OEDb Accreditation GuidePage 34

If you are exploring your options for higher education online, the first question you should ask is whether a school or program is accredited. Accredited programs, whether they are online or campus-based, are periodically evaluated to make sure they’re meeting high standards of education and student assistance.

Search through our comprehensive database of accredited colleges and universities with online offerings, and narrow your search based on what type of school you want to attend, and what kind of degree you’d like to earn. Or, if you want to learn more about accreditation and how it could affect your college experience, jump to our guide to accreditation.

Search Our Database of Online Schools

Schools have different personalities, and you'll want to get to know them before you choose the one that's right for you. Read up on the online schools you're curious about – and even some you haven't considered before – and learn about degree programs, history, online learning platforms, and accreditation. Where you go to school is important — let us help you make the right decision.

There are 3,535 schools that match your search

  1. School Name Tuition & Fees Years Accredited Student Population School Type Degree Levels
  2. School Name

    Columbia College

    Columbia, MO
    Tuition & Fees
    $6,739
    Years Accredited
    92 (1923)
    Student Population
    31,541
    School Type
    Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above
    Degree Levels
    Certificate
    Associates
    Bachelors
    Masters
    School Website
  3. School Name

    Columbia Gorge Community College

    The Dalles, OR
    Tuition & Fees
    $3,636
    Years Accredited
    1 (2013)
    Student Population
    2,047
    School Type
    Public, 2-year
    Degree Levels
    Certificate
    Associates
    School Website
  4. School Name

    Columbia International University

    Columbia, SC
    Tuition & Fees
    $18,745
    Years Accredited
    67 (1948)
    Student Population
    1,493
    School Type
    Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above
    Degree Levels
    Certificate
    Certificate (Post-Bachelors)
    Certificate (Post-Masters)
    Associates
    Bachelors
    Doctoral
    Masters
    School Website
  5. School Name

    Columbia Southern University

    Orange Beach, AL
    Tuition & Fees
    $4,895
    Years Accredited
    13 (2001)
    Student Population
    33,772
    School Type
    Private for-profit, 4-year or above
    Degree Levels
    Certificate
    Certificate (Post-Bachelors)
    Associates
    Bachelors
    Doctoral
    Masters
    School Website
  6. School Name

    Columbia State Community College

    Columbia, TN
    Tuition & Fees
    $3,511
    Years Accredited
    47 (1968)
    Student Population
    7,393
    School Type
    Public, 2-year
    Degree Levels
    Certificate
    Associates
    School Website
  7. School Name

    Columbia University in the City of New York

    New York, NY
    Tuition & Fees
    $47,246
    Years Accredited
    93 (1921)
    Student Population
    28,139
    School Type
    Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above
    Degree Levels
    Certificate (Post-Bachelors)
    Certificate (Post-Masters)
    Bachelors
    Doctoral
    Masters
    School Website
  8. School Name

    Columbia-Greene Community College

    Hudson, NY
    Tuition & Fees
    $4,122
    Years Accredited
    40 (1975)
    Student Population
    2,723
    School Type
    Public, 2-year
    Degree Levels
    Certificate
    Associates
    School Website
  9. School Name

    Columbus College of Art and Design

    Columbus, OH
    Tuition & Fees
    $29,022
    Years Accredited
    28 (1986)
    Student Population
    1,551
    School Type
    Private not-for-profit, 4-year or above
    Degree Levels
    Bachelors
    Masters
    School Website
  10. School Name

    Columbus State Community College

    Columbus, OH
    Tuition & Fees
    $3,400
    Years Accredited
    42 (1973)
    Student Population
    50,240
    School Type
    Public, 2-year
    Degree Levels
    Certificate
    Associates
    School Website
  11. School Name

    Columbus State University

    Columbus, GA
    Tuition & Fees
    $5,357
    Years Accredited
    52 (1963)
    Student Population
    10,238
    School Type
    Public, 4-year or above
    Degree Levels
    Certificate
    Certificate (Post-Bachelors)
    Certificate (Post-Masters)
    Associates
    Bachelors
    Doctoral
    Masters
    School Website
  12. School Name

    Columbus Technical College

    Columbus, GA
    Tuition & Fees
    $2,168
    Years Accredited
    24 (1990)
    Student Population
    5,555
    School Type
    Public, 2-year
    Degree Levels
    Certificate
    Associates
    School Website
  13. School Name

    Commonwealth Institute of Funeral Service

    Houston, TX
    Tuition & Fees
    $10,904
    Years Accredited
    26 (1988)
    Student Population
    330
    School Type
    Private not-for-profit, 2-year
    Degree Levels
    Certificate
    Associates
    School Website
  14. School Name

    Community Care College

    Tulsa, OK
    Tuition & Fees
    -
    Years Accredited
    16 (1998)
    Student Population
    1,107
    School Type
    Private for-profit, 2-year
    Degree Levels
    Certificate
    Associates
    School Website
  15. School Name

    Community Christian College

    Redlands, CA
    Tuition & Fees
    $11,088
    Years Accredited
    7 (2007)
    Student Population
    186
    School Type
    Private not-for-profit, 2-year
    Degree Levels
    Associates
    School Website
  16. School Name

    Community College of Allegheny County

    Pittsburgh, PA
    Tuition & Fees
    $6,332
    Years Accredited
    44 (1970)
    Student Population
    31,029
    School Type
    Public, 2-year
    Degree Levels
    Certificate
    Associates
    School Website
  17. School Name

    Community College of Aurora

    Aurora, CO
    Tuition & Fees
    $2,707
    Years Accredited
    45 (1969)
    Student Population
    12,533
    School Type
    Public, 2-year
    Degree Levels
    Certificate
    Associates
    School Website
  18. School Name

    Community College of Beaver County

    Monaca, PA
    Tuition & Fees
    $7,320
    Years Accredited
    42 (1972)
    Student Population
    4,232
    School Type
    Public, 2-year
    Degree Levels
    Certificate
    Associates
    School Website
  19. School Name

    Community College of Denver

    Denver, CO
    Tuition & Fees
    $2,962
    Years Accredited
    40 (1975)
    Student Population
    19,381
    School Type
    Public, 2-year
    Degree Levels
    Certificate
    Associates
    School Website
  20. School Name

    Community College of Philadelphia

    Philadelphia, PA
    Tuition & Fees
    $9,120
    Years Accredited
    46 (1968)
    Student Population
    29,095
    School Type
    Public, 2-year
    Degree Levels
    Certificate
    Associates
    School Website
  21. School Name

    Community College of Rhode Island

    Warwick, RI
    Tuition & Fees
    $3,950
    Years Accredited
    45 (1969)
    Student Population
    24,616
    School Type
    Public, 2-year
    Degree Levels
    Certificate
    Associates
    School Website
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About Accreditation

Accreditation is a process that colleges undertake to become recognized as legitimate, trustworthy institutions. To become accredited, a college must meet a set of established standards for the quality of their faculty, administration, student support services and educational programs.

Schools that are accredited have proven that their primary goal is to teach students (as opposed to just making a profit), according to The Higher Learning Commission's core values for accreditation. In one sense, the authorities in charge of accreditation are advocates for students — they do the research to determine the level of quality a college provides.

In the past, online education has been criticized for having poor accreditation practices. However, as online learning becomes more mainstream, this situation is improving overall. Traditional institutions are exploring and developing online degree options, and accredited online colleges are making a wider variety of programs available. And it's important to know that the requirements for getting accredited are the same for both online and on-campus programs. That means if you enroll in an accredited college, you can expect the same high standard of education whether your program is traditional or online.

What Accreditation Means for Students

As a prospective online student, you may have spent some time comparing different online schools and programs. Knowing the accreditation status of each school you’re interested in can help you to make the best choice from online programs in your chosen field of study.

You should also be aware of a few other reasons why it’s important to enroll in and complete a program from an accredited institution:

  • Getting Financial Aid: For students interested in pursuing federal financial aid (e.g., Pell Grants, Perkins Loans) the U.S. Department of Education requires that schools participating in these programs be accredited. This is also the case for some state aid programs.
  • Transferring Credit: No school is required to accept transfer credit from any other school, but accreditation can play a role in the process. Most institutions will not consider granting transfer credit if it was earned at a non-accredited institution. Students enrolling in courses with the expectation that they will transfer those credits at a later date should closely examine the accreditation of the current school and the guidelines provided by schools they may want to transfer to in the future.
  • Finding a Job: Employers may view graduates of an accredited school or program as more valuable than graduates of unaccredited schools. Accreditation offers some assurance that the program maintains high academic standards and prepares students in terms of knowledge and skills. Accreditation may be required as part of licensure or certification procedures in some fields.
  • Continuing Your Education: Similar to the expectation of employers, graduate school admissions offices may look more favorably on students who completed accredited undergraduate programs, and in many cases will consider it a prerequisite for application and enrollment.

Avoiding Diploma Mills

Verifying that your school is accredited is a good way to make sure you’re not enrolling in a diploma mill that offers sub-par education. But it’s also important to make sure the agency that accredits your school is legitimate.

Organizations like the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) monitor accrediting agencies to ensure that they provide adequate reviews of programs and schools. CHEA defines accreditation mills as "dubious providers of accreditation and quality assurance that offer a certification of quality of institutions without a proper basis." Below is a list of questions that CHEA created to help you determine whether an agency (or school) is legitimate:

  • Does the organization allow accredited status (or degrees) to be purchased?
  • Are few, if any, standards for quality published by the organization?
  • Does the organization make claims for which there is no evidence?
  • Are there few requirements for accreditation (or graduation)?

If the answer to any of these questions is "yes" for a given organization, it may be an accreditation mill or degree mill. If you suspect that a school is a degree mill or is not accredited by a trustworthy agency, it's important to do more research before enrolling. You can use the resources in our guide to find accredited schools or verify the legitimacy of an accreditation agency.

Types of Accreditation


Prospective students should be aware that not all accreditation is equal. There are accrediting agencies on the national and regional level, and other agencies that focus on specific kinds of institutions or academic disciplines. In fact, some programs or schools are accredited by more than one type of accreditation agency. The different types of accreditation are explained below.

National

There are several agencies that accredit schools across the country. The U.S. government itself does not accredit schools and programs; however, the Department of Education maintains a list of recognized accrediting bodies. Some of the most well-known national agencies are:

  • Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC)
  • Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET)
  • Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS)
  • Council on Occupational Education (COE)
  • Distance Education and Training Council (DETC)

While there are accrediting agencies that monitor only online programs and schools, such as the DETC, online programs are not limited to getting their accreditation from those agencies alone. Online schools are free to chose from any type of accrediting agency, and the process of review is similar regardless of whether a program is delivered online or in person. Many online higher education institutions are accredited nationally.

Regional

There are six recognized accrediting agencies in the United States that review schools within specific geographic areas:

  • Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools (MSA)
  • New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)
  • North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA)
  • Northwest Accreditation Commission (NWAC)
  • Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS)

The regional accrediting system predates the national system. It is often perceived as more prestigious, because it is preferred by most traditional colleges and universities. It is also considered the most rigorous form of accreditation; however, additional research is required to determine the preferred accreditation type or agency in a specific area of study or industry.

Specialized

Most regional and national accrediting agencies conduct their reviews at the institutional level. On the other hand, specialized agencies focus on specific academic disciplines, and review individual programs rather than entire institutions. Examples include:

  • National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education (NCATE)
  • American Bar Association (ABA)
  • Association for Clinical Pastoral Education (ACPE)
  • Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education (CCNE)

The U.S. Department of Education currently recognizes more than 40 specialized accrediting agencies in the following categories: arts and humanities, education training, legal studies, community and social services, personal care and services, and healthcare.

Finding Accredited Online Colleges and Programs


Navigating the many different kinds of accrediting agencies may seem overwhelming. Fortunately, there are several simple ways to find the accreditation status of an online school or program you are considering. Before enrolling in a new program, use the resources listed below to look it up and find out whether it’s accredited.

  • The Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs: Maintained by the U.S. Department of Education, this site allows users to search for accredited schools by name and location, or by accrediting agency.
  • Database of Institutions and Programs Accredited by Recognized United States Accrediting Organization: A project of CHEA, this site also features searchable lists of accredited schools and programs by field of study, location, and accrediting agency.
  • Directory of Recognized Organizations: Another resource from CHEA, use this list to determine if a specific accrediting agency has met this organization's standards.
  • College Navigator: This popular college search tool from the National Center for Education Statistics includes school profile pages that indicate accreditation status and agencies, along with a variety of other helpful information.
  • Accrediting agency websites: Look for lists of accredited colleges and universities published by the agencies themselves. For example, the Higher Learning Commission provides a Directory of Institutions with details about status.
  • College websites: Information about accreditation can usually be found on individual school websites. Search the site using "accreditation" as a keyword and check for accreditation details in sections labeled "About us" and "Academics." When in doubt, ask admissions representatives for more information.

The Accreditation Process

The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) describes accreditation as "both a process and a status." Getting accredited is neither quick nor easy, especially for institutions seeking approval for the first time. But while the main purpose of accreditation is to protect students, schools themselves gain important benefits through accreditation. Online schools are increasingly in competition with each other to provide valuable education and career preparation, and to be considered a top-ranking college. Accreditation helps them to meet those goals, and therefore to attract the best students.

So what has to take place in order for a school to achieve and maintain accreditation? Here’s a breakdown of the basic steps in the process:

  1. 1. Self Study: This is a written self-assessment prepared by a school seeking accreditation. The self-study is an evaluation of the institution's operations, measured against the standards of the accrediting agency. The self-study may also include a detailed review of the school’s goals and objectives, as well as any challenges it has faced.
  2. 2. Peer Review: Guided by the accrediting agency, a committee from various other schools evaluates the curriculum, course materials, and resources of the school seeking accreditation. The committee compares the school’s operations against the accrediting agency’s standards for institutional mission, administration, effectiveness, educational programs, faculty, support services, and learning resources.
  3. 3. Site Visits: This usually takes the form of a series of meetings where the accrediting agency talks to faculty, administrators and students.
  4. 4. Decision: After the initial evaluation process, the accrediting agency decides whether or not the school has met its required standards. The final decision may include recommendations for continued monitoring.
  5. 5. Periodic Review: Once a school gains accreditation, the accrediting agency conducts regular reviews to make sure that the school continues to perform well; periodic reviews also allow the agency to identify additional areas for improvement. How often a school is reviewed varies depending on the type of institution and level of the degree program; time frames range from every two to every 10 years.