Accreditation is an indispensable part of every degree or certificate program, online or offline. It helps to answer a few questions such as: Are students learning what they should? Is the college operating with sound business practices? Are faculty members qualified to teach in their fields? Will services be available to support student learning? These are the kinds of questions accreditation helps us answer.
Accreditation is a review process through which colleges and academic programs are evaluated. Lists of standards are used to measure basic levels of quality and academic value. It is completely voluntary, but most institutions choose to participate. The process is the same for both online and on-campus programs.
Benefits for Students
- Reassures students a certain level of academic quality is maintained
- Makes it possible to benefit from federal and state financial assistance programs
Benefits for Schools and Programs
- Includes periodic reviews that help schools continue to improve programs and services
- Provides a form of public accountability that the school or program is meeting its goals
Benefits for the Government
- Ensures that federal funds are not supporting degree mills
- Provides a certain level of oversight and evaluation of academic quality
It is therefore important for students and schools to make sure that courses offered for the public are accredited as required. The information below will help students know which programs are accredited or not.
How To Know if Accreditation is Legitimate
You’ve probably heard of degree mills or diploma mills. These schools issue degrees and certifications without providing an educational experience or evaluating student learning. They often charge a large fee for this exchange. Unfortunately, there are also accreditation mills. These organizations market themselves as accrediting agencies, but don’t conduct effective evaluations of a school or program’s academic quality and value.
Check that the schools you are interested in are accredited, then double-check that the specific accrediting agencies are also recognized by at least one of the following:
- U.S. Department of Education (USDOE): The USDOE does not directly review colleges and programs, but it does maintain a list of accrediting organizations it recognizes as reliable authorities in the evaluation of higher education.
- Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA): This independent advocacy organization reviews accrediting agencies to ensure they are, in turn, reviewing institutions and programs appropriately.
The CHEA maintains a list of accrediting organizations that includes those recognized by either CHEA or USDOE. Keep in mind that accreditation requires periodic review and can be revoked if a school or program does not maintain the established standards.