Accreditation of Online Schools and Universities
If you are interested in pursuing a diploma, degree, or certificate online, you may be wondering how to go about choosing an online school. With today’s fast paced lifestyle, distance learning is becoming more and more in demand. As a result, there are literally thousands of online schools that you can choose from. Unfortunately, not all online schools are created equal, so one important way of separating the good online schools from the bad is to check for accreditation. Accreditation of online schools and universities helps to ensure that you get a good online education and a legitimate diploma or degree.
What is Accreditation?
Accreditation is a process that many colleges, universities, and specialized schools go through in order to prove their legitimacy to students, employers, and the general public. An accredited school has shown itself to meet specific criteria regarding training, resources, and teaching. It has also been proven to provide education that meets a nationally accepted level.
Who Provides Accreditation?
In the United States, accreditation of schools is usually performed by an independent agency. Unfortunately, this means that not all accreditation agencies are created equal. In fact, some agencies are actually made up by online schools in an effort to gain false accreditation status. Reputable accreditation agencies in the United States are approved by the National Education Association (NEA) or the US Department of Education. So, if you have any doubts, be sure to check with them before signing on.
Types of Accreditation
There are three main types of accreditation. Be sure to find out what type of accreditation you will need in the future before signing up for a degree or diploma program.
- Regional Accreditation: Regional accreditation is typically recognized as the best type of accreditation available in the United States. There are six main regional accreditation bodies which are responsible for reviewing colleges and universities that lie in specific geographic areas.
- National Accreditation: National accreditation is typically seen as inferior to regional accreditation, however, it is still widely accepted by employers. National accreditation bodies accredit both colleges and universities.
- Specialized Accreditation: Specialized accreditation does not apply to an entire school but rather, a specific program within a school (for example, a psychology, nursing, or health department). It is required for some specialized job fields.
Who Accredits Online Schools?
Because online schools often overlap geographic and political borders, a distinct body has been designed in order to award accreditation to these schools. Known as the Distance Learning and Education Council (DLEC), this council is recognized as a reputable accreditation provider. Online schools can also be accredited by regional, national, and specialized accreditation bodies.
Do You Need Accreditation for Online Schools?
Accreditation is becoming increasingly important as the number of online schools begins to rise. More and more illegitimate schools are popping up all over the Internet and these schools do not provide students with the appropriate services, resources, or education to earn a worthwhile degree. Many of these illegimitate schools are referred to as "degree mills": they simply give you a "degree" in return for a specific sum of money.
In order to protect all schools, students, and employers, online schools are now being accredited in order to ensure their legitimacy. Accreditation of an online school ensures:
- that a student is earning a legitimate degree.
- that an employer is hiring a employee who has completed legitimate studies.
- that credit transfers can be performed easily and legitimately.
- that online degrees and diplomas can be transferred easily
If Your Online School Isn’t Accredited
If you have discovered that your online school isn’t accredited, don’t panic right away. Accreditation is a lengthy and complicated process, and takes time to complete. Many new schools that are legitimate simply haven’t had the time to complete the accreditation process yet. Be sure to talk with the directors of your school about whether or not they are pursuing accreditation.
If you have discovered that your online school has failed to receive accreditation, it is also important to talk with the directors of the school. Find out why the school did not receive accreditation. If your career or educational goals depend upon having an accredited diploma or degree, you may want to think about pursuing your online education elsewhere.
Warning Signs of a Illegitimate Online School
Most online schools are wonderful places to learn and grow. Unfortunately, not all online schools are good schools. Here are some warning signs to watch out for when applying to an online program:
- Advertisements that say "Accreditation in Process," "Approved," or "Certified." Schools that are accredited will say so in writing on all of their advertisement.
- Schools that will allow you to skip degree levels (for instance, some schools may allow you to complete an online Doctoral degree without completing a Masters degree). This is illegal.
- Schools that offer online degrees or diplomas that can be completed in very short periods of time (most degree programs take at least two years to complete).