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Regionally Accredited Online Schools for Distance Learning

Jun 18, 2019

Learn about accredited online public, private, nonprofit and for-profit institutions. Also, view lists of schools with extensive online offerings that you might want to consider.

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Accredited Online Schools

Accreditation is the recognition that a school or program meets the standards of an external evaluative body, such as an education council or professional organization. Some organizations recognize entire schools, while others only accredit programs in their industry. Online schools may be recognized by regional accrediting agencies that evaluate schools in particular areas within the United States. Interested students can enroll in public, private, nonprofit and for-profit schools that offer online education.

Public Schools

Public institutions are schools that are partially funded by the government. They may offer both undergraduate and graduate-level degree and certificate programs, and they may provide education in the liberal arts and more career-specific topics, like nursing or education. Although residents of any state are often permitted to enroll, the tuition rate is typically higher for non-residents. Here are five accredited public schools with extensive online offerings:

  • University of North Carolina
  • Pennsylvania State University - World Campus
  • University of Oklahoma
  • Arizona State University
  • Oregon State University

Private Nonprofit Schools

Private nonprofit schools are not funded by the government, but their main goal is to provide education for their students; they do not expect to turn a profit by offering degree or certificate programs. Like public schools, private nonprofit schools provide courses and programs in a wide range of subjects at multiple degree levels. However, unlike public schools, the tuition rate at private nonprofit schools is usually the same for all students. These five accredited, private nonprofit schools offer online education:

  • Boston University
  • George Washington University
  • University of Miami
  • University of Denver
  • University of Southern California

For-Profit Schools

For-profit schools are institutions that were founded with the goal of making money by offering educational programs. This does not always mean that their educational offerings are inferior to those of public schools and private nonprofit institutions, since they may also be accredited, indicating that they fulfill the same educational standards. However, it is important to note that tuition is sometimes more expensive at for-profit schools. Many for-profit schools also focus on providing career training programs rather than liberal arts education. The following are well-known, accredited for-profit schools with online offerings:

  • Strayer University
  • Fortis Institute
  • Capella University
  • Full Sail University
  • National University

There are several types of accredited online schools from which to choose. Students can earn degrees and certificates in a wide range of subjects through online educational programs.

What's the Difference Between Regional, National and Program Accreditation?

Regional accreditation organizations operate within a given area, say, the Southwest or MidAtlantic. They were the first regulatory bodies to emerge in the American education system, so they are traditionally associated with higher educational standards and nonprofit, public or degree-oriented institutions. Some regional accreditation organizations include:

  • Middle States Commission on Higher Education
  • Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges - Western Association of Schools and Colleges
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges

National accreditation is a newer idea and is often linked to for-profit schools and religious institutions. Some national accreditation organizations include the Distance Education Accrediting Commission and the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges. Program accreditation refers to accrediting boards that focus on one degree field, such as education or nursing. Popular program accreditation agencies include ABET (Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology), American Council on Education, and Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education.

Why Is Accreditation Important?

Accreditation matters and here's why -- these organizations ensure that institutions of higher learning all adhere to a set of educational and ethical standards. Regional accrediting associations emerged in this country first, so they've been around longer and they generally hold stricter standards than national accreditation organizations (though this isn't always the case). Students interested in a traditional degree should look for regionally accredited universities while those who want to pursue a vocational or technical degree might look for a nationally accredited school.

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