What Does IT Mean if Online College Courses Are Accredited?
Online college courses offered by a legitimately accredited university are as rigorous as their on-campus counterparts, because accredited colleges have proven that they offer quality education. If you take properly accredited college courses and earn your degree online, you have gained the same education and training that a traditional student has.
What Accreditation Means
Reputable colleges often ask an independent organization to verify that the college offers a good education to students. If this organization, called an accreditor or an accrediting agency, approves of the school's ability to meet acceptable educational standards, it grants accreditation.
Some degree programs, especially those training professionals, seek subject-specific accreditation. For example, the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB International) accredits business schools.
How Colleges Get Accredited
Accreditation is voluntary, beginning when a college applies to the accreditor. The six major regional accrediting agencies use this process:
- The school performs a 2-year self-study.
- Peer evaluators from the accrediting agency visit the school to conduct interviews and review evidence.
- A peer review committee examines the school's self-study documents and the evaluating team's report.
- The committee recommends for or against accreditation to the decision-making council, a group of experienced peer reviewers and members of the public. This group and the Board of Trustees make the final decision.
Accredited Colleges Meet High Standards
Colleges accredited by a legitimate accrediting agency offer high-quality online courses. The U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation oversee accrediting agencies. An accrediting agency looks for the candidate college or university to meet these standards:
- The school's mission statement, vision, goals and planning reflect an intention to provide high-quality education, most of which leads to formal college degrees.
- The school is physically, technologically and financially capable of providing that education to its projected enrollment.
- Library and other resources are sufficient.
- There are enough well-trained full-time faculty members to deliver the programs.
- Programs are of appropriate length and rigor and cover the appropriate subjects.
Online College Courses From Accredited Schools
Many public and private accredited colleges and universities offer online courses. Faculty who teach classroom courses may also teach online versions.