People often wonder whether or not their degree from an online college will be recognized and respected once they enter the job market. To eliminate this concern, one simply has to ensure that they only consider enrolling at accredited online universities.
Accredited online universities are recognized for having college programs that meet certain academic and career criteria. Graduating from one of these schools allows you to earn a degree that is just as prestigious as one earned from a traditional on-campus program.
What Is University Accreditation?
Accreditation means that a college or university met the minimum education standards set by a private agency. Accreditation agencies are unique in that, unlike other educational systems, the US government is not directly involved in the process.
Instead, agencies determine if a school receives accreditation. These agencies are private associations the government recognizes as a means of determining the accreditation status of universities all over the United States.
Why Is School Accreditation Important?
In the United States, an academic institution can exist with a certain level of freedom. This means there is a possibility you could receive an education from a bogus institution, leading to employers not recognizing your degree.
Studying at accredited online universities ensures you will be properly prepared for your future career or further education. Let’s explore the benefits of accredited online universities more in-depth below.
Quality of Program
Accreditation guarantees that the college or university you attend has met certain academic standards. This means you can rest assured knowing the program you take part in will help you develop the skills necessary to meet your career goals or pursue a graduate degree based on your chosen major.
Another reason accreditation is important is for transferring credits. There may be a situation where you have to transfer to a new school or you want to participate in a different college program at a new university.
It’s not uncommon for someone to take courses at a community college and complete their degree program at a different college or university. Students also choose to complete their undergraduate degree at one university and pursue a master’s degree or doctorate at another.
However, if your school has no accreditation, then transferring your credits from one university to another is much more difficult. Your credits may not be recognized from an unaccredited university.
If an institution does not have any form of accreditation, then a student cannot receive federal aid. Most students are eligible for some form of federal aid to help cover the costs of college. This includes loans and grants from the federal government.
Federal aid is only available to students who attend accredited colleges and universities. The Department of Education has a database of schools that are accredited. Most schools also inform students of their accreditation status.
In some situations, a school that isn’t accredited offers lower tuition rates, but students typically still pay more out of pocket compared to those that have financial aid opportunities.
Types of University Accreditation
It’s not just important to discover whether your college or university has accreditation. There are different types of accreditation for you to look out for, too.
While any type of accreditation is usually good for a college or university, the specific type it has may make it difficult for you to attend another university or partake in a graduate program. Let’s explore the specific types of school accreditation more in-depth below.
Colleges and universities that receive national accreditation typically offer more technical, career-focused programs to prepare students for vocations. Colleges and universities also receive this level of accreditation when they focus on religious education or careers instead of more academic pursuits.
National accrediting agencies don’t have a specific jurisdiction, which means they can accredit schools from anywhere within the United States. While a nationally accredited school does meet certain educational standards, these standards are less strict and not as difficult to meet compared to regional accreditation.
This is typically why nationally accredited schools accept transfer credits from other nationally accredited and regionally accredited universities.
National Accreditation Agencies
Below is a list of the more widely-recognized national accrediting agencies in the United States that currently evaluate universities and colleges.
Faith-Based Accrediting Agencies
· Association of Advanced Rabbinical and Talmudic Schools Accreditation Commission
Career-Related Accrediting Agencies
Regional accreditation agencies work in specific regions within the country. They overlook a certain jurisdiction and provide accreditation to colleges and universities that meet the minimum academic standards set by the agency.
Unlike nationally accredited schools, regionally accredited institutions are primarily academically focused. These schools are oftentimes state-owned and nonprofit. Usually, regionally accredited schools don’t accept transfer credits from nationally accredited universities, since regionally accredited colleges and universities meet stricter guidelines and requirements to receive their accreditation.
Regionally Accredited Agencies
There are six regionally accredited agencies in the United States. These agencies cover a specific region in the country. All of the colleges and universities within the region fall under one agency.
North Central Association of Colleges and Schools: This agency serves Arizona, Colorado, Illinois, Arkansas, Kansas, Iowa, Indiana, Minnesota, Missouri, Michigan, New Mexico, North Dakota, Nebraska, Ohio, South Dakota, Oklahoma, Wisconsin, West Virginia, and Wyoming.
Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities: This agency serves Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, Idaho, and Alaska.
New England Association of Schools and Colleges: This agency serves Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Vermont, Rhode Island, and Connecticut.
Middle States Commission on Higher Education: This agency serves the District of Columbia, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware, Pennsylvania, New York, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Island.
Western Association of Schools and Colleges: This agency serves California, Guam, Hawaii, and American Samoa.
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools: This agency serves Alabama, Georgia, Kentucky, Florida, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, and Virginia.
In addition to a college or university receiving accreditation, specific programs within those institutions can receive accreditation as well. These accreditations are similar to those on an institution-level, which means they must meet a certain academic standard.
The significance of programmatic accreditation is its link to employment for various fields. For example, nursing students who want to become a registered licensed nurse must earn a degree.
However, state boards in nursing require students to graduate from a program accredited by the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education or the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing.
This is the case for several occupations. While this isn’t related to all fields, you should take the time to research the field you’re interested in and see if programmatic-level accreditation plays a part in your potential employment or licensure.
Are There Accredited Online Universities?
In the past, distance learning at online universities took place at non-accredited schools. Today, that is no longer the case. In fact, many regionally-accredited private and state universities offer online learning opportunities and degree programs that are regionally accredited. Read on for a list of accredited online universities.
What Online Colleges Are Accredited?
There are several regionally and nationally accredited universities online for you to choose from. In many situations, state colleges and universities are regionally accredited and you can take courses online.
While some colleges offer hybrid lessons where you must occasionally attend school, other schools are entirely online and you can complete the program from the comfort of your own home.
For purely online colleges, look into those you’re interested in and confirm their accreditation status. Use the US Department of Education’s list of accredited colleges and universities to see if your school is among them. Below is a list of online universities that are currently accredited.
Nationally Accredited Universities: American Public University System, Pennsylvania State University – World Campus, University of Arizona, Washington State University, Florida International University, Texas Tech University, Oregon State University, Liberty University, and the University of Central Florida.
Regionally Accredited Universities: Villanova University Online, Northcentral University, University of Cincinnati Online, University of Massachusetts Online, National University, Rasmussen College Online, National American University, and Franklin University Online.
Should You Attend a National or Regionally Accredited University?
In most situations, it is best to attend a regionally accredited university since it is much easier to transfer credits from a regionally accredited school to any other university. However, there’s nothing wrong with attending a nationally accredited university.
If you do attend a nationally accredited university, look into what other schools you’d be interested in transferring to after you complete your program, or if you’d like to transfer schools at all. The best thing you can do before choosing any university program is to look into how it relates to your chosen career path and what changes you may make in the future.
While accreditation is important to consider when choosing a school, what’s most important is finding a school with a good program that’s recognized for its quality and prepares you fully for your future goals. Do not attend an unaccredited online university.