Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Online Courses: Be sure your classes are accredited

Not every teen is ready to go off to college.  Many times starting with online courses can ease their way into going to a local college or university.  Many adults are also turning to online college courses since they can be more accessible when having a job and supporting a family.  No matter why you are choosing an online college, be sure it is accredited so you can easily transfer or obtain a legitimate degree.

An important step when choosing an online degree program is learning if the online college is fully accredited. This is vital, because by choosing a non-accredited college, you risk receiving a substandard education in exchange for your precious time and money, or employers rejecting you based on an obscure education path. Accreditation allows you to rest assured that your degree, and quality education, will be well-recognized by employers. Without the right accreditation, your online degree may in fact be worthless, so do your research and find out whether the college you’ve chosen is a smart choice for your future.

How does accreditation work? A third party, known as an accreditation agency, validates each online school as a legitimate educator. The agencies usually investigate the school to make sure students are receiving a quality education and the school operates legally. This process keeps schools from making educational promises they simply cannot keep.

Remember that while accreditation agencies offer a certain legitimacy to schools, the accreditation industry isn’t necessarily regulated. The process is voluntary, without much governmental oversight, so know that for every good accreditation agency out regulating schools, there are just as many fraudulent ones. Schools have even been known to set up fake accreditation agencies so they look more genuine, so you must do your research to avoid getting the wool pulled over your eyes.

It is a good sign if either the Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) or the US Department of Education has recognized the organization. CHEA has an international directory of quality assurance organizations, accreditation agencies and Ministries of Education in more than 150 countries. Search for your school on the the US Department of Education’s list of recognized accreditation agencies.

Do all of the schools they accredit appear to be genuine? If they appear phony, they likely are. You can see if they are listed as legitimate by well-known organizations, such as the International Handbook of Universities, the Commonwealth Universities Yearbook, and the US Department of Education’s College Navigator.
Is the accreditation agency connected to the schools in any way? As with online college rankings, there’s a chance that the accreditation agency you’re considering is a front, created to offer credibility to a phony online college. Accreditation agencies should be an independent third party, so any accreditation organization affiliated with a school is a conflict of interest. Look at their addresses, Whois information, ownership and other identifying details.

Follow these guidelines to be sure the accreditation agency you’re trusting to assess your online college is legitimate, offering a helpful and independent endorsement of the school. When you find an accreditation agency and school you can trust, you can feel confident that your online degree will be taken seriously and offer you a quality education.

Source:  Accredited Online Colleges

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