To get the most usefulness from a distance learning college, it makes sense to make sure that your degree is widely accepted, by employers, other schools to which you may transfer, and other schools to which you may get an advanced degree.
The way to do this is to make sure that your college is accredited by one of the regional accrediting agencies (mentioned below). Accrediting agencies help certify that a school meets certain basic requirements.
But it is still possible to get a good education from a non-acredited school. You just run the risk that in some places it will not be accepted.
When you order information from a distance learning college (or trade school) find out by whom they are accredited and then verify it. Don’t fall for official sounding words like “state approved” or longwinded sounding agencies that are not generally recognized or not recognized by the United States Department of Education.
You must make sure that your college is accredited by one of the 6 regional accrediting agencies (listed below) AND you must verify it, because accreditation can change, and some schools mislead/lie. (See below, if you are considering a Trade School).
If a school has a campus school as well as an online program, then you just have to check to make sure that the campus school is accredited: the accreditation covers the entire school.
There is one particular accrediting agency you must know about: “The Distance Education and Training Council” (D.E.T.C). The DETC is generally recognized as accrediting distance learning schools that meet acceptable educational standards. For trade schools where you earn a certificate, DETC accreditation is usually fine.
BUT, for college degrees, it is not generally recognized by the six all-important regional accrediting agencies, nor by some employers.
In other words, schools accredited by the six regional agencies may not accept credits, or recognize a degree, from a school that is ONLY accredited by the DETC. So if you transfer or go for a graduate degree, you will be stuck, (unless you just find another non-accredited college that will accept your non-accredited degree!). But you still run the risk that it may not be acceptable by your employer (if the employer checks accreditation).
The Six Regional Agencies recognize the degrees from the other regional accrediting agencies. Each agency is responsible for a particular region. They accredit traditional campus schools and distance learning schools.
Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools
New England Association of Schools and Colleges
Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges
North Central Assoc. of Colleges and Schools of Colleges
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
Western Association of Schools and Colleges