Complete Directory of Top Accredited Online Schools, Online Colleges and Online Universities of 2014
Welcome to AccreditedOnlineColleges.org, where we aim to offer the web’s best resource for finding online accredited colleges and universities. Attending college online can seem risky, and online degree accreditation is confusing when you’re just starting out in pursuing a degree. We are proud to host a searchable directory of online colleges and universities to let you find the online accredited colleges that fit your own educational needs.
Find Your Perfect School
Our list of online schools is at your disposal. Every school has been carefully checked for accreditation, and we provide a list of the programs they offer and information on their accreditation for your reference.
You can enter a name or a keyword to search for, as well as adjust the sliders for graduation rate and population size. The two buttons on the graduation rate and student population bars represent the minimum (on the left) and maximum (on the right) you want to search for. You can, for example, limit your search to schools with graduation rates between 75% and 100%, and with a population between 250 and 5,000 students.
The other boxes permit you to tailor your search more specifically. If you are looking for only a bachelor’s degree program, uncheck every box except “Bachelors.” If you think you’d prefer to study at a university centered in a town or city – though, of course, online study doesn’t require either – select those two options, and unselect the others. You can also browse the listings for each state in the United States independently. Either way, once you’ve made your selections and set your parameters or search words, click “find now” to receive your individualized list of schools. From there, consider carefully, and start your online education.
You may find that you create a search so specific that it does not return any results. For instance, searching for a school with a graduation rate between 92% and 93%, offering associates degrees and doctorates but not bachelor’s degrees, and with a student population between 250,000 and 260,000 will turn up nothing, as there is no school that fits that criteria. If this happens to you, consider making your search more broad.
Learn the Advantages of Pursuing Your Degree Online
Many accredited higher educational institutions are opening online programs to meet the growing demand for online study, and while not every subject is best suited for online courses, programs are often comparable to traditional study.
Pursuing your degree online puts you in control. Traditional school programs demand regular attendance, and are often tailored to the rhythms of campus life, which can be at odds with work and family life. While some courses have virtual “meetings” occasionally, these are usually for the benefit of collaborating with other students for particular projects or assignments. Most classes simply set deadlines for projects or tests and allow you to work at your own pace. Some online programs even let you learn faster than traditional programs and earn your credits at an accelerated pace. Similarly, if you are studying “part time,” taking a course when you can while accumulating credit towards a degree, online study lets you better manage your time.
Online study also lets you study wherever you want. You are not limited to local institutions, and you don’t have to move or change your life around to pursue online studies. You are also not limited to what subjects or programs you can study. An online college accredited to teach Russian literature or nanotechnology may be thousands of miles away, but online courses are instantly at your fingertips.
Online study has benefits even for traditional students. Courses from accredited online schools should transfer for credit to your current institution (although you should confirm this with your advisor), letting you study subjects your school doesn’t offer or earn credit when your schedule is busier than usual. Blended courses, which combine internet-based instruction with occasional campus visits, are also available, combining some advantages of both online and offline study.
Despite these benefits, do not assume your course of study will be easy simply because it is offered online. Any accredited online school will deliver a challenging, high-quality curriculum. While you will be able to study at any time, you will still need to take time out of your schedule to focus on coursework. You need discipline and self-motivation to complete your classwork on time. Some courses hold regular meetings through videoconferencing, and nearly all have some deadlines for coursework. In addition to these skills, you need reliable access to a computer with an Internet connection, as well as some skill in navigating online content, although these are relatively easy to learn.
Understand Why Accreditation Matters
Accreditation is a way to verify that a particular college or university teaches meaningful courses that give you skills and knowledge relevant to the field you are studying. Many unscrupulous “degree mills” offer either trivial tests or outright sell diplomas to anyone willing to pay a fee, and this has extended to some online schools. Some questionable schools may offer legitimate coursework, but are usually more interested in ensuring you stay enrolled until completion. Accredited online universities allow you to transfer credits to other online and offline schools easily.
Accreditation guarantees that your degree represents a genuine and credited course of learning, and that the program meets all basic requirements for an educational institution. Accreditation protects your investment in your education, by ensuring you can change schools if you need to, as well as demonstrating to employers that your chosen online college is a legitimate institution. Additionally, many professional licenses strictly require that your education be from an accredited institution. Accreditation also demonstrates that your institution has an interest in your needs. Accredited online schools and other institutions have to go through a complex and expensive process to earn and retain accreditation.
How schools become accredited
Schools are accredited in two main ways: institutional accreditation, which looks at the entire college or university, and programmatic accreditation, which focuses on a particular program in a subject such as chemical engineering or business. Institutional accreditation involves confirming that a school has sufficient information resources (such as libraries and journal subscriptions) and student services, as well as a qualified faculty of sufficient size and policies to protect your interests in case of dispute or problems. Typically, it also requires a record of successful and graduated students.
Programmatic accreditation varies widely. Online colleges have different needs for the programs they provide and the students they serve, and the standards for chemical engineering will be much different from early childhood education. It is possible for a school to be accredited as an institution, and not have specific accreditation for individual departments. For example, accredited online colleges specializing in business education may offer math courses without accreditation in mathematics. This will not reflect poorly on you if you pursue a business degree at that college, although you may wish to seek a degree in mathematics elsewhere for this reason.
An institution seeking either type of accreditation submits an application describing their program and explaining how it meets the accrediting body’s standards, along with a substantial fee to cover the expenses of application process. If everything is in order, assessors or a survey team arrive to verify the application’s claims, observe classes, and speak with faculty and students. Assuming no problems are discovered, the school is entered into the rolls of accredited institutions and periodically examined to make sure standards are kept up. Programmatic accreditation is more focused on specific needs and quality of curriculum in a given course of study.
National vs. regional accreditation
Accrediting bodies in the United States are private, non-governmental groups that work in cooperation with one another, the federal Department of Education, and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). CHEA can be viewed as the “accreditor of accreditors,” making sure that accrediting bodies all have broadly compatible standards. Details can differ in various parts of the nation, but if you begin your degree in a program in New England and transfer your credits to a West Coast university, you can be sure your education will be viewed favorably.
CHEA has historically focused on traditional “brick-and-mortar” educational institutions, and its efforts are divided through six regional accrediting bodies, each of which covers schools in certain parts of the United States as well as nearby nations and territories, such as Puerto Rico. Regionally accredited online colleges are not common, although more traditional institutions are also offering primarily or entirely online degree programs. Regional online college accreditation is valid, especially if you are taking courses from a college in your area. You may have the option to take some courses on-campus, and you will typically also have access to their libraries and other brick-and-mortar facilities. Nationally accredited schools are usually specialized, either by focusing on a particular trade or vocation or on theological study.
CHEA’s recognized body for online accredited colleges is the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC). DETC is a national accreditation body, originally organized to accredit correspondence courses up to and including professional and doctoral degrees. Their distance learning accreditation program is tailored to the requirements of the distance learning field, with a strong emphasis on making certain that course materials are of the highest practical quality and that there are ways to keep in close touch with students. As a result, the schools DETC accredits tend to have a high rate of completion and success. DETC accreditation also means that studying at that institution provides access to federal loans and grants, including the GI Bill.
Programmatic accreditation is usually conducted on a national level as well, with different professional groups providing online colleges accreditation in subjects from audiology to veterinary medicine. Often, these professional groups are also open for membership, which can provide you with valuable professional contacts and additional material for study. This type of institution is ideal if you want to pursue your degree at a college that is nationally or regionally accredited and also accredited in your chosen program of study. However, this isn’t always possible, so at the very least, you should attend an institution with national or regional accreditation.
There are several ways you can find out if an institution is accredited. CHEA hosts a directory of the thousands of schools that have earned accreditation, as do many state departments of education. A “master” list is also hosted by the federal Department of Education, the Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs, and can be searched. However, keep in mind that the Department of Education cooperates with CHEA and its member groups, but does not control them. Additionally, the database is updated periodically, and schools with new accreditation may not be listed, while schools that recently lost their accreditation may still be listed. Finally, it is limited to programs within the United States.
Choose the Best Online University For You
Verifying accreditation is a vital step, but there is more to finding the ideal school for you among the huge numbers of accredited online universities out there. Take your time researching potential schools and making your choice.
First, consider your goals. In addition to your degree, do you want to network with other professionals? Are you already working in a field and seeking to improve your skills, or are you changing careers? Are you established professionally or pursuing a degree straight from high school? Considering your personal goals and even your personality can guide your choices as you search accredited online schools. For instance, if you value networking a great deal, choose a school close enough to you to permit you to attend blended courses.
Once you have your broad goal in mind, get specific. For instance, state your goal to study business and marketing in order to further your personal business, versus simply getting your MBA. This will help you find a program that suits your specific needs with the best faculty and coursework to get there. Getting specific will also help you find programs accredited in the particular subject you want to study. While a nationally or regionally accredited institution will provide an adequate program, you can be sure a programmatically accredited school has been carefully studied by experts in that field.
Finally, decide how you will fund your education. Accreditation is vital in this respect, as many programs that offer grants, benefits (such as the GI Bill), or subsidized student loans will only provide them to students enrolled at accredited institutions. This is to protect the interest of the public, as well as to prevent you from accidentally misusing benefits or grants at an illegal diploma mill, or having to take out costly, high-interest loans to earn your degree. Similarly, if you have saved money for your education, an accredited program will help guarantee that hard-earned money is put to good use. Online study is often less costly than studying in traditional schools, especially when you compare the cost of an Internet connection and a personal computer to the price of regular travel to campus or dormitory costs. However, costs for books and tuition can still be significant, even for online schools.