When you are considering earning a degree from online school, you must be warned about diploma mills – staying away from these “fake” schools and choosing the school or program with accreditation, which helps distinguish your diploma or degree from ones that are awarded by fly-by-night institutions.
A degree from the online school or program accredited by right agencies would lead you to well-paid jobs and broader career paths. On the contrary, a degree that is given by an unaccredited online school can turn out to be a waste of money and time, as that may not be accepted in your later workplace.
Therefore, make sure the online school you are considering is accredited before you register for classes. Then how to tell if an online school is accredited? In fact, if you are doing the homework in the right way, you can find out the school’s accreditation status within 1 or 2 minutes.
So, to help you avoid diploma mills and earn what is worth your money and time, I am here to show you four methods on how to make sure of a school’s accreditation.
1. The first and the simplest way to find out a school’s accreditation information is to visit the school’s website. Since accreditation is an “honor,” online schools with accreditation would like to show this information in the notable position on their websites.
In most cases, an accredited online school will have a page dedicated to its credentials, showing the accrediting agency that accredited it and when it was last accredited. Meanwhile, many online schools, besides the general accreditation, also have programs or courses that are specially accredited by specialized accrediting agencies.
Given the importance of accreditation, accredited online schools would not hide their accreditation information, however, if you can not find it, you should watch out.
Similarly, if an online school claims that it is accredited, but does not show who awarded the accreditation, that would be another warning sign.
2. Actually, even if you find accreditation information on an online school’s website, it does not mean that is the case. The school may be lying. Then you can turn to another resort – checking the US Department of Education’s Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs, which includes all institutions and programs accredited by recognized accrediting agencies and state-approved agencies.
Here is the how-to guide on navigating the database:
• Go to Search Page of USDE’s Database of Postsecondary Institutions and Programs (http://ope.ed.gov/accreditation/Search.aspx)
• Enter the name of the online school you are interested in. You can choose not to enter the school’s address and city, and simply click the “Search” button at the bottom.
• Then you will be shown all schools that match your searching criteria. Choose the one that you actually would like to research.
• The accreditation information of your selected school will appear. Compare the school’s address and phone number information with that on the school’s website to make sure this is the correct school.
• On this page you will see the detailed information on institutional accreditation and specialized accreditation, containing the accrediting agencies, accreditation status (accredited or pre-accredited), and accrediting date.
• You can click the name of the accrediting agency for further information.
If the online school you are considering can be found on this database, this indicates this school is accredited. However, it is noteworthy that the US Department of Education does not guarantee the accreditation information founded in the database is accurate or current.
3. So, if you do not feel assured with the searching result of the USDE’s Database of Postsecondary Institutions and Programs and still have doubts on the school’s accreditation or credibility, I recommend you to consult the Better Business Bureau.
The Better Business Bureau is a non-profit organization collecting and providing free reliability reviews on more than 4 million businesses. Through BBB, you can find out how long a school has been in business and if anyone has filed a complaint about it, helping you gain an in-depth understanding on its curriculum, faculty, service, etc.
4. The last but not the least, do remember to check the creditability and legitimacy of the accrediting agency that accredits the online school you are considering. Make sure it is not an accreditation mill.
Here it is necessary to get you familiarized with some basic knowledge on our nation’s school accreditation. In the US, the accreditation consists of regional accreditation and national accreditation. The regional accreditation is provided by six regional accrediting agencies defined according to the geographic areas, including:
• Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools
• New England Association of Schools and Colleges
• North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
• Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
• Western Association of Schools and Colleges
• Northwest Accreditation Commission
All these six regional accrediting agencies are recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and the US Department of Education. Therefore, if your degree is awarded by an online school accredited by any of these sixed accreditation agencies, it will be widely accepted by your employers.
Since more schools are accredited by regional accrediting agencies, the degrees from regionally accredited online schools are more acceptable than those from nationally accredited schools, though both are legitimate.
With the popularity of online learning, here comes a new accreditor – the Distance Education Training Council (DETC), which is recognized by both USDE and CHEA. However, it is not as widely accepted as regional accrediting agencies. Though about 70% of graduates from DETC accredited schools have successfully transferred credits, some colleges and universities only accept credits transferred from regionally accredited schools.
Via the four methods listed above, you can tell if an online school is accredited successfully. In spite of the importance of accreditation, there are other important things you should keep in mind. You’d better choose the online school with good reputation, experienced faculty, reasonable tuition, effective interactions, as well as flexible learning schedules and optional financial aid.