Quality Control & College Accreditation
You’ve heard the phrase before—accredited university—but what does it mean? Well, for starters, an accredited university meets the standards of a federally recognized accrediting agency. These agencies help ensure that the schools stay on track: competitive curriculum, course requirements, and the academic credentials of instructors within the institution are reviewed during the accreditation process. This form of quality control ensures that institutions for post-secondary education in the U.S. consistently enforce rigorous academic standards and produce qualified graduates.
During your college search, you will probably come across a handful of institutions that are not accredited. This typically means one of two things: the university chose to remain non-accredited, or that the institution didn’t meet the standards of the accrediting agency—either way, not the best sign. Legitimate, high-quality, and non-accredited universities do exist, but they are few and far between.
As degree mills (virtual, non-accredited universities) increase in number, accreditation becomes more important—especially for students choosing a distance learning program. Make sure that the education you have paid for will count; find out if college you are planning to attend has been accredited by an agency approved by the U.S. Secretary of Education or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.
Interested in finding out if your college is accredited?
Find out what agency has accredited your universityThis should be fairly easy to do. If the college website has on site search, simply type in "accreditation" and the search should highlight any web pages that contain information on this subject. For websites without an on site search the information can sometimes be found at the bottom of the home page or in an "about us" section. If you cannot find information on a school’s website verifying that they are accredited, call the admissions office and request more information.
Check the legitimacy of the accreditation agency usedIf the college does not specify that it has been accredited by a CHEA or U.S. Secretary of Education recognized agency, you will need to dig further. Visit the CHEA.org or Ed.gov and verify that the accrediting agency is listed in either of their databases. Both of these websites offer a free search service so that you can access information about accredited institutions in the U.S. These are the two primary resources.
Exercise reasonable caution & common senseParticularly if the "accredited" college that you have found sells diplomas or offers students an opportunity to earn an advanced degree based on a short essay about their life experience. If the degree offered seems too easy to obtain, that’s because it is. Degree mills are known for claiming that they are "accredited" universities in an attempt to convince students that the degree they purchase will be recognized by an employer. Employers never intentionally recognize diplomas from degree mills, though they are occasionally fooled by them.