Accreditation is a term that is thrown around often, but few students know what it is and understand how it applies to them. If you are planning on attending an online college, accreditation should be the first thing you get verified. According to the U.S. Department of Education, accreditation is defined as the voluntary, nongovernmental process, in which an institution and its programs are evaluated on meeting required education standards for measuring quality. In order to be accredited, governmental and nongovernmental accrediting agencies that are approved by the Secretary of the U.S. Department of Education have to individually evaluate schools based on strict criteria combined with peer evaluations. Once a school is accredited, they are subject to annual reviews of its teachers, coursework, facilities and equipment to verify that the school and its programs have upheld these standards.
For students, accreditation can affect many functions and capabilities of your school, such as the quality of instructors, quality of your curriculum and eligibility for financial assistance. Accreditation also determines if your college credits will transfer to other higher learning institutions and if employers will recognize a degree or certificate for employment. When looking for an online college to attend, the most important thing to verify is if the school is accredited. In order to do so, you should refer to the U.S. Department of Education’s database of accredited postsecondary institutions and programs. Here, you can also find in-depth information on regional and national accrediting agencies and read about their evaluation criteria. It’s important to note that not all schools are accredited. Some are too new and others don’t want to be reviewed, but just because a school is not accredited, doesn’t mean it is a bad institution or of poor quality. We don’t recommend attending an unaccredited online school based on the risks involved, but if you are sold on one, it is suggested that you talk to a school representative or admissions counselor to verify that your credits will transfer and your degree will be recognized by employers. Chances are neither answer will be yes. Why run the risk of completing years of hard work and spending thousands of dollars on a degree that isn’t accepted? You can’t go wrong by choosing an accredited online college.