There are several ways that you can find out whether or not your school is accredited and if the association it is accredited by is a reputable one. First of all, you should always be able to find information about accreditation on your school's Web site. Schools that are accredited by recognized associations will most likely make that information readily available and easy to find. You should also be able to find information about the accreditation status of individual academic departments or programs by visiting the home pages of their Web sites. Typically, this information appears on an "About Us" page or the administration section. If you are unable to find information about the agency that your school and its programs are accredited by, you may want to proceed with caution. Accreditation is not easily granted and schools have to work very hard to meet the high standards and requirements involved. Therefore, those which are accredited will proudly display the fact. If you are unable to find accreditation information or want to know more about the association your school is accredited by, the Department of Education or the Council of Higher Accreditation can provide you with additional information.
The U.S. Department of Education maintains the Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs which only includes associations which are recognized by the department. To be recognized by USDE an association must meet ten separate standards including those pertaining to administration and fiscal responsibilities, recruitment procedures, admissions practices, and the monitoring of accredited institutions. The USDE sets these standards in order to ensure that federal funds for student aid go toward courses and programs that are of good academic quality. You can use the USDE database to search for accredited institutions by name, address, or State, as well as search by accrediting agency, including institutional accrediting agencies, specialized or programmatic accrediting agencies, or State.
The Council for Higher Education Accreditation maintains a database of more than 7,800, both degree-granting and non-degree granting, and over 19,700 programs that are accredited by associations recognized by CHEA or the USDE. To be recognized by CHEA an association must be one that advances academic quality, demonstrates accountability, employs appropriate and fair procedures in decision making, demonstrates ongoing review of accreditation practices, possesses sufficient resources, and encourages self-scrutiny and planning for change and for needed improvement. You can search CHEA's database for accredited institutions or programs by school name, U.S. State, country, or institutional accreditor. You can also use the database to search for accredited programs. CHEA is also a great resource if you want to find out whether or not the association your school is accredited by is legitimate and verify that it is in good standing with CHEA. You can do this by checking out the Directory of CHEA Recognized Organizations, which provides information about each accrediting association such as contact information, Web site, and date it was recognized by CHEA.