Online college programs have revolutionized how students attain their degrees. These programs allow the student to read materials, engage in class discussions, and take exams or pass in papers all within online web portals. Thanks to this advancement in technology, students can cater their education to their lifestyle and work schedule. Students can work full-time while taking care of loved ones and fit into their day time to read course material or email their professor. In addition to generally having lower tuition rates, online education can be extremely helpful to many students who could not otherwise attend a conventional 4-year undergraduate program or graduate school.
However, not all online colleges are equal. Like a typical brick-and-mortar school, online colleges need to be accredited by a credentialing body. Accreditation helps to validate the academic program and the degree the student will attain. The accreditation process is a voluntary process for schools to enter into. When a school wishes to be accredited, they allow an accrediting body and other member schools to review the mission and institutional investments of the school. If the school meets the review credentials, it is accredited. Without proper accreditation, the degree the student receives could be seen by employers or other schools as meaningless. Schools that are not accredited are often called diploma mills.
Finding an accredited online college takes some research, but it is an essential step in one's education. With the cost of higher education today and the personal investments it takes to attain a degree, no one should have to work hard at a non-accredited institution. Luckily, there are tools to help the student find an accredited online school.
The most basic way a student can find if an online college is accredited is to see where the school claims their accreditation. Most schools will advertise on their websites what accrediting body validates them. However, not all accrediting bodies are legitimate. Many schools can be part of an accrediting body that is not seen as a reputable accrediting body. Reputable accrediting bodies are recognized by two major institutions. One is the Department of the Education. The other is the private firm known as the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Both institutions will recognize legitimate regional accrediting bodies over what are known as accreditation mills. These institutions will offer online tools that can help a student search to see if the online program they want to attend is accredited.
The Department of Education recognizes seven main regional accrediting bodies while the CHEA recognizes six major accrediting firms. For example, an online college based out of a New England state should be accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC). Using the tools of the Department of Education, the CHEA, or each of the individual regional accreditation bodies will help the students see if the school is an accredited online college.
Accreditation is essential to validate the quality of education found at conventional schools and online colleges. When a student wants to attend college online, they should follow the same basic steps it takes to see if a conventional school is accredited. That way, the student can apply and enter into an online college of their choice and plan the rest of their life.