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Online Degree - Let The Buyer Beware

Jan 23, 2008
"Rose is a rose is a rose is a rose." was written by Gertrude Stein as part of the 1913 poem Sacred Emily, which appeared in the 1922 book, Geography and Plays. In Stein's view, the sentence expresses the fact that simply using the name of a thing already invokes the imagery and emotions associated with it.

That certainty seems to summarize a problem we have today, "A college is a college is a college is a college" or a "University is a university is a university is a university." There are people that believe that just because someone calls something a "college or university" it is just that.

Because of this belief and with the advent of the Internet, diploma mills have blossomed. There are diploma mills that try to look like a "rose:" excuse me, a "college" even an "accredited university," but nothing could be further from the truth.

So, if your future plans include college or a university, finding out if the school where you plan to obtain an degree is a fully accredited institution is the first and the most vital step in the online degree process.

What is the difference as long as it is a degree?

I had a good friend who spent four years of his life earning a college degree. Turns out that even though the institution was well known, it was not accredited. Unfortunately because of having a degree that was not accredited, he was never able to get a job in his chosen field, which was teaching.

You are running a risk by not having a degree from an accredited school. An unaccredited degree is a time bomb in your resume. Today, employers are carefully scrutinizing information on job applications and they do not look favorably on diploma mills.

Keep in mind the responsibility for spotting a diploma mill lays in your lap. Here are just a few warning signs: the school's website has no phone number, their promotional materials focus heavily on credit for life experience, the school's name is very similar to the name of a traditional, well-known school, a degree is awarded in a few weeks or months, the school claims to be accredited by an organization that is not listed as an accreditor approved by the Department of Education, the school boasts of accreditation, i.e., (fully, nationally or worldwide accredited,) but has no legitimate accreditation agency to back up the claim. If what you have to do to earn your degree seems "too good to be true," it is a warning sign of a diploma mill.

Why is it so important for a school to be accredited? Accreditation is an independent examination of college and university programs to confirm that the education that is provided is consistent and of the highest quality. When a college or university is awarded accreditation, it guarantees that they have been examined and that they have met the standards of excellence that have been determined by the accrediting organization. Accreditation for a college or university is maintained by continuous adherence to set criteria. The purpose of accreditation is to make sure that colleges and universities achieve certain levels of education.

When looking at a school, check out their accreditation. Some colleges state that they are accredited, but they are accredited by fake accrediting agencies. It is critical that you make sure that any college you look at seriously is accredited by one of the six regional agencies that are listed below. Be sure you look at their websites, which lists all the colleges and universities that they have accredited.

Regional accreditation is the most recognized and accepted type of accreditation in the United States. There are six geographic regions with an agency in each region that accredits college and university programs:

Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools - http://www.msche.org/
Accreditation of colleges in Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania and Puerto Rico.

New England Association of Schools & Colleges - http://www.neasc.org/
Accreditation of colleges in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont.

North Central Association of Colleges and Schools - http://www.ncacasi.org/ Accreditation of colleges in Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, New Mexico, South Dakota, Wisconsin, West Virginia, and Wyoming.

Northwest Association Of Schools And Colleges - http://www.nwccu.org/ Accreditation of colleges in Alaska, Idaho, Utah, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington.

Southern Association of Colleges and Schools - http://www.sacs.org/ Accreditation of colleges in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.

Western Association of Schools and Colleges - http://www.wascweb.org/
Accreditation of colleges in California, Hawaii, the territories of Guam, American Samoa, Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of Palau, Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana's Islands, the Pacific Basin, East Asia, the Pacific and East Asia where American/International schools are.

You can easily find out if a college or university that you are interested in is accredited by simply visiting the specific regional accrediting board's website depending on where the college or university is located.
About the Author
Ronald Kennedy is the Executive Director for Liberty University's Distance Learning. Overseeing a school with over 22,000 students has given Ron an insight into the mind of online students. Ron can be contacted at - Liberty University Online or at Ron@RonaldKennedy.com.
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