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How to Tell If an Online School Is Accredited

posted by Mark on April 1st, 2009

How to Tell If an Online School Is Accredited When researching which online school to “attend,” a crucial step is determining if the institution is an accredited online school, and if so, by whom.

What is accreditation?

Accreditation is an educational institution’s stamp of approval, designating that it has met standards set to ensure that schools provide a quality education. Accreditation serves an important role in quality control, providing students with the assurance that they will be adequately prepared for either the job force or continued education.

Who grants accreditation?

Accreditation is granted by accrediting agencies, private associations that establish the educational standards for schools and determine how well schools meet those standards.

What are the different types of accreditation?

Educational accreditation typically falls into one of two categories:

  • Institutional: Accreditation applies to the entire college or university.
  • Specialized or programmatic: Accreditation applies to an individual curriculum, program, department or school within the college or university, or occasionally to a professional college that specializes in a particular field. Specialized accrediting agencies are typically separate from institutional accrediting agencies.

How can you find out if a school is accredited?

There are two major resources to find out if a school is accredited:

  • U.S. Department of Education: The USDE lists about 6,900 post-secondary institutions and programs accredited by organizations recognized by the U.S. Department of Education.
  • Council for Higher Education Association: The CHEA lists about 7,600 schools and 18,700 programs accredited by organizations recognized by either the CHEA or the USDE, or both.
Some accrediting associations and their institutions appear in both the CHEA and USDE databases, while others appear in just one.

How can you find out if a school is accredited by a reputable organization?

Here is a list of all accrediting organizations recognized by CHEA or USDE. However, an accreditor being recognized doesn’t ensure that other schools will accept transfer credits from an institution accredited by that organization. Such is the case with the Distance Education Training Council (DETC), an accreditor that specializes in distance education. While many online schools are accredited by the DETC, and although the DETC is recognized by both the CHEA and the USDE, many colleges and universities don’t accept transfer credits from DETC-accredited schools.

As such, the most universally reputable accreditation for an online school is one from one of the six major regional accreditors, which accredit schools in the following locations:

Students are advised to plan out their educational course of action before enrolling and to check with schools to which they might transfer to determine their credit acceptance policies.

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