What is College Accreditation?

College accreditation is a formal recognition, or guarantee, that an entire school or college, or even just one of its programs meets certain standards and provides quality education.

Why is College accreditation Important?

  • College accreditation gives the assurance that, as a distance learner, you will be able to attain the same educational outcomes and enjoy quality education as you would in a traditional classroom-based program.
  • College accreditation entitles you to the same rights to admissions, orientation, registration, counseling, tutoring, placement, financial aid, and other student services that are available to all other college students, regardless of the delivery method of your classes.
  • Without accreditation by a nationally recognized accrediting organization, a school is not eligible to participate in government student assistance programs. This means that, as a student, you would not be eligible for federal grant or loan money.
  • Most employers who offer tuition assistance will not reimburse your tuition if you attend a school that is not accredited.
  • If you intend to transfer credits from one school to another, you will only be able to do so if you attended an accredited college or university.

It is worthwhile to note that not all college accreditation associations are legitimate. Some colleges and diploma mills create their own accrediting authority and then grant themselves "accreditation". You have to be extremely careful and stay on the lookout for such institutions so that you do not waste your time and money by enrolling in a non-accredited or illegitimate institution.

How will you know if a college is accredited by a legitimate authority?

It's very easy to know if a college is accredited by a legitimate accrediting body. There are two large organizations in the United States that recognize accrediting agencies, giving them validation:

Thus you can look up a schools' accreditation in any of these two accrediting body's databases and know what type of accreditation a college has and confirm if it's legit or not.

In Canada, college accreditation is provided by the Association of Universities and Colleges of Canada. See http://www/cmec.ca/ for more information on Canadian accreditation. You can also select a Canadian school from this list of campus colleges in Canada.

In the United States, there are six regional accrediting agencies that are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and CHEA. These agencies accredit entire institutions. All are equally authoritative and recognize each other as such. This means credits or degrees earned from a school accredited by one agency will be recognized by a school accredited by another agency.

Regional vs. National Accreditation: what's the difference?

In most cases, the difference between regional and national accreditation is that the regionally accredited schools usually offer specific academic curricula and degrees, while the nationally accredited schools are quite often technical or vocational type schools that are geared toward a particular job position in the career world.

Although national accreditation is recognized by both the USDE and the CHEA and federal financial aid may be provided to students that attend these colleges or universities, some students may find that they experience trouble with transferring credits from a nationally accredited college course program to a regionally accredited college. The difference between the two types of schools and the nature of the courses that they provide is the reason that college credits may not be truly transferable.

United States (USA) / American College Accreditation Agencies

The following accrediting agencies are recognized as legitimate accrediting bodies by the US Department of Education and CHEA. Each list has a searcheable database of the schools (online colleges and campus-based) that it accredits on its website.

  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education – This organization accredits schools in Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. Visit http://www.msche.org for more information.
  • New England Association of Schools and Colleges – This organization accredits schools in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont and American/international schools in more than 65 nations worldwide. Visit http://www.neasc.org for more information.
  • North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement (NCA CASI – This organization accredits schools in Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, Utah, and Washington. Visit http://www.ncacasi.org for more information.
  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) – This organization accredits schools and colleges in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington. Visit http://www.nwccu.org/ for more information.
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools - This organization accredits schools in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. Visit http://www.sacscoc.org for more information.
  • Western Association of Schools and Colleges – This organization accredits schools in California, Hawaii, and Guam. Visit http://www.wascweb.org for more information.

There are also other college accreditation organizations that the U.S. Department of Education and CHEA recognize, such as the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC), which mainly accredits distance learning programs.

For a full list of the accrediting agencies that the U.S Department of Education and CHEA recognize, you may visit http://www.ed.gov/about/offices/list/ope/index.html and/or http://www.chea.org/

If you are considering taking courses - either online or offline - and you're not sure whether the school you are considering is legitimately accredited, or whether it is a diploma mill or degree mill, we recommend that you look it up first against these accrediting agencies. Remember, it is your education, time, and money, and no institution should have the right to take advantage of you. If you are in doubt, look it up!

For your convinience, we have listed here some of the top distance learning colleges and universities that you can consider and earn your education online while you work, support your family or engage in other activities.

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