Distance learning is becoming an increasingly popular and accepted form of education. While “diploma mills” still exist, accreditation is designed to assist consumers in choosing valuable programs. In the U.S., regional accreditation is extremely important. It’s also important that consumers verify the accreditation information posted on the school’s website. There are cases in which only certain programs are accredited.
The six regional accrediting bodies are:
– Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools
– New England Association of Schools and Colleges
– North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
– Northwest Association of Accredited Schools
– Western Association of Schools and Colleges
– Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
The majority of distance learning universities are for-profit. This means many can be quite expensive. It’s important to determine the hidden costs. A few of the less expensive and regionally accredited options include American Public University/American Military University and Western Governor’s University.
One interesting brick and mortar/distance university is the University of South Africa (UNISA). As a foreign university it isn’t accredited in the U.S. (thus federal student aid is unavailable), however, it is an extremely inexpensive option, far from a diploma mill, and it is listed in the International Handbook of Universities published by UNESCO so it might be valuable if you were considering taking your skills outside of the U.S. There is no guarantee as to whether or not UNISA degrees would be recognized within the U.S. however by being included in the handbook, one would think that UNISA’s reputation would stand above any foreign university which wasn’t included.
Finally, it’s also important to research distance school reviews. An inexpensive though accredited school with terrible customer service might not be worth it. There is one school that is comparatively inexpensive but wasn’t included in this article because it has a poor reputation for customer service and improper billing. With thorough research, consumers should be able to find the distance university that best suits their unique needs and brings them the most value for their dollars.