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Online School Accreditation Basics

Answers to the Most Common Concerns


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A school accredited by the right agencies can grant degrees that lead to increased income and higher positions. But, a degree that is given by a “fake” school can turn out to be a huge waste of time and energy. Make sure you know the facts about accreditation before you register for classes with any online school.

What is accreditation?

Accreditation is the process of reviewing a school’s programs and policies to see if it meets criteria set by an outside agency. When a school is found to meet the minimum criteria, it is granted accreditation.

Why is accreditation important?

Accreditation is meant to protect students, schools, and employers. It ensures that a school is educating its students and meeting quality standards.

When a student receives a diploma from a school accredited by the right agency, he can be assured that it will be accepted by employers. Likewise, when an employer is looking to hire, she can be assured that a graduate from an accredited school has received the training necessary and didn’t pay for a degree from a diploma mill school.

Who can grant accreditation?

Not all accreditation is equal. Accreditation from the wrong source (such as an accreditation mill) can be worse than no accreditation at all.

Make sure that your online school is accredited by an agency recognized by either the United States Department of Education (USDE) or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). These organizations maintain lists of legitimate accreditors.

If you want your online degree to be widely accepted, select a school that is accredited by one of the six regional accreditation agencies recognized by both the USDE and CHEA. These are the same agencies that accredit reputable brick-and-mortar schools.

Many online schools are accredited by the Distance Education Training Council (DETC). This accreditor is also recognized by the USDE and CHEA. It is recognized by many employers. However, DETC accreditation is not as widely accepted as regional accreditation. Many regionally accredited schools do not accept transfer credits from DETC accredited schools. Use discretion when selecting an online college with DETC accreditation.

What is a diploma mill?

A diploma mill is a school that sells degrees and requires little to no work of its students. These colleges are either unaccredited or are accredited by accreditation mills. Using a degree from a diploma mill can land you in hot water. Many employees have been fired after listing a diploma mill degree in their resumes. Some states even have laws restricting the use of degrees from diploma mills.

Note that not all unaccredited schools are diploma mills. Some unaccredited schools are undergoing the accreditation process or choose not to seek accreditation. Using a degree from one of these schools may be difficult – however, that does not automatically qualify a school as a diploma mill.

What if my school isn’t accredited?

If you choose a school that isn’t accredited (or is accredited by an illegitimate agency), it may be difficult to use your degree. Few employers will take your degree seriously. Additionally, you may not be able to transfer your credit hours or degree to an accredited school.

If you are seeking a degree for personal enjoyment, accreditation may not be important to you. However, if you want to use your degree in the workplace or plan on furthering your education at a later date, accreditation is essential.

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