You might decide to earn an online degree rather than a traditional campus degree because you live in a rural area, want to major in a specialized field, have to balance work and education or simply prefer online learning. Whatever the case, an online education, when obtained through an accredited online college, can be the key to your successful future.
However, it is important to enroll into a program from an accredited online college. Find out how to spot an accredited college, what accreditation means and why it should matter to you.
What is Accreditation?
You might hear the word accreditation being thrown around, but it can be hard to determine exactly what it means and why it matters. To start, colleges, online or campus based, are not accredited by the United States Department of Education.
However, legitimate accreditation agencies throughout the country do use a range of criteria to rank a school as accredited or not. Be sure to seek out a college or university that is accredited rather than just a single degree program or focus.
Which Agencies Can Grand Accreditation to Colleges?
If the U.S. Department of Education isn’t responsible for college accreditation, there leaves wiggle room for any organization to claim that a school is accredited, even when it comes up lacking. For that reason, the best accrediting agencies are either regional or national, offering accreditation over a larger geographic area.
In addition, students can visit the U.S. Department of Education’s list of acknowledged accrediting agencies to ensure that the right agencies have given accreditation to their preferred school.
Why Do Students Care About Accreditation?
As a student, it is important that you care about your college’s accreditation. A school that is accredited will offer a better program as well as more professional, educated staff. Together, those factors ensure that you are getting the education you deserve since you paid the tuition with certain expectations.
After graduation, accreditation will matter even more. Even if you studied hard, spent money on tuition and dedicated years of your life to earning a college degree, employers may not recognize it unless it is accredited. Since a number of colleges unfortunately serve as diploma mills, or colleges that virtually hand out diplomas to anyone that will pay a certain price, employers have to value accreditation in order to know who will be the best candidate for any given job.
How Can You Tell is an Online School is Merely a Diploma Mill?
Truly dedicated students who want to pursue a career after graduation should take care to avoid enrolling into a school that is essentially a diploma mill. Some of the warning signs that a program is just a diploma mill might include promising a degree in a matter of weeks, a set price for the entire degree program rather than per credit hour and an Internet address that ends with something other than .edu, which is standard for legitimate, accredited colleges.