The U.S. Department of Education does not accredit educational institutions and/or programs. However, the Secretary of Education is required by law to publish a list of nationally recognized accrediting agencies that the Secretary determines to be reliable authorities as to the quality of education or training provided by the institutions of higher education and the higher education programs they accredit.
The United States has two routes to recognizing accrediting agencies -- those directly recognized by the U.S. Department of Education for federal financial aid purposes, as well as those recognized indirectly via a private organization called "The Council for Higher Education Accreditation" itself allied with the U.S. Department of Education. From these two routes, there are literally hundreds of recognized accrediting organizations (many of which are recognized by both organizations).
Some of the most common recognized accrediting agencies by The United States Department of Education include:
- MSA - Middle States Commission on Higher Education
- NASC - Northwest Association of Schools and of Colleges and Universities
- NCA - Higher Learning Commission of North Central Region
- NEASC - New England Association of Schools and Colleges
- SACS - Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
- WASC - Western Association of Schools and Colleges
These six agencies cover the major geographic regions within the United States. Other widely recognized national accreditation agencies include: The national Distance Education and Training Council (DETC) is an agency that accredits distance education programs and institutions. The Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges & Schools (ACICS) is another recognized institutional accrediting agency. Each agency has its own set of evaluation criteria for accrediting a program or institution.
What is Accreditation?
Accreditation by one of the recognized accrediting agencies, is a independent review of an institution's education programs for the purpose of helping to establish the learning offered by the select institution is of a uniform and sound quality.
Selecting an Accredited Online Institution
Accredited online education is sought after by students today wanting a quality education. Universities and institutions that are recognized to have meet all requirements and are accredited by one of the six online education accrediting organizations are in high demand. We encourage students to ask about the accreditation board of the online university they are interested in. If a school is unable to answer your questions about accreditation, then it maybe a sign to seek your online education else where. Remember, it is your education, and you are paying for it, so you are entitled to this information.
Why is Accredited Online Education Important?
There is a need for more education to get the jobs most desired in today's job market. Obtaining an accredited degree or continuing your education at an accredited school maybe one of the factors that could land you the job of your dreams. Universities that seek out the proper accreditation in their region, have taken it upon themselves to secure a standard of quality. When checking about accreditation for American institutions, refer back to the to this page to make sure its one of the six approved by the U.S. Dept. of Education.
Other Types of Institutional Accreditation
The accrediting agencies in the United States are generally some of the most recognized for regional accreditation of universities. But what about university accreditation worldwide? Who accredits them, and what are the differences? Accreditation internationally is handled by the ministries of education or other governmental entities in the origin country. While the dynamics and differences are diverse, they generally all have similar criteria in accepting institutions for accreditation.
If you are thinking about a university offering distance learning located in another country, the answers and information needed to make a smart choice are not always so crystal clear. Language barriers, different laws, university regulations and guidelines, professor and staff differences, and in general understanding how things are run in a foreign country make things difficult. While the spectrum is quite large, hopefully we can point you in the right direction to discovering information about accreditation in countries other than the United States. Most countries have similar agencies as those located in the US. Start by visiting some of the recognized agencies below for more information.
Global Distance Learning Associations
- Open and Distance Learning Association of Australia (ODLAA)
- Norwegian Association for Distance Education (NADE)
- European Distance Education Network (EDEN)
- The Commonwealth of Learning (COL)
- Canadian Association for Distance Education (CADE)