A Quick Overview
In many countries worldwide, the government is responsible for accrediting schools, colleges and universities with legitimacy. However, in the United States, the federal government does not accredit schools, but does recognize certain accreditors. The U.S. Department of Education (USDE) is required by law to maintain a list of accreditors who are nationally recognized as reliable educational evaluating authorities.
In addition, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), a group of over 3,000 colleges and universities, also recognizes independent accreditors as legitimate agencies to provide colleges and universities with accreditation.
What is Accreditation?
Accreditation is the process colleges and universities undergo to ensure their programs meet the educational requirements necessary to be considered a legitimate institution. In order to be awarded accreditation, an institution must successfully meet certain standards of quality set forth by the accrediting organization. Attending an accredited online college or university ensures that the degree you receive will be recognized by other institutions of higher education and employers.
*All of the educational institutions listed on eCollegeFinder.org are accredited online colleges and universities.
What are the Most Common Accrediting Organizations?
In the United States the most widely recognized form of university accreditation comes from the regional accreditation boards. When people ask if you have attended an "accredited university," they usually mean a regionally accredited university. There are six regional accreditation boards across the country that are recognized and trusted to issue accreditation to national education institutions. They are:
- Middle States Commission on Higher Education
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
- Higher Learning Commission of North Central Region
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges
These six regional accrediting agencies are instrumental in determining whether a college or university will be recognized as legitimate or phony. Colleges and universities that are accredited by one of these six organizations can be trusted to provide you with a complete education and a degree that will be universally recognized in the job world.
Are the Six Regional Accreditation Agencies the Only Ways to Become Accredited?
No. There are also several national accreditation agencies that offer credentials to a variety of colleges and universities. However, schools that are accredited by one of the six regional agencies are usually viewed in higher regard than schools that are accredited by national agencies. This is a direct result of the rigorous requirements that the regional agencies follow, in contrast to the more loosely set criteria of the national evaluating agencies. Nonetheless, it is still very possible to find quality schools that are accredited by national agencies and are either recognized by the USDE, the CHEA, or both.
Watch out for Degree Mills
Degree Mills are fake "universities" selling college diplomas to anyone who is willing to pay the requested "tuition" fee. Unfortunately the term "college" or "university" is not legally restricted for use exclusively by accredited organizations, which means that virtually anyone can declare that they are a university and begin issuing degrees almost immediately. Degree Mills take advantage of people who are unaware of the accreditation process. Some Diploma Mills advertise that they are "nationally accredited," or "accredited worldwide." These companies are "accredited," but by unrecognized agencies which were created by the very same Diploma Mills that are being “accredited.”
Why is an Accredited Education Important?
With the level of competition in the job market today, employers must ensure that their employees have received valid educations and are entering the workforce with a certain knowledge base. Without an accredited education, it is difficult to ensure the degree earned is actually representative of mastery in a certain trade or profession. It is unlikely that an employer will hire a new employee with a suspect degree from an unaccredited institution.