How Can I Determine if an Online University Is Accredited?

Checking if an online university is accredited is an important step in avoiding 'diploma mills' and in receiving an education that will be recognized by potential employers. To determine if an online university is accredited, one must look for accrediting information on the university's website and check it out with the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

Accreditation Overview

As online universities have become more popular, so too have scams related to the industry. Unaccredited schools are often referred to as 'diploma mills' as they focus primarily on ensuring that every student graduates, regardless of their preparedness. The high graduation rate makes the school seem like an appealing option, but in reality, graduates are left unprepared for the job market and, in many cases, in debt to the school. To avoid falling for such a scheme, prospective students should ensure that the school they wish to attend has been accredited by a legitimate source.

Important Facts About Accredited Online Universities

Prerequisites High school diploma or equivalent
Degree Levels Certificate, Associate's, Bachelor's, Master's, Doctoral
Degree Fields of Study Includes but not limited to: English, engineering technology, business administration
Technical Requirements Computer with up-to-date operating system and internet browser, high-speed internet capability, and adequate memory storage

Steps to Determining if an Online University Is Accredited

Research the School on NCES

The first step is to visit the National Center for Educational Statistics (NCES) website (nces.ed.gov) and search for the university. If the university comes up in the search results, it is properly accredited. If not, you'll have to investigate further.

Accreditation Information on the University's Website

A university's accreditation will likely be mentioned somewhere on its website. If the university does not have accrediting information on its site or hedges the issue (discusses why accreditation is important, but doesn't actually say that it is accredited), then you can assume it's not. If accrediting information is offered, further investigation is required.

Review the Accrediting Agency's Website

If the online university gives accrediting information and names the agency, visit the agency's website. Do not click on a link to the agency's site on the university's site. Do an independent search using Google or another search engine. Most accrediting organizations maintain an up-to-date online list of universities that they have accredited. The list generally includes data on when they first received accreditation and when the school is next up for review. Now, you have to verify the accrediting agency.

Accrediting Agency Verification

You'll also want to make sure the accrediting agency itself is a recognized and active accrediting agency in the U.S. The U.S. Department of Education (www.ed.gov) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (www.chea.org) both offer online databases of recognized accrediting agencies. The accrediting agency should be listed on one or both sites.

To continue researching, browse degree options below for course curriculum, prerequisites and financial aid information. Or, learn more about the subject by reading the related articles below:

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