Does Accreditation Matter for Online Colleges?
Online colleges that receive federal student loan funds must be accredited. This serves as a safeguard to you and other college students, helping you avoid paying for a degree employers don’t acknowledge or respect. However, private student loans, scholarships, fellowships and grants may not always require online colleges to be accredited before they provide funding for your education. For this reason, you are encouraged to conduct due diligence to ensure online colleges you attend are fully accredited before you enroll in the postsecondary schools.
Online College Accreditation and Student Financial Aid
In recent years the numbers of accrediting organizations have increased. The numbers of online colleges marketing their undergraduate and graduate degrees have also increased. Unfortunately, not all of these schools are fully accredited by credible agencies. Receiving a degree from an unaccredited online college has drawbacks. Employers may not honor the degrees and refuse to hire you. Furthermore, other accredited postsecondary schools may not accept transfer credits year received from unaccredited online colleges.
Regional College Accreditation Agencies
Fortunately, systems are in place to help you choose fully accredited online college. The United States Department of Education list accredited colleges and universities, including schools that offer distance learning options. The Department also list major accrediting agencies. Some of these agencies are regional while others have a national scope. Major regional accrediting agencies include:
- Middle States Commission on Higher Education
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Commission on Institutions of Higher Education
- North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, the Higher Learning Commission
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
- Western Association of Colleges and Schools, Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges
National College Accreditation Agencies
The above agencies accredit schools headquartered in their regions. Furthermore, regional accrediting agencies generally accredit the entire school and not departments within online colleges. National accrediting agencies, including agencies that accredit specific online college departments include:
- Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools
- Accrediting Bureau of Career Schools and Colleges
- Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training
- Distance Education and Training Council, Accrediting Commission
- Council on Occupational Education
- Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools, Accreditation Commission
- National Association of Schools of Art and Design, Commission on Accreditation
- National Association of Schools of Music, Commission on Accreditation
- National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education
Scholarships, grants, fellowships and student loans are some of the major financial aid resources you can access to pay your online college tuition. In fact, as of 2011, the United States Department of Education alone funded more than $150 billion in student grants, loans and work study programs. You may also be able to get your college books and school fees paid for through some of the financial aid programs. However, it’s important to ensure online colleges you attend are accredited by organizations recognized by the Department of Education. In addition to checking with the Department of Education, you can also check online colleges’ accreditation website pages to learn about specific accreditations online colleges have.