Complete List of Accredited Online Colleges and Universities
AccreditedOnlineColleges.org is the web’s premier site for finding accredited online colleges around the U.S. School accreditation is vital to ensuring a quality education. But, determining accreditation can feel like working your way through a maze. Let our site be your guide. AccreditedOnlineColleges.org lets you search through countless colleges and universities, based on a variety of criteria, to find the accredited school that best meets your needs.
The Importance of Accreditation for Colleges and Universities
When searching for an online school, you should look for accreditation to protect both your future and the value of your educational dollar. Accreditation is a process by which colleges, universities and other institutions of higher education are reviewed by outside experts. When these reviewers, who are sometimes called assessors or survey teams, have reported their findings and approved the school’s application for accreditation, the school can officially claim to be accredited by that accrediting body. Meeting these standards is difficult, and the application for review costs a lot of money. Thanks to these standards, you can be reasonably sure that an accredited school is a legitimate institution of higher learning, and not simply a “diploma mill” that sells meaningless degrees to anyone willing to pay a fee.
There are two primary types of accreditation: institutional accreditation and programmatic accreditation. Institutional accreditation is awarded to an entire school or university, and certifies that the school has qualified faculty, a range of student support services, information resources and strong student outcomes. The assessors for these are experts on educational practices, rather than specific academic subjects. Programmatic accreditation is, as its name implies, awarded to specific programs or departments within a university, such as a business department or a medical science program. This sort of accreditation is carried out by experts in that field, and applies only to that program and not the entire school.
Accreditation also comes into play when you look for a job after completing your degree program. Employers often see accreditation as a mark of quality for an institution, which in turn provides assurance that graduates from that institution meet standards for solid work in the field. For online colleges, accreditation is particularly important as it makes it clear to a prospective employer that the degree program is just as rigorous as that of any other regionally accredited university. Some fields, like engineering, also often require a student to have a degree from an accredited program to receive a license to work. If you are considering a specific line of work, you should find out whether that field requires a license, and whether that license requires an accredited degree, before starting your course of study.
Differences Between Regional and National Accreditation
Regional accreditation is carried out by accrediting agencies that focus on a few specific states, conducting assessments of educational quality only in their respective regions. These groups look primarily at traditional colleges and universities, trying to determine whether these schools have the library resources, faculty, support services and facilities necessary to operate. Regional accreditation is less common for schools that conduct their education primarily online, or that specialize in specific trades or technical fields. Regardless of the scope or nature of their operations, all accrediting bodies must be approved by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) to provide meaningful accreditation for higher education institutions.
For distance learning schools, trade schools and technical colleges, national accreditation is more important. National accrediting organizations are more specialized, focusing either on a certain subject or a specific method of teaching. These organizations look for the resources and tools appropriate to that particular field or method, making sure that the school can accomplish what it sets out to do. Accreditation from the Distance Education Training Council, for example, is important for reputable colleges online.
If a school has a traditional campus, however, you should check for regional accreditation, even if the school also offers online programs. Most regionally accredited online colleges and universities are also offline, traditional schools. These schools usually pursue accreditation from the appropriate regional accrediting agency first and foremost, so even if a school offers online programs, you should not consider the fact that a school has only regional accreditation to be a mark against it for online learning.
How to Select the Best Online College
Checking for accreditation is the most important step in determining which educational institution to study at, and this step becomes even more important if you plan to study online. Fully accredited online schools have to meet high standards for educational achievement and faculty quality, so checking for accreditation from an organization approved by CHEA should be your first concern. Schools that do not have this accreditation are often diploma mills, which provide minimal education and prey on students who are unfamiliar with the importance of accreditation.
Beyond the initial step of checking for accreditation, searching through schools to find the best choice can be time-consuming. Nevertheless, it is an important step in making sure you get the most out of your time and money. Online accredited schools can differ in many ways, such as reputation, subjects offered, support services and degree requirements. As a result, the first thing you should do is consider what you intend to accomplish by studying at an online school. Are you interested in pursuing a specific degree level? Do you want to network with other professionals in your field? By asking yourself these questions, you can narrow your search, rather trying to sort through all of the online accredited universities out there.
Choosing a subject is particularly important when considering your options, as some schools only offer online degrees in certain fields. An accredited offline school known primarily for its business program, for example, might only offer its business degrees online, but not the other programs available on campus, like English literature or physics, for example. Nationally accredited online colleges and universities will offer all their programs online, though they may have a reputation for excellence in a particular program, or programmatic accreditation if that field has such an accrediting agency.
Finally, it is important to consider how you will finance your education. This is another area where accreditation is important, as schools that do not have accreditation are ineligible for certain forms of education funding. Studying at the best accredited online colleges is also a good way to make sure that federal funds like the Pell Grant and certain scholarships can be applied to the costs of your studies.
By starting with these criteria, you can narrow your search to a much smaller selection of colleges and get the best value possible. You can certainly consider other factors, but the factors discussed are some of the most fundamental in getting a solid online education.
How to Search for Top Accredited Schools
The directory provided for you offers an easy way of finding a list of online accredited colleges that meet the criteria you need. The information on the accreditation status of these schools, the degrees they offer online and the size of their student body is all readily available for you to look through.
You can use the graduation rate and student population sliders to search within certain ranges for these values. For example, if you want to find schools where at least 70% of the student body graduates, you can simply slide the minimum graduation rate slider up to 70%. Likewise, if you want to find only schools with fewer than 10,000 students, you can move the maximum student population slider down to that number.
The remaining options are checkboxes that allow you to select the sorts of programs and settings that are right for you. Only interested in an associates degree for the moment? Uncheck all the other boxes and you can see only schools that offer those. Similarly, if you want only a medium-sized school, you can uncheck large and small in the school size options. If you are interested in only private schools, uncheck public under the school type field and you will only see those results. If you think a school based in a large city would be the best choice for you, just make sure that only that is checked in the campus setting options. This is a great way to efficiently narrow your search for the sort of schools that are right for you.