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The cost of a college education has skyrocketed in the past 20 years and there is no end in sight. The increasing cost to earn a degree has placed a higher education out of the reach for many. Additionally, today’s students often find themselves struggling with the busy pace of life as they manage work responsibilities and family obligations in addition to their pursuit of a degree. This has led thousands of students to turn to online options to earn a degree. These classes are more affordable and offer the convenience of learning from home.

But with this new wave of earning a degree come problems. Not every online degree is equal and it is imperative that a student understand the importance of earning an online degree from an accredited institution.

Accreditation ensures that the course of study and the degree a student earns will be recognized as an achievement that is bestowed on the student from a quality institution. Accreditation is used to maintain standards of online colleges and universities. Accreditation standards give a student peace of mind that the education they are paying for will result in the best opportunity to find a job upon graduation. Most employers look to see if the job applicant has earned a degree from an accredited online college or program. Many employers will not even consider an applicant who has a degree from a nonaccredited college.

National (Department of Education, for instance) and regional agencies oversee accreditation of online colleges and universities. These agencies implement criteria that evaluate the quality of courses and the institution itself. Accreditation validates your degree.

See Also: Top 30 Accredited Online Accounting College Degree Programs

The Differences of Non-Accredited Courses, Programs, and Degrees

An online college or university might not be accredited for a number of reasons. A new institution might not yet have attained accreditation. Other nonaccredited institutions might have financial difficulties, which have cost them the all-important accreditation designation. Institutions that base course work on religious teachings often choose not to be accredited as they see the accreditation process as government intervention. Online colleges and universities are not recognized by most accrediting entities and organizations generally offer course work and degrees are not based on proper academic assessment. Courses taken and degrees earned from nonaccredited schools often are not valid. If your degree is earned at an online school that does not have accreditation, chances of landing that dream job could be endangered.

Another important factor students need to consider when taking courses from a nonaccredited online school is the potential to earn and receive scholarships and government grants. Students who enroll in online classes from nonaccredited colleges will not be able to obtain federal or state financial aid. These types of classes also can prevent the student from being eligible from receiving some scholarships and grants.

Students considering taking online classes from a nonaccredited college need to be aware of diploma mills. These are online businesses that build a website to give the appearance that they are legitimate institutions, offering legitimate courses and degrees. Some of these diploma mills might claim to be accredited and model their websites on actual accrediting agencies to convince potential students that they are earning a degree that has value.

With all the negativity surrounding nonaccredited online colleges and universities, one might wonder why anyone would enroll in such classes. For some jobs that do not require a college degree or high-school diploma, a degree from a nonaccredited institution might be sufficient to be hired. But actual experience might be more desirable than this type of degree.

Students should consider taking online courses from an accredited institution. Chances of earning a useful education are better, which in turn results in a higher probability of landing a job afterward.