Online high schools are a convenient way for those who cannot attend brick and mortar high schools to earn diplomas.
Virtual high schools allow both teens and adults to earn a diploma at their own pace and during their own time.
However, choosing a proper online high school is not an easy task. Among various possible factors, accreditation is one of the most important criteria for selecting an online high school. Remember to choose an accredited online high school to avoid diploma mills. If you earn a diploma from an unaccredited program, your diploma won’t be accepted by most colleges and employers alike.
What is accreditation?
As for online high schools, accreditation is the process of reviewing the school’s programs and policies. If the online high school meets acceptable levels of quality education, an accrediting agency will grant accreditation to the school. Generally, once an online high school is accredited, the school will meet the standards that are necessary for graduates to gain admission to colleges and universities.
Why is accreditation important to online high schools?
Only accredited online high schools can provide high quality education for online learners. Accreditation can protect students from diploma mills. Most students choose online high schools to earn a degree or receive transferrable credits. Diplomas earned through an accredited online high school will be accepted by nationwide colleges and universities. If you earn a diploma from an unaccredited online high school, the diploma won’t receive the same recognition as you’d expect. In addition, most schools do not accept credits earned at unaccredited online high schools.
Even when you’re seeking an online program purely for personal enjoyment, it’s vital to choose an online high school with accreditation. Otherwise, you won’t get quality education to improve yourself.
However, accredited online high schools are not the same. Online high schools may have different types of accreditation. Two major kinds of accreditation include regional accreditation and national accreditation. A lengthy and detailed review process will be involved for both types of accreditation. Accreditation agencies will evaluate online high schools’ programs, course delivery methods, teaching faculty and more. Despite of these similarities, national accreditation and regional accreditation have many differences.
How regional accreditation differs from national accreditation?
As opposed to national accreditation, regional accreditation is a more commonly accepted form of accreditation. There’re six regional agencies that are recognized by both the United States Department of Education (USDE) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Six regional accreditation agencies include:
• New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC): It accredits online high schools in Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont and Connecticut.
• Middle States Association of Schools and Colleges (MSA): This accreditation agency grants accreditation to online high schools in Delaware, Maryland, District of Columbia, New York, New Jersey, Puerto Rico, Pennsylvania and U.S. Virgin Islands.
• Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges (NWCCU): This agency accredits postsecondary institutions in Alaska, Idaho, Nevada, Montana, Oregon, Utah and Washington.
• Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC): It accredits online schools in California, Hawaii and American Samoa etc.
• North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement (NCA): The agency accredits online high schools in various states, including Arizona, Colorado, Indiana, Kansas, Minnesota, Missouri, Michigan, Iowa, Arkansas, Illinois, Nebraska, Ohio, New Mexico, South Dakota, Wisconsin, Wyoming, Oklahoma and West Virginia.
• Southern Association of Colleges and Schools – The agency accredits online schools in Virginia, Georgia, Louisiana, North Carolina, Alabama, Texas, Tennessee, South Carolina, Mississippi, Kentucky and Florida.
Now you can find that regional accreditation is usually based on geography. However, that’s not the case for national accreditation. Hundreds of online high schools have obtained accreditation from the Distance Education Training Council (DETC). That’s the so-called national accreditation. The DETC is a legitimate accrediting agency that is approved by the United States Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.
However, many graduates of nationally accredited online high schools find that their diplomas do not have the same recognition as diplomas from regionally accredited schools. In addition, some regionally accredited online high schools do not accept course credits transferred from nationally accredited high schools.
Now that regional accreditation differs from national accreditation, which do you prefer: regionally accredited or nationally accredited online high schools? If you want to earn a high school diploma with the widest acceptance, you best bet is an online high school that is regionally accredited. If you want to find out whether an online high school is accredited, go to search the United States Department of Education database.