Many parents choose to enroll their students in distance education programs. They ask “How do I know which programs are reputable? Will my local school recognize the credit my student is earning? Where can I find out more information about accreditation?”. We have developed this handout to help parents answer some of these questions and give you the tools to research the issue more fully.
What is Accreditation?
In the United States, each state, not the federal government, regulates the schools within its borders, so standards and quality may vary considerably. To assure a basic level of quality, accrediting agencies, private nongovernmental educational institutions with regional or national scope that maintain standards used to evaluate the quality of schools and educational programs, were created
The accreditation process gives public recognition to institutions that meet certain standards. It is a promise that a school will provide the quality of education it claims to offer. Accreditation assures the student that the school operates on a sound financial basis, has an approved program of study, qualified instructors, adequate facilities and equipment, effective recruitment and admission policies, and that it advertises its courses truthfully.
Accreditation can be a tough, lengthy and expensive process to go through, and it’s a good way to separate the legitimate institutions from the “diploma mills”. However, not all schools or programs are accredited. Since accreditation is voluntary, some legitimate schools do not seek accreditation, and many newer schools need more time to become accredited.
Getting a degree or course credits from an accredited institution is extremely important if you want employers and other schools to recognize your student’s work.
For more information about accreditation, please visit the US Department of Education’s web page on accreditation and quality assurance. To learn more about online college accreditation, please visit Affordable Colleges Online.
Checking on a School and its Accreditors
It is important to know if your student’s school or program is accredited, and by what agency. Since accreditation is awarded by private organizations, any group can claim to be an accrediting agency. Some questionable programs, for example, have been known to create their own accrediting agency and then proclaim themselves “accredited”, when outside accreditation would be more objective and legitimate.
To find out if an accrediting agency is legitimate and nationally recognized, consult any of the institutions below:
- US Department of Education
- Council for Higher Education Accreditation
- The Distance Education and Training Council
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
OAR 581-021-0210 provides districts with additional options to determine the value of credit from students entering their schools, including an update to the rule to address courses taken by home-schooled students. Please contact your local school district with questions.