Accreditation: Understanding Online Colleges Accreditation

Perhaps you’ve been advised to check on the accreditation status of the institution you intend to pursue a program from, and you are wondering what it is and why it is important. In this article, we are going to discuss everything you need to know about online colleges accreditation.

Let’s get started

What is Online Colleges Accreditation?

In today’s world, the quality of education is paramount and is now a universal goal. It is critical for any business across nations.

There are standards and guidelines formulated by higher education organizations that online institutions should meet to achieve acceptable education quality for every offered online college degrees. Institutions are encouraged to attain and continuously maintain the articulated standards, in which case, they are validated and accredited by the relevant accreditation bodies.

So what is accreditation?

Accreditation refers to how associations and government agencies assess programs or an educational institution and validate and formally acknowledge it as having met or exceeded the articulated standards.

Although validation and accreditation are mostly used interchangeably, there is a significant difference between them. Validation implies to the student’s learning outcomes such as portfolios. On the other hand, accreditation infers to the institutional effectiveness in achieving students’ and the institution’s general objective and missions.

The accrediting bodies review and analyze characteristics such as students’ outputs, institutions’ governance and administration, financial conditions, teaching, information, and technical resources, among other traits, and awards accreditation to the programs and institutions that meet the minimum standard. There are two main categories of accrediting bodies, regional and national accreditation agencies.

Regional accreditation bodies accredit all kinds of colleges and universities within a specific geographic region.

National accreditation Bodies evaluates institutions of a similar type such as medical and law schools within a country.

Why Accreditation Matters?

There are various reasons why online colleges accreditation matters. These reasons include;

  • It ensures quality education, which is vital for personal and national growth.
  • It eases the transfer of credits between institutions.
  • Accreditation can significantly impact candidates’ professional practice acceptance – students with accredited qualifications are considered highly qualified, thereby leading to a wide range of opportunities.
  • The Accreditation also helps in building students confidence, trust and accountability.
  • Accreditation also ensures that students receive federal financial aid, which comes in the form of grants, loans, or work-study.

Note that the mentioned reasons pertain to general accreditation. There are other purposes of institutional accreditation that regard to the specific form and accreditation body.

What are Different Categories of Accreditation?

There are two basic categories of institutional accreditation; institutional and programmatic accreditation.

  • Institutional Accreditation

The institutional accreditation refers to the process of evaluating and accrediting the entire educational facility. It helps in improving the school’s credibility level. The institutional accrediting body’s primary goal is to examine the school’s general characteristic and ensure it meets satisfactory standards.

  • Programmatic accreditation

It is also known as specialized accreditation. It refers to the assessment of individual programs within an institution. Here, the accrediting bodies focus on evaluating students, curriculum, available resources, and governance and administrative conditions to ensure that all students access equal standard support and learning resources.

Tip: Ensure that both the online college you are interested in and the program you intend to pursue are accredited. You can use the Department of Education’s database to check the accreditation status. Note that only the accrediting bodies recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) are legitimate.