Becoming a distance student is a great way to get an education if you don’t have the time or money to attend a traditional school. Before you start taking courses, though, you should make sure that you’ll graduate with an online accredited degree. Thankfully, there are a few easy ways to find out whether or not a college is accredited.
Ask the School
One of the easiest ways to get information on accreditation is to just ask someone who works at the school. This is because there are different accrediting agencies in the United States. By talking directly to an admissions counselor, you’ll get the whole story instead of a one-word answer from a different source. For instance, you may find out that while a college isn’t regionally accredited, it is nationally accredited. While regional accreditation is standard, you may decide that you’re okay with other forms of accreditation depending on what you’re studying and what career you would like to have after you graduate. To make sure that you’re being given correct and up-to-date information, don’t feel shy about asking for either something in writing or a link to a website that can verify what you’re told.
Ask the Accrediting Body
In order to get the correct kind of online accredited degree, you may want to attend a school that’s recognized by a certain accrediting body. If this is the case, you may feel more comfortable with finding information from an accreditation agency rather than an individual school. For a listing of approved accrediting organizations by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation, you can visit the official CHEA website. Once you have a specific accrediting body in mind, visiting your chosen agency’s website to look at a list of recognized schools should only take a couple of minutes. Most listings are reviewed and updated very frequently, so you shouldn’t have to worry about accidentally getting old information; however, you can always call or email an agency if you’d prefer to talk to a live person and make sure that the listing is correct.
Find Out About Financial Aid
As a general rule of thumb, you won’t be able to get federal financial aid for classes that you take at an unaccredited college or university. While you’ll probably want to use one of the above methods once you decide on an online school to attend, looking at a list of schools that participate in federal financial aid programs can help narrow down your choices. You can find the most recent list of participating colleges at the Information for Financial Aid Professionals’ website. A school that can’t be found on a list from that website can usually be discarded without any further investigation unless you want to enroll there for a specific reason. After you’ve decided against attending some colleges or universities that were initially on your radar, you can talk to someone from each college’s admissions office, visit each school’s website or find information from each accrediting agency’s website.
Distance education is a great option for many people, but some online schools are much better than others. As long as you make sure that you graduate with an accredited online degree, though, you should be well on your way to starting a successful career.