An online accredited university directory provides an excellent resource to find reputable universities offering degrees in your area of interest. Whether you're embarking on an online college degree or looking for a seat-based program at a nearby college, checking the accreditation status of the school you plan to attend is a smart idea.
What Does Accreditation Mean?
In the United States, the government does not directly certify universities or colleges. Instead, higher education institutions apply for accreditation from one of several accrediting bodies. The U.S. Department of Education sets the standards by which each accrediting group evaluates schools and degree programs. If the school or program meets these standards, the organization grants formal accreditation.
In addition to colleges and universities, specialized programs within an institution may be accredited. For example, Molly College, a Long Island college known for its excellent nursing programs, recently added a Master's degree in nursing to its offerings. The college applied for accreditation for this specialized program even though the entire school is an accredited college. By gaining recognition from specialized accreditation bodies, the school hopes to attract more applicants to its fledgling program.
Accreditation isn't easy to obtain. Often it takes a college or university months, if not years, to acquire the correct accreditation. Institutions must submit many examples of courses, rubrics, and student work samples to demonstrate they meet the stringent standards set by the U.S. Department of Education.
Choose an Accredited School
Choosing an accredited school to earn your college degree online makes sense. When you choose an accredited school or program, credits transfer to another accredited institution. This makes it easier to transfer to a different school should you wish to do so at some point in your academic career.
Accreditation also ensures that the university participates in peer review and continuous improvement programs, as well as helping to determine financial aid availability for students.
Beware of bogus accrediting groups. Online accredited university directory listings may include many accreditations that sound impressive, but are meaningless in the academic world. Unfortunately, with the rise of online degrees and for-profit universities, some profiteers set up fake accreditation programs to give diploma mills an air of legitimacy.
Regional accreditation groups are the most commonly cited accrediting bodies on college and university Web sites. The following list includes the ones most frequently seen in truly accredited colleges. For additional official accreditation organizations, USA Study Guide includes a comprehensive list.
To check whether or not the college you're applying to is accredited, you can visit the Web sites of the regional accrediting groups and look up the schools they have accredited, or look on the college's Web site for their credentials. Check the name of the accrediting body against the list of official ones provided.
Regional Accrediting Organizations
The following list includes the major regional accrediting organizations in the United States. These are the groups you'll see most frequently cited by reputable schools.
- Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools (MSA) and the Middle States Commission for Higher Education accredits schools from New York to Maryland.
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC-CIHE) Commission on Institutions of Higher Educationworks with colleges and universities in the northeast.
- North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA-HLC) The Higher Learning Commission for schools in the north central area and midwest area.
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) works with colleges and universities in Washington state, Oregon and nearby areas.
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) includes colleges and universities in the south.
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC-ACSCU) Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities accredits schools in the western portion of the United States.
Online Accredited University Directory
If you're looking for an accredited online degree program, several online accredited university directories point you to reputable programs. Please check with both the university and the accrediting body cited to ensure the university continues its accreditation.
- ELearners provides a comprehensive list of over 100 online-accredited programs. Many reputable universities that offer extension courses and programs online are included in the ELearner list.
- Guide to Online Schools provides a comprehensive, free online list of universities by state. Simply click on each university and look for programs that fit your needs. Most offer some online courses or programs and are accredited by the regional education bodies.
- Accredited Online Universities offers lots of information to prospective online students, including a free directory of online accredited universities, more information on the accreditation program, and lists of online programs. Associates, Bachelor, Masters, PhD., and specialized training certificate programs included on the site cover every interest from art to writing.