Online Degrees: Accredited vs. Non-Accredited Degree Programs


Students searching for an online degree program should not only find out if the programs offered suit their needs, but also whether or not the school is accredited. Any of thetop online schools can claim to be accredited, and many unrecognized accreditation commissions exist. Accreditation, put simply, is a procedure by which an authoritative body formally recognizes that a school is competent to carrying out specific tasks, including the issueance of college degrees.

In the United States, the U.S. Department of Education recognizes six regional accrediting associations:

  • New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)
  • Western Assocation of Schools and Collges (WASC)
  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities(NWCCU)
  • North Central Association of Schools and Colleges (NCASC)
  • Middle States Assocation of Schools and Colleges (MSASC)
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS)

Degrees earned from schools accredited by the regional assocations are ensured to be considered valid by employers and other educational institutions. Schools become accredited when they have been formally evaluated according to standards issued by the Commission on Colleges of the various Regional Associations. The criteria used by these accreditation commissions generally requires that students spend significant quantities of time or money on their education, as well as meeting a certain set of core competencies.

Participation in the accreditation process is voluntary; no school is required to become accredited, however, a lack of accreditation could mean a lack of federal funding and financial aid opportunities. Accreditation also brings a sense of legitimacy to an institution; those who are accredited are held in higher esteem than those who are not. Therefore, it is highly desireable to obtain accreditation from one of the regional institutions.

Because accreditation is so important, many less-than-stellar schools may obtain accredition by an unknown or unrecognized accreditation commission. Regarding online accreditation commissions, these two frequently appear as the accreditating bodies of many online schools and degree programs:

  • Board of Online Universities Accreditation (BOUA)
  • Universal Council for Online Education Accreditation (UCOEA)

These are not recognized by the U.S. Department of Education, and by enrolling in a school or degree program accredited by one of these agencies you will not be guaranteed universal acceptance of your degree by your employer or by other regionally accredited schools.

Indicators that a school might not be accredited:

When looking for a quality institiution at which to complete your degree, there are two major things that can be an indicator as to the standing of the school, both of which are factors the regional institutions use in determining accreditation:

  • Cost – If the tuition sounds too good to be true, it likely is. An extremely low tuition is often an indicator of non-regionally accredited school
  • Time – While it may be feasible to take accelerated classes, you should not be able to complete an entire degree in very short amount of time. Those schools promising you a Bachelor’s degree in two months probably aren’t legitimate institutions.

How can I find out if a school is accredited?

Finding out a school’s accreditation status should not be difficult. This information is usually presented on the “About” page of the school’s website and in their college catalogs. If you are unable to easily find this information, check with the school’s Admissions office. A representative should be able to tell you if they are accredited, and who they are accredited by. For information on accredited online mba finance programs, click here.

Why Accreditation is Important:

If you are pursuing a degree for personal enjoyment or fulfillment, then accreditation may not matter to you. However, if you are hoping to advance your career by obtaining a degree, it is to your benefit to complete coursework at an accredited school so that you can be sure that your employer, or potential employer, will accept your degree as being legitimate. Should you decide to pursue even further education, it is important that the school will also recognize your degree as being legitimate. You cannot be accepted to a Master’s or Doctoral level program at an accredited institution without having first completed a Bachelor’s degree from an accredited institution.

It only takes a minute to find out whether a school is accredited, and it can save you a lot of time, money, and hassles that you may run into with a non-accredited school.

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