Accredited Online Schools: How to Find Accredited Institutions

There is no doubt that the Internet and advancing technologies have made distance learning increasingly popular. Unfortunately, it has also increased the number of diploma mills offering bogus degrees. Therefore, it is more important than ever for students to verify a school's accreditation status, as well as the legitimacy of the accrediting agency.

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There are several resources that prospective students can utilize to identify accredited online schools and programs, including websites associated with the U.S. Department of Education.

How to Find Accredited Online Schools

Online schools can receive accreditation in several ways, including:

  • National accreditation
  • Regional accreditation based on location
  • Programmatic accreditation based on subject offerings
  • Specialized accreditation based on religious affiliation
  • Specialized accreditation based on career preparation

Students can visit the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) website to look up the accreditation status of a given school. The U.S. Department of Education also offers an extensive database where students can search for accreditation status by school or by institution, accrediting agency or location. The website of the Council for Higher Education also has a search feature for its database of accredited institutions and programs, as well as a directory of recognized accrediting organizations.

In addition, most schools list their accreditation status on their website, though prospective students should verify that this information is correct with the accrediting agency. Many accrediting agencies provide lists of the online programs or schools that they have accredited.

Accrediting Agencies for Online Schools

Online schools may have valid accreditation through the Distance Education Accrediting Commission, which accredits distance learning and online programs specifically, or through a program-based agency, such as:

  • Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE)
  • Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES)
  • Commission on English Language Program Accreditation

Schools may also receive accreditation through national or regional accrediting bodies. Here are some national agencies:

  • Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges
  • Association of Institutions of Jewish Studies
  • Council on Occupational Education

Some regional accrediting bodies include:

  • New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Commission on Institutions of Higher Education (NEASC-CIHE)
  • The Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
  • Southern Association of Schools and Colleges Commission on Colleges (SACS)
  • Western Association of Schools and Colleges Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (ACCJC-WASC)
  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)

By searching through government databases, accrediting agency websites and school websites, prospective students can find accredited online schools.

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