, in other words, students at a non-accredited school are not eligible to get financial aid from the government bye, low-cost college!
Besides that, here are some other downsides to going to a school with no accreditation:
How Accreditation Works And Why It Matters
A schools accreditation status often serves as one of the most important decision-making factors for students selecting a college to attend, and rightfully so. When a school holds accreditation, it means an outside agency vetted its academic programs for quality, rigorousness, and adherence to certain educational standards. Accreditation agencies create set criteria for accreditation, and the Department of Education trusts these outside agencies as authorities in determining whether colleges and universities meet that criteria. The federal government sets its own criteria for accreditors to gain approval, but the government does not actually accredit any individual institutions.
Because it lacks a central agency to govern postsecondary institutions, the U.S. government relies on these accreditors to ensure that institutions meet academic and quality standards. Without this kind of assurance, the quality in education from school to school could vary dramatically, and students would not know if the education they received met any kind of academic standards.
Students need to actively seek out accredited schools for a variety of reasons. Ineligibility for federal aid, inability to transfer earned credit, and a potentially detrimental impact on career prospects serve as just a few reasons to avoid unaccredited institutions. Keep reading to learn more about the importance of accreditation and how attending an unaccredited school could impact your education and career prospects.
Also Check: What To Put In College Application
Look Into Programmatic Accreditation
Other than institutional accreditation, which is what we have been talking about all the while, there is also such a thing as programmatic accreditation.
As the name suggests, this type of accreditation is given to an academic program instead of the institution offering it a college can have both institutional accreditation and various programmatic accreditations.
Whats really nice about a program with programmatic accreditation is that it has undergone a rigorous review process and has met the accreditors standards.
Programs without programmatic accreditation are still legit, provided that they are from an accredited school.
To date, there are many different programmatic accrediting organizations that review academic programs offered by US colleges and universities. Some examples of CHEA-recognized include:
- Accreditation Commission for Audiology Education
- Accreditation Commission for Programs in Hospitality Administration
- Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education
- American Council for Construction Education
- American Culinary Federation Education Foundation, Inc.
- Commission on Accreditation of Athletic Training Education
- Council on Chiropractic Education
- Masters in Psychology and Counseling Accreditation Council
- National Accrediting Agency for Clinical Laboratory Sciences
- Planning Accreditation Board
- Psychological Clinical Science Accreditation System
What Is A Diploma Mill
Diploma mills disguise themselves as real schools, when instead they are fake and deceptive companies that provide customers with a credential in return for payment. They may have convincing names, but they are not schools. Sometimes they offer fake transcripts and references as part of the deal. Other diploma mills will try to justify their services by saying that they award academic credit for life experiences. People who pay diploma mills may never have to open a book, write an essay, or take a test to receive a degree or certificate. These credentials are not recognized by academic institutions or the workforce.
Diploma mills are never accredited. No recognized agency would ever issue accreditation to a school that outright sells diplomas or gives them out based on a persons life experiences. Receiving a degree will never be immediate. It requires study, hard work, and time. If you shell out big bucks for a degree, make sure they go toward tuition, not a fake certificate.
Also Check: How To Fund Your College Education