What is "Accredited" Distance Learning?
Accreditation is recognition of a school by an independent private organization. It involves an independent review of a degree-granting institution for instructional quality, fiscal soundness, and other factors. Accreditation is not a governmental function in the U.S.
There are more than 100 accrediting agencies, some recognized by the Department of Education and/or the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), some unrecognized, and some phony or fraudulent.
In the academic world, the most prestigious type of accreditation that a degree-granting institution can hold is "regional accreditation". The six U.S. regional accrediting associations (all equal in terms of their recognition) are:
NOTE: "Accreditation" is not the same as "State Approval". The latter generally involves a less rigorous review; in some cases, state approval may only imply that an institution has been granted a business license to operate.
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Accredited Online Degree Program
As stated above, accreditation is done at the school level, not at the level of individual degree programs. Therefore, when people talk about an "Accredited Online Degree Program", what they really mean is: a distance learning / online degree program offered by an accredited school!