How do you know what to look for when you're on the search for an accredited online bachelors degree?
Why Choose An Accredited Online Bachelors Degree?
If you've decided to take the plunge and invest your time and money into a college degree, don't let it go to waste. Check carefully to make sure your degree will be something that benefits you. If you get a degree from an unaccredited college, you may not be recognized for it on the job or you may be unable to pursue a graduate degree.
Accreditation can also affect financial aid. If a school is not accredited, it will not be able to offer federal financial aid, but many offer a number of private loans and scholarships as a way to entice you.
For a list of schools offering accredited online bachelors degrees, check out the Guide to Online Schools. If you've already found a school offering the program you want, you should then make sure to check its accreditation. Most schools will have the information on their "About" page or "Contact" page. If you can't find it, don't be afraid to ask.
Recognized Accrediting Agencies
While some schools boast of national or international accreditation, those may not have any value. There are six regional accrediting agencies in the United States, and these are approved by the United States Department of Education. In order to receive accreditation at the regional level, the schools must prove they have met certain standards. The regional accrediting agencies oversee both on-campus and online programs.
- The Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools (MSA) oversees institutions of higher education in Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.
- The New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) supervises institutions of higher education in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.
- The North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA) gives its approval to institutions of higher education in Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming. They are also Navajo Nation schools.
- The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NCC) evaluates institutions of higher education in Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington.
- The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) inspects institutions of higher education in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.
- The Western Association of Colleges and Schools (WASC) monitors institutions of higher education in California, Hawaii, and the US Territories of Guam, American Samoa, Republic of Palau, Federated States of Micronesia, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands, and the Republic of the Marshal Islands.
When looking for an accredited online bachelors degree, you can find a school that offers all its degrees online, or you can find a traditional university that offers only select degrees. There are pros and cons to both options.
Online Schools - Pros
- Everyone is online. If no students get "special help" from being able to go see the professor in person, it keeps everyone in the class at an even keel.
- Everything is online. You don't have to worry that the course you want to take next semester will be on-campus only.
- Shorter semesters. While this isn't always true, many online universities compress their classes to last from five to ten weeks instead of the traditional sixteen. Some people find this makes them feel like they're "speeding" through their degrees.
Online Schools - Cons
- Professor who? You don't get to meet your professors face-to-face. If you're a student who likes personal interaction, this may not be the right choice to you.
- Everything is online. This can be both a pro and a con. Some students prefer certain subjects on a face-to-face basis.
Traditional Schools - Pros
- Respect. While there's nothing wrong with getting an online degree, some people feel more comfortable if their school has a ground presence.
- 'Split lifestyle. If algebra or calculus is your bane, you can show up for class and get one-on-one help.
Traditional Schools - Cons
- Showing up. If the professor teaches both online and on campus, he or she may decide to come up with assignments that involve attending local events. If your school is in Connecticut and you're in Texas, the assignment becomes nearly impossible.
- Library services. Depending on how many classes and programs are available online, the library might not be set up for you to access resources from a distance.
- Student services. Talking to an advisor can be difficult if you're not there in person. Some schools will have dedicated staff members for online students, but many will not.