Choosing a college or university can be a very daunting task. There are a lot of factors you need to consider before making your decision. However, the most important component of all is ensuring that any school you are seriously looking at is accredited. This is especially imperative if one of your prospective schools is an online college or university. Not every online school is obligated to be accredited. By attending a school that is accredited, you are comforted with the knowledge that you're enrolled in a school which will offer you a strong education, not to mention a degree that all of your prospective employers will value and see as a reassurance that you possess the expertise and ability to succeed. All accredited schools have the reputation of offering their students a high quality education, and a continuing standard of excellence. For schools that are looking to become accredited, they are required to go through a voluntary process where their entire institution is put under review. Something to avoid is associating state-approval with accreditation. When a school is state approved that means it has fulfilled particular minimum requirements created by the State for all degree-granting institutions, whereas accreditation goes further to make sure that a college or university has attained a level of excellence.
Whether you are talking about an online school or a more traditional brick-and-mortar college, when a school is not accredited, there is the potential for many elements to be hindered – i.e. poorly trained faculty, unreliable technical support, and poor educational resources. Staying with online schools, it is especially key that you research the legitimacy of a school's accreditation. This is because it is very easy for degree mills to advertise an education to prospective students that is in fact not what they will end up receiving. It is not difficult to research a college's accreditation status. In fact, many schools post all of their accreditation information on their website. Once you have the name of the agency that they claim granted their accreditation, you can go to the Council for Higher Education Accreditation website to look up their validity.
Now there are instances where an entire institution may not be completely accredited, but they do offer accredited programs. Because earning full accreditation for an entire school is costly and challenging, it is common for some schools to focus on specific programs they offer as oppose to having their entire product be spread out evenly in terms of quality. For more traditional universities, accreditation is something much more difficult to forge. Not to say that you should be any less suspicious, but when you have a school set up in a specific real location, it is easier for others to peer-review and investigate because of the concrete foundation. Furthermore, traditional schools are typically older, as online schools have only recently become established. These traditional schools have built a reputation over the years, whereas some online schools are able to hide behind a simple webpage that appears to have legitimacy, but has nothing behind it.