In the United States, higher-education institutions operate with relative freedom and autonomy. Because of this, graduate programs may vary in terms of quality and character. To ensure that students have access high quality education and to establish relative academic equanimity between institutions, private and nongovernmental agencies in the U.S. set up a process of review called “accreditation”.
According to the U.S. Department of Educationi, “The goal of college accreditation is to ensure that education provided by institutions of higher education meets acceptable levels of quality.” The U.S. Department of Educationii also states that “the practice of accreditation arose in the United States as a means of conducting nongovernmental, peer evaluation of educational institutions and programs”. Both on-campus and online schools and programs can be accredited.
Many (but not all) colleges and universities in the United States go through a rigorous process of accreditation to prove that their curricula, staff, and programs meet established standards of quality. Once they have been accredited by an accrediting agency, they must continue to offer quality programs and reapply for college accreditation on a regular basis.
When searching for online graduate degree programs, it is important to look for accredited online colleges. There are five primary reasons to do so:
If you are attending an online college, it is even more important to confirm its accreditation status. Some unscrupulous organizations may convince students to register for online learning programs that are low quality, unstable, and in some cases, non-existent. Checking an online programs accreditation status may help ensure you enroll in a high-quality, stable, and respected school.
To determine whether or not an online program or college is accredited, visit the U.S. Department of Education here. Through this link, you will gain access to a list of accredited institutions as well as an option for looking up specific institutions. Additionally, call the college or university of your choice and ask whether or not it is accredited; if it claims to be accredited, confirm by checking with the regional accreditation agency for the area that the school is located in. You can find its regional accreditation agency through the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.