How To Find Out If An Online College Is Regionally Accredited
Finding out if an online college is accredited is extremely important. Accreditation is a process by which an independent organization evaluates an educational program. Essentially, this is a certification process for the school, so you can be sure that you’re getting a quality education. Schools can (and often should) be accredited by more than one institution. For example, if you’re entering an online nursing degree program, you want the school to not only have a general educational accreditation, but to also be accredited with national nursing associations. Otherwise, you won’t qualify for your nursing license when you graduate.
Your first step in researching accreditation is to find out if the online college in question is regionally accredited. The United States Department of Education doesn’t actually do any of the accrediting, but they, along with the Council for Higher Education (CHEA) regulate the accrediting agencies. The regional accrediting agencies that monitor online programs are the same ones that accredit typical campus colleges. This ensures that there’s no discrepancy – the education you receive at your online college will be comparable to the education you’d receive at any brick-and-mortar school.
As the name implies, regional accreditation is done according to location. There are currently six accrediting agencies recognized by the United State Department of Education and CHEA. In order to determine whether or not your online college is regionally accredited, you have to know where their headquarters are located. Then, simply contact the right accrediting agency to find further information. The six regional agencies, along with the states/territories they accredit, are:
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont
- North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement: Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming
- Middle States Association of Schools and Colleges: Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, the U.S. Virgin Islands
- Southern Association of Schools and Colleges: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges: California, Hawaii
- Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges: Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington
These six organizations also accredit schools outside of the United States, according to the same standards. So, if your online college is based out of another country, you can look to these regional accreditation boards to give you more information on the programs. For schools in Europe, Africa, Asia, or the Middle East, contact the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. The Middle States Association of Schools and Colleges also accredits schools in parts of Europe and the Middle East, as well as in Central America, which is also covered by the Southern Association of Schools and Colleges. The Western Association of Schools and Colleges accredits foreign schools from Australia, Palau, Micronesia, and other Pacific Island locations.