Online Degrees & Accreditation
Colleges, universities, and other post-secondary education programs undergo voluntary accreditation to prove that they adhere to acceptable levels of quality and standards. It’s not hard to find out if your school is accredited, but it’s crucial that the school and program you choose to attend has the accepted and standard accreditation, including online programs.
Last Updated: 02/03/2022
Understanding accreditation is critically important when looking for an online program. A school’s accreditation not only helps ensure the quality of the education you receive, it’s also vital if you need to secure student financial aid. Students who fail to attend an accredited school cannot take advantage of federal financial aid, let alone graduate from an institution with a good reputation.
Taking time to understand accreditation details is key to finding the best online program for your educational and career needs. Whether you’re researching options for your first degree or want to pursue an advanced education, accreditation remains important at every academic level.
In addition to educating readers on the various types of accreditation and how each applies to different schools, you can also learn about common warning signs, get to know the entities that oversee accrediting agencies, and see what our expert has to say on the matter.
Types of Accreditation
Understanding different types of accreditation can help you make an educated decision about both the school and program you choose to attend. When starting your educational journey, it’s worth understanding how accreditation works. While the U.S. Department of Education doesn’t directly accredit schools, it does provide oversight for accrediting agencies. Accreditation exists in several different forms, each of which we will explore in the following sections. Depending on the programs and degree levels available, a school may hold more than one type of accreditation. Keep reading to learn all you need to know about this important process.
The Function of Accrediting Agencies
Whether regional, national, or programmatic, accrediting agencies fill a specific role in school accreditation. These non-governmental organizations set the standards for receiving accreditation, provide peer reviews of individual institutions and programs, and make decisions about whether they meet the requirements or need to make adjustments before reapplying. Individual types of accrediting agencies set unique standards and dictate the type of school or program that applies.
Both the U.S. Department of Education and Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) work with recognized accrediting agencies to ensure standards are achieved and maintained.
Accreditation and Financial Aid
In addition to ensuring you don’t face trouble transferring credits, getting licensure, or finding a job, proper accreditation also eliminates issues around federal student aid eligibility and consideration for other public and private funding awards. Below we look at how accreditation affects financial aid.
Accreditation Warning Signs and Green Lights
Several red flags for scam schools exist that you should be able to spot quickly if you know the signs. We look at warning signs and good signs below to help you tell the difference between fake and legitimate schools.
Online Degree Accreditation FAQs
If you still have questions about anything related to accreditation, we’re here to help. Check out our expert answers to some of the most frequently asked questions below.
Insight from an Expert on Online Accreditation
Arash Fayz is the Co-Founder and Executive Director at LA Tutors 123, a premier test preparation, academic consultation, and private tutoring company. His company has been featured by CBS, HuffPost, Barron’s and Los Angeles Times. Arash is an author for wikiHow.com. His articles gained over 700,000 views on wikiHow.com in 2020.
- Accreditation in the United States
The U.S. Department of Education provides this comprehensive guide for students or others in the education world looking to learn more.
- Ask an Expert: What Kind of Accreditation Should a College Have?
National University provides this in-depth look at the types of accreditation that best serve different types of colleges.
- Consider School Accreditation When Determining a College’s Value
U.S. News underscores the importance of understanding accreditation, especially when it comes to dollars and cents.
- Council for Higher Education Accreditation
Along with the U.S. Department of Education, CHEA provides oversight to accrediting agencies.
- Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs
Use this U.S. Department of Education database to find an accredited school that meets your needs.
- How Institutions are Accredited
The Higher Learning Commission, a regional accrediting body, shares this overview of the accrediting process.
- Programmatic Accreditation for College Curriculums
Learn why this type of accreditation matters especially when pursuing specific types of degrees.
- Regional vs. National Accreditation and Why It Matters
Drexel University put together this comprehensive piece on the differences between the two types of accreditation and what you need to know.
- Types of Accreditation: What’s the Differences?
CHEA put together this video to answer common questions about different types of accreditation.
- Why Accreditation Matters
EdFix brings you this fascinating podcast episode that highlights why you need to care about accreditation.