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The importance of accreditation and online education cannot be underestimated. Understanding why accreditation is important and that not all online or on campus educational programs are accredited will help you make a well-informed educational choice when looking for an online college degree program.
What does accreditation mean?
Online college programs must go through the same accreditation process and meet the same standards of quality as on-campus college programs. Both are subject to a voluntary review process called accreditation.
But what exactly is accreditation? The best definition this writer could find follows. It is from the U.S. Network for Education Information.
"Accreditation is the process used in U.S. education to ensure that schools, postsecondary institutions, and other education providers meet, and maintain, minimum standards of quality and integrity regarding academics, administration, and related services. It is a voluntary process based on the principle of academic self-governance. In international terms, accreditation by a recognized accrediting authority is accepted as the U.S. equivalent of other countries' ministerial recognition of institutions belonging to the national education system."
The United States Department of Education states: “The goal of accreditation is to ensure that education provided by institutions of higher education meets acceptable levels of quality.”
Accreditation is not a guarantee of your probable satisfaction with a school, but it should be a bottom-line consideration when looking into any online college program. Some of the aspects you can be sure of when finding that a school is accredited are:
• That school has voluntarily submitted its institution and programs to an extensive review process.
• The institution meets specific minimum standards of quality and will need to keep those standards in lace for the next accreditation review.
• The school has a structured curriculum and educational program that is worthy of review by peers.
• Monies paid to that school can be considered by students, parents and financing institutions to be a wise investment in a student’s education, and that the student will get what been paid for.
• All facets of the institution and its programs have been evaluated and found to be worthy and can be viewed by the public, employers and other institutions as such.
Why is accreditation important?
There are three main reasons why accreditation is very important to you.
1. Federally sponsored financial aid is only available when enrolling in schools and programs that are accredited. This applies to online programs as well as on-campus programs.
2. Transfer credit is only honored by accredited schools when the credits have been completed at other accredited schools. If you plan to transfer, for example when applying to a 4-year school from a 2-year college, or to a graduate program from an undergraduate school, it is important that the school you are transferring from is accredited.
3. Employers may not recognize education and training completed at a non-accredited institution. Potential employers may look for proof of accreditation before honoring your credentials. Opportunities for advancement, certification and licensure can be negatively impacted by attending and graduating from a non-accredited educational program.
Perhaps the most important reason is having the peace of mind that you are going to receive a quality education from an accredited online college program!
Who accredits online programs?
In the U.S., accreditation is conducted by state approved agencies and organizations recognized by the United States Department of Education. A detailed list of state approved regional accrediting agencies can be found at this link: http://www.ed.gov/admins/finaid/accred/accreditation_pg7.html#RegionalInstitutional .
How can I be sure the school I’m interested in is accredited?
Ask! Admissions offices will have accreditation status available to all applicants. College and educational program materials will always list the accrediting agency that reviews and accredits that school. If in doubt, or if accreditation status is lacking on college application brochures and catalogs, you must inquire directly. Being sure the college, university or educational program is accredited by an agency recognized by the Secretary of Education and the U.S. Department of Education is very important.
If you need help with this, or any aspect of enrolling in an accredited online educational program, contact us. We would be happy to help.
-Resources on Online College Degrees and Programs