Regionally Accredited Online Colleges
Picking the right school and the right program can be tricky. All online colleges are not created equal. Some won't accept credits transferred from other schools. Others are not accredited at all.
You could spend the time and money to take classes only to find out later that you can't use the credits to get the degree you want at the school you were accepted to or that your employer won't recognize a degree because it's from the wrong program.
So how can you be sure that you are on the right track? First things first.
What is Accreditation?
Accreditation is essential to everyone involved. For a school to be accredited, a professional organization or council reviews the school's practices and programs to ensure that they meet or exceed the standards for education that the organization has set. This is important for a couple of reasons.
- Students can be sure that an accredited university or college will meet their educational needs and provide them with financial aid options.
- Colleges and students can determine which credits can be transferred between their preferred schools and programs.
Types of Accreditation
There are different types of accreditation a school can receive; institutionalized or specialized, either nationally or regionally.
To receive an institutionalized accreditation, the school must meet specific industry standards. Specialized accreditation is for certain programs of study that meet or exceed industry standards.
Some schools you can expect to have national accreditation are technical, religious, vocational, and correspondence schools. These schools usually get national instead of regional accreditation because they are for-profit schools focusing on student careers.
Regional accreditation holds schools to a higher standard than national accreditation. These schools are state-owned or non-profit institutions focusing more on academics than careers.
When deciding on a regional or nationally accredited school, you must ensure that whatever school you transfer to will take your credits. Most regionally accredited schools will not accept credit transfers from nationally accredited schools. It is much easier to transfer credits from a regionally accredited school to a regionally accredited school.
What career you plan to have should inform what kind of accreditation you look for in a school. If you are interested in learning a vocation or trade, national accreditation is what you will need. If you want to go a more traditional route, then a regionally accredited online college is the one for you.
In the ever-growing world of online education, choosing a reputable and accredited institution is vital. Among the various accreditation types, regional accreditation stands out as the gold standard. This article will guide you through the benefits of choosing regionally accredited online colleges, the top institutions in each region, and how to select the right college for you.
The Difference Between Regional and National Accreditation
When it comes to accreditation, there are two main types: regional and national. Regional accreditation focuses on a specific geographic area, while national accreditation typically applies to vocational, technical, and religious institutions. Regional accreditation is considered more prestigious and widely recognized, making it the preferred choice for students and employers alike.
Benefits of Choosing a Regionally Accredited Online College
Selecting a regionally accredited online college has several advantages:
Transfer of credits: Credits earned at regionally accredited institutions are more likely to be accepted by other colleges, making it easier to transfer or pursue higher degrees.
Financial aid: Students attending regionally accredited colleges are more likely to be eligible for federal financial aid programs.
Employment prospects: Employers often prefer graduates from regionally accredited institutions, as it is a mark of quality education.
Further Reading: Regional vs National Accreditation
How do I know if a school is accredited?
A school that is accredited will want you to know it. Most college websites will share their accreditation status on their home page. You can also check the website's site map or scroll to the bottom of the home page and look for a link to accreditation. Be wary of schools that use terms like "licensed" or "recognized." If you are unsure after looking at the school's website, you can check the Council for Higher Education Accreditation's directory to see if they are listed. For online schools, you can also check accreditation at ACICS or Education Connection.
You can check your school's accreditation by visiting the following:
- Middle States Commission of Higher Education
- Northwest Commission of Schools & Colleges
- North Central Association of Colleges & Schools
- New England Association of Schools & Colleges
- Southern Association of Colleges & Schools
- Western Association of Schools & Colleges
To check distance learning accreditation, visit:
- The Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges & Schools
- The Distance Education & Training Council
Cheapest Regionally Accredited Online Colleges
When choosing a college, it is essential to find one with great teachers and a program that gives you the education you want. However, expensive colleges will leave you with a mountain of debt that won't be easy to get rid of any time soon. The following colleges are some of the cheapest, but that doesn't mean they have skimped on quality. With a host of programs to choose from, there is something here for everyone.
This online college has institutional and specialized accreditation through the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities. With tuition at $2,805 a year, it's no wonder it was rated as the most affordable online college available by SR Education Group. Their available fully online programs include early childhood development, land surveying, graphic communications, and RN-BSN.
The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints runs this non-profit college. Although the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints runs it, it accepts both LDS and non-LDS students. They offer 350 online courses with seven associate and eleven bachelor degrees. This school also received institutional accreditation, with eight programs getting specialized accreditation. Tuition is around $3830 per year, making them an affordable option for the more conservative college applicant.
With tuition at $5,250 a year and an institutionalized accreditation by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges, UT of Permian Basin is an excellent choice for the online learner. In addition to their institutional accreditation, they also received specialized accreditation for at least eight of their programs, including a bachelor of arts or music, education, nursing, and social work. They even have degrees that can be earned in as little as eight weeks.
Self Paced Regionally Accredited Online Colleges
Many people today need flexibility in their school schedules for many reasons, including working full-time while in school and raising a family. Self-paced, regionally accredited online colleges offer lenient courses designed so that busy people can finish their degrees without the stress of inconvenient class times, group projects, and driving to campus every day.
Whether you are an undergraduate or graduate, TESU has an online course that will cater to your needs and busy lifestyle. With more than 100 areas of study and the ability to get an associate's or a bachelor's degree, TESU has the self-paced courses to take your career to the next level on your time.
The University of North Dakota was awarded Most Innovative of Best Colleges by the U.S. News and World Report in 2018. They have two options for distance learners - the more traditional online degree programs as well as a self-paced program that gives the student up to nine months to complete their courses. This program is available for enrollment at anytime or day during the year. This gives the student complete control over when they begin and finish a course.
No matter which regionally accredited online colleges you choose, it is up to you to get the most out of your education. By ensuring that the school is regionally accredited and that the program is appropriate for your position, you will get the most of your degree whether you choose a self-paced or a cheaper one. Your future awaits, so get started toward making more money today by enrolling in a program of study that fits your life and career goals.
List of Regionally Accredited Online Colleges
American InterContinental University is a regionally accredited college system with six campuses, both in the United States and abroad. Its virtual division, AIU Online, offers accelerated associate, bachelor, and master degrees.
AT Still University of Health Sciences Online
AT Still University of Health Sciences has built its online program on the strength of practical healthcare disciplines for college graduates. Distance learning revolves around a quarter system, enabling attendees to earn a master's degree in 1.5 years (at the rate of two classes per quarter) in Still's Arizona School of Health Sciences.
Baker College Online
Baker College Online bills itself as a career-focused college. While the school's Blackboard system is online 24 hours a day for students to listen to lectures, discuss content, and complete assignments, the school sets regular deadlines to get the work done.
Bellevue University Online
Bellevue University Online offers liberal arts and vocation-focused programs year-round, with all-day online access. Students can take classes, discuss lessons, and complete research, earning a degree at their leisure within a prescribed timeframe.
Benedictine University Online
Originally founded as Chicago's St. Procopius College in 1887, Benedictine is now an academically diverse university in Lisle, Illinois. The online branch offers graduate degrees geared toward professionals serious about advancing their careers, so the admission standards and tuition are fairly high.
Boston University Online
When studying at Boston University Online, students can complete the coursework at their own speed as long as they meet deadlines designed to push them along at an acceptable pace. Dedicated students usually have enough time to take two courses per semester, one course after the other.
Bryant and Stratton College Online
Bryant & Stratton, a workplace-focused college, has distilled more than 150 years of teaching experience into its online program. Students use a software called TopClass to navigate the 7.5-week classes, all conducted in a virtual classroom.
Champlain College Online
While Champlain College Online touts its flexibility in its career-focused online education, the college says students should be willing to dedicate 13 to 14 hours per week to "attending" class and doing assignments. Distance-learning classes are spread over six sessions per year.
California University of Pennsylvania Global Online
The California University of Pennsylvania, part of Pennsylvania's public higher-education system, launched its Global Online campus in 2004. The university offers a variety of online master's degrees and certifications as well as two undergraduate programs.
The Chicago School of Professional Psychology Online
Open only to college graduates, The Chicago School of Professional Psychology Online offers a broad curriculum for generalists and the opportunity to focus on a niche.
Capella University Online
More than 20,000 students in all 50 states and 56 other countries attended Capella University in 2007, making this for-profit company one of the largest online campuses.
Eastern Kentucky University Online
Since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, the master's program in homeland security has become a cornerstone of Eastern Kentucky University's online curriculum. Overall, the distance education branch serves more than 10,000 students.
Everest University Online
Up to 80% of the online classes at Everest University focus on what students can apply in the professional world, making it a practical avenue for obtaining a degree at the associate, bachelor's or master's degree levels.
Cambridge College Online
Blended distance learning supports Cambridge College's mission to reach out to working adults. The school offers some fully online courses and some that are conducted nearly half on the web. Most programs require in-person interaction.
Charter Oak State College
Charter Oak State College is one of the “big three” non-traditional colleges offering flexible degree completion opportunities. Charter Oak allows students to earn personally-tailored degrees by transferring credits from regionally accredited schools, taking exams, proving life experience, and taking online courses.
Fielding Graduate University Online
Fielding Graduate University seeks to attract adults in mid-career for master's and doctorate programs in the schools of Psychology, Human and Organization Development, and Educational Leadership and Change.
Florida Hospital College of Health Sciences Online
Florida Hospital College is arming candidates in those growing ranks with an online bachelor's degree. The faith-based school -- the campus is at Florida Hospital of the Adventist Health System -- runs on the trimester system.
Franklin University Online
Franklin has a full catalog of undergraduate majors in practical disciplines such as business and computers, plus a master's business track. Classes are offered from 15 weeks to a speedy three weeks.
Colorado Technical University Online
Colorado Technical University is a private, for-profit college that opened in 1965 to offer career-oriented education. Students are encouraged to virtually attend live lectures that feature online student discussions, but class sessions may also be viewed later.
Gonzaga University Online
The ability to handle two three-credit courses per semester can enable Gonzaga University Online students to make steady progress toward a highly regarded master's degree. Gonzaga was recently ranked third among master's universities in the West by US News and World Report.
Graceland University Global Campus
Graceland University developed its virtual global campus in 2005, and it's quickly becoming the school's most popular educational arm. Graceland focuses its online degrees on two service-oriented fields: nursing and teaching.
Herzing College Online
Herzing College Online has committed deeply to distance learning with nearly two-dozen undergraduate degrees and a select choice of master's degrees in business administration.
Iowa Central College Online
A two-year school that focuses on providing job skills and laying the foundation for a bachelor's degree, Iowa Central allows students to complete an associate degree online. The school also has a few correspondence courses done through the U.S. mail.
DeVry University Online
A private, for-profit college, DeVry University boasts nearly 22,000 full-time and 26,000 part-time students at 23 brick-and-mortar campuses and online. The curriculum focuses on practical applications, and courses are taught primarily by professionals rather than professors.
Drexel Online University
Drexel Online is a subsidiary of Drexel University, a reputable brick-and-mortar college in Pennsylvania. Its virtual programs are aimed primarily at working professionals.
Keiser University eCampus
Keiser University's eCampus caters to students hoping to quickly parlay their degrees into better positions in the workforce. Nearly two-dozen associate and bachelor's options, plus three graduate degrees, are available online. They're aimed at fields that are often in high demand, such as computers, business and health care.
eCornell, a subsidiary of Cornell University, is an online professional development program that offers courses in various business fields, including management, human resources, finance, and hospitality.
Fort Hays State University Virtual College
Fort Hays State University Virtual College is part of a public state university system. While this means the schedules and programs are more traditional, the tuition is lower than that of many of its competitors.
George Washington University Online
The George Washington University online distance-learning program is a relatively small part of this 25,000-student traditional, not-for-profit university. The online program emphasizes its wide variety of graduate and certificate health science programs, including a healthcare MBA.
Marist College Online
Marist College focuses its online programs on master's degrees and degree completion for undergraduates. The school's eCourses are open to qualified students around the world.
Kaplan University Online
Professionals who still work in the field teach Kaplan University's courses. In addition to student discussions and online quizzes, courses include Web field trips in which students research topics online.
National American University
National American University's broad curriculum and inclusive entrance standards provide a welcoming platform for most students. Attendees must finish the work within the eight- and 11-week courses, but there's plenty of wiggle room in that time frame.
New England College Online
A small liberal arts institution with a flexible admissions policy, New England College has incorporated distance learning into most of its programs. Its exclusively online format is aimed largely at graduate students who tend to be working professionals.
Norwich University Online
Norwich University's online graduate studies focus on peer interaction at a brisk pace. A basic load for students is one six-credit seminar every 11 weeks, putting them on pace to complete their master's in 18 to 24 months. The school touts the learn-on-your-own-time flexibility of its graduate programs, a departure from Norwich's more regimented undergraduate military bent.
Saint Leo University Center for Online Learning
Many of Saint Leo's associate, bachelor's and master's studies are primarily aimed at building professional competence. The online branch now boasts more than 5,000 graduates from programs in business, law enforcement, and technology.
National University is a private, non-profit university system offering dozens of online programs in addition to its brick-and-mortar courses held on California campuses. Programs at National University are designed for adult learners with five or more years of work experience.
Tiffin University Online
Tiffin University welcomes scholars, students who have yet to prove themselves, and established adults. Its schools of arts and sciences, business, criminal justice, and social sciences generate degree opportunities for distance learners at the associate and master's levels.
Tulane University Online
A master's certificate in business program highlights Tulane University's distance-learning options. Students receive streaming video lectures from the same faculty that teaches at Tulane's A.B. Freeman School of Business, ranked among the top 50 business schools annually by U.S. News and World Report.
University of Cincinnati Online
The University of Cincinnati devised its distance-learning options primarily from health care, education, and criminal justice. In keeping with its distance-learning roots, begun in 1984, Cincinnati continues to offer fire science programs as well.
Northcentral University is a regionally accredited for-profit online college with headquarters in Arizona. They are known for flexibility in admissions requirements (not asking for standardized test scores) and teaching schedules (no set class times or residencies).
The New School
The New School is an innovative brick-and-mortar college focusing on creativity and social justice. Students at their New York City campus choose from fields like fashion and design with a strong liberal arts focus.
Villanova University Online
Villanova reaches out to working professionals with online certifications intended to turbocharge the climb up the corporate ladder -- or strengthen the foothold at the top. The university stakes its reputation -- a No. 1 ranking by U.S. News and World Report in the north region -- on its professional education certificate program.
Winston-Salem State University Online
Winston-Salem State University often blends distance learning with other modes of course delivery. However, transfers from within North Carolina can finish a multipurpose bachelor's degree completely online. Online master's degrees are available in health care -- some with clinical obligations.
Online Azusa Pacific University
Azusa Pacific University is a respected brick-and-mortar California college that offers accredited online master’s degrees, certificates, and bachelor completion programs. Degrees can be earned online or through online / in-class blended learning.
Strayer University is a network of campuses and online programs designed for adult learners with full-time jobs. Strayer University actively works with students to apply for transfer credits from other colleges, exams, professional certifications, portfolio learning, and the military.
Thomas Edison State College
TESC is one of the “big three” colleges that make it convenient for students to transfer previously earned credits, receive credits via testing, and earn credit for life experience. Classes are offered online and through independent study.
University of Massachusetts Online
The University of Massachusetts Online offers virtual degree programs from respected and established traditional colleges. Students can enroll in online classes from the University of Massachusetts campuses, such as Dartmouth, Amherst, Boston, Lowell, and Worcester.
Worcester Polytechnic Institute Online
Online graduate students at Worcester Polytechnic Institute work in the same semester rhythm as their on-campus counterparts -- but study to their own beat. Worcester Polytechnic considers its distance education another conduit to deliver the same rigorous course content. The school's Advanced Distance Learning Network programs revolve around business, technology, engineering, and fire safety.
Western Governors University
Western Governors University is a non-profit virtual college founded by the governors of 19 Western states. Unlike most colleges, Western Governors University has no required courses – instead, students prove their understanding through writing assignments and exams.
|Abilene Christian University
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Why Regional Accreditation Matters for Today's College Students
When researching colleges and universities, prospective students encounter all kinds of accreditation terms. But "regional accreditation" is the most prestigious and meaningful type students should look for.
Regional accreditation ensures an entire institution meets rigorous standards around academics, faculty, student services, and more. It provides confidence in the quality of education students will receive. This accreditation is granted by agencies assigned to different geographic regions of the U.S.
Attending a regionally accredited college offers advantages traditional accreditation can't match:
- Employers know regionally accredited schools provide a solid education. Graduates tend to be more attractive job candidates.
- Credits seamlessly transfer between regionally accredited institutions. This flexibility helps students complete degrees uninterrupted.
- Regionally accredited colleges qualify for federal financial aid. Students have access to more support options.
- Nationally recognized graduate programs only accept credits from regional accreditation. It keeps doors open for future master's and doctoral degrees.
- Colleges lacking regional accreditation are viewed as riskier and less legitimate options. Their credits often don't transfer.
When researching schools, verifying regional accreditation is a must. Key U.S. agencies granting this recognition include the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) and the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).
While national or program-specific accreditation has value in certain fields, regional accreditation remains the "gold standard" for traditional colleges and universities. For today's college students, it provides reassurance of quality and better mobility.