Online Program Accreditation: What to Know

While searching for the perfect online program, it is important to find one that is accredited. The accreditation process assures and improves the quality of educational institutions and programs.

A program’s accreditation is assessed by a nongovernmental, self-regulatory and non-profit accrediting agency. Online degree programs need accreditors to set high standards for academics, student achievement, faculty and integrity.

There are many organizations involved in accreditations, such as the U.S. Department of Education, accreditation agencies and organizations that approve accrediting agencies. If you are looking at online education programs, you are probably in the market to change or advance your career. Employers will want to verify that the degree you received came from an accredited online program. Another instance where accreditation is important is with transferring credits. If you complete a program at an online institution that is not accredited, your hard earned credits will not transfer to the new school you want to attend. To learn more about the concept of accreditation and how to tell if your online program is accredited, refer to the sections below.

Accreditation Facts

Prior to enrolling in an online program, there are a few things to consider that involve accreditation. The first being that there are two forms of accreditation for online programs, and whichever program you choose needs to meet both of these requirements. Your online program should have specialized and institutional accreditation. Specialized accreditation can also be referred to as programmatic, and is for particular degrees, departments or schools. Institutional accreditation applies to the entire university.

Your online program should be accredited by an agency recognized by the Department of Education or the Council for Higher Education. You can usually find accreditation status information on the online program’s website. To be certain, you can double-check with the Department, the Council or by calling the actual school.

If you are looking to take online courses, it is critical to know that not all courses and programs are accredited, as there are a lot of fake programs on the internet. These programs try to draw you in with unrealistically low tuition and academic fees. In the case of online education, if something seems too good to be true, it usually is. There are also “accreditation mills” that give schools accreditation under minimum standards and trick students by confirming that the accreditor is recognized by the Department of Education when it is not.

The easiest way to find a program that is accredited is to look for programs that are run through respected and well-known universities. You can assume that these courses have both institutional and specialized accreditation. While reputable universities decrease the likelihood of you being tricked, it is still a good idea to double check if the institution is accredited.

If you are insistent on going to a lesser-known school, look for a program that is regionally accredited, opposed to nationally, as these are less likely to be scams and employers are more likely to recognize programs that are regionally accredited. For more information about selecting an online career program, you can continue reading here.

How to Check if an Online Program is Accredited

Many employers and schools indicate legitimacy by accreditation, so it is important that you know the steps you need to take to ensure that your online program is credible. In addition to the accreditation types mentioned above, you want to make sure that your course has institutional accreditation in order to receive financial aid. Financial aid works for online programs just as it does for brick-and-mortar institutions. You can receive assistance in the form of grants, loans and work-studies. To determine a school’s accreditation, go to their website and refer to their “about” section. This section should mention accreditation.

While regional accreditation is usually relevant information to potential employers, national and regional accreditation should be considered with your educational goals in mind, as well. For example, the credit transferring process is easier when the accreditation is regional. This is because many people prefer regional accreditation as opposed to national accreditation because the vetting process for regionally accredited school is typically viewed as more rigorous. Also, beware of schools claiming to be internationally accredited. Such a thing does not exist, so any program claiming to be internationally accredited is usually fraudulent.

Signs a Program is Fraudulent

With so many programs online, it is easy to feel overwhelmed by your choices. There are several fraudulent online schools that are just trying to make money. The people behind these fake websites know that you are looking for ways to save money and time, and they try and take advantage of that. The last thing you want is to be tricked by one of these fake online institutions and left with no money or degree to show for the time you spent trying to further your education.

Many online accreditation mills have stolen renowned university names and modified them to trick you and others into signing up for their programs. They even go as far as forging well-known faculty names and credentials.

It is easy for anyone to fall prey to an online program scam, but it is more common amongst international and first-generation college students that have little to no knowledge about how higher education programs should work. This is why a program’s accreditation status is so important. Accreditation acts as a way to show that the program or website you are signing up with is trustworthy. Remember to never hesitate to call a school directly to determine if it is accredited or not if you are having any doubts about a program. The most important thing to do is thoroughly research a school before enrolling because accredited programs are everywhere, but so are fraudulent ones.

If you are a student looking into a non-U.S. education program, you need to contact the ministry of education in the country where the program will be based. Ask the authorities about the program’s accreditation and its authority to operate. The Council of Higher Education has an international directory with a list of quality assurance for education around the world. Note that different countries will have different standards for their programs, so make sure that it is on the Council of Higher Education’s accredited program list before enrolling.

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