The Ultimate Guide to Online University Accreditation

Many college guides tell students to start by researching a school’s accreditation, especially with online schools, but few actually explain what it means to be accredited. What kind of accreditation does a university need? Why is accreditation important? How can students research accreditation?

The Concept of Accreditation

If you attend College A, you might not get the same level of education as if you attend College B. Although one college better prepares you to work in your field, both colleges give you a bachelor’s degree, so employers have no way of knowing which educational program was better. To fix this problem, accreditation was introduced. While College A still might be better than College B, to be accredited, all schools have to at least meet minimum standards. This way, employers can be sure that all of their candidates have been through a good educational program in their field, even if they’ve never heard of the college.

Online Scams

Accreditation is especially important for online colleges. When distance learning first became a possibility on the Internet, a number of sites popped up, offering degrees to students. Many were scams. Some, called diploma mills essentially offered a degree in exchange for money, regardless of the work completed. Others just collected money from students and disappeared. Accreditation allows a student to ensure that these types of scams aren’t happening.

Accrediting Agencies

The United States government does not accredit universities, either online or off, but they do maintain a list of approved accrediting agencies. Accrediting agencies are third parties without affiliation to any specific school. You can contact accrediting agencies directly to find out if the school that interests you is accredited. Most online universities will clearly post who has accredited their programs, so you can check with those specific agencies and also make sure that those agencies are nationally recognized.

Types of Accrediting

Overall, a college is typically accredited by a regional program. These accrediting programs look at the overall education provided by the school. However, you may also want to look at specific course accreditation. This is especially important if you’re going to school in a field where you’ll have to be licensed after graduation. For example, your online university might be regionally accredited, but is the nursing program accredited by one of the national nursing associations? If not, regional accreditation means nothing, since you still won’t be able to get your license.

Unaccredited Schools’ Value

Although there certainly still are scams online when it comes to providing education, not all unaccredited schools are worthless. In fact, many do provide solid programs for students. Universities might not go through the accreditation process for a number of reasons, so find out why a school hasn’t been accredited before you decide not to attend. In addition, the accreditation process takes time, so a new school might have a great education program, but have a pending accreditation. These are schools you should consider if accreditation isn’t necessary for you to be certified or licensed in your field.

Featured Online Universities in America

The Internet has revolutionized education so that now you can earn a degree entirely online from the comfort of your home. This is perfect for working professionals or anyone who wants to get ahead in a career without having to go to a physical campus everyday.

University of Phoenix is world-renowned for being the largest online university. The University boasts dozens of degree programs at all levels that students can choose from. University of Phoenix has produced thousands of graduates in fields such as nursing, education, health care, and information technology. In addition to its online access, the University has campuses in over 100 locations.
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Kaplan is organized into ten different academic schools, including Arts & Sciences, Business, Criminal Justice, Education, Health Sciences, IS & Technology, Legal Studies, Nursing, Continuing Education, and Concord Law School. All told, Kaplan offers more than 125 degrees and programs both off- and online, with more than 70 campus-based locations nationwide.
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In addition to a host of options for students needing to transfer existing bachelor's and master's coursework into one of its more-than three dozen degree programs, Post University also welcomes military personnel to join its student body. Post offers detailed opportunities for veterans, those participating in active duty, as well as military dependent students.
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Learn to be highly effective in today’s global business environment and adapt to its rapid changes as a student of Forbes™ School of Business at Ashford University. Your curriculum embraces the technical knowledge and critical thinking skills you need to communicate ideas in a collaborative environment.
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For students looking for flexible and affordable online education, Walden University offers both. As a leading accredited online university for more than 40 years, Walden has more than 42,500 students, from all 50 states and more than 100 countries. Nearly 85 percent of Walden students are satisfied with their university, and would be likely to recommend Walden to others.
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American InterContinental University, also known as AIU, is a private school accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association. Founded in 1970 as the American College of Applied Arts, AIU today has seven campuses in the US and UK and runs its online program out of its Chicago offices. AIU offers degree programs in several subjects, including healthcare, business, education, criminal justice, and more.
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Grand Canyon University was founded in 1949 as Grand Canyon College, an Arizona Southern Baptist school. (It reached university status in 1989.) Accredited by the Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association, GCU is typically featured among the Top 10 online colleges as ranked by The Online Education Database (OEDb).
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Capella University was founded in 1991 by Stephen Shank, the former CEO of Tonka, who felt that working adults were underserved by traditional brick-and-mortar universities. While their offices are located in downtown Minneapolis, being an online university, the majority of learning takes place outside of campus and instead via the Internet. Their motto: "Knowledge is solving problems no one else can."
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