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How to Choose an Accredited Distance Learning Program

by Karen Lawson
Online Degrees Columnist

When getting ready to earn your degree online, it's important to be sure that the degree program you select is properly accredited. Accreditation means that the institution offering your degree meets academic and professional standards for the degree programs it offers. Employers generally seek candidates holding degrees from accredited institutions. How do you know if your school is properly accredited?

What is Accreditation, and Who Does It?
In the United States, there are six regional agencies that accredit the majority of post-secondary educational institutions. Institutions accredited by these agencies are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as eligible for federal financial aid programs. The regional accrediting agencies are:

  • New England Association of Schools and Colleges
  • North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
  • Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools
  • Northwestern Association of Colleges and Schools
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
  • Western Association of Colleges and Schools

Some distance learning institutions may be accredited by other agencies. It's important to check with the US Department of Education website to make sure these accrediting agencies are recognized.

Beware of Online Degree and Accreditation Scams
If you spend your money on an online degree program from a college or school that is not properly accredited, you can suffer consequences, such as:

  • Failure to qualify for professional licensure
  • Possible loss of employment due to lack of educational qualifications
  • Failure to meet transfer requirements for graduate school programs

Do your homework before registering for an online degree. By verifying that your distance learning program is legitimately accredited, you can save yourself a lot of trouble and money later on.

U.S. Department of Education

About the Author
Karen Lawson spent more than twenty years in the business world before returning to college. She used student financial aid programs while earning her MA degree in English at the University of Nevada, Reno.

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