Keys to Judging Online Schools

A servicemember recently wrote that he had seen a well-known online university campus and was shocked that it looked more like a recruiting office in a strip mall than a college. Considering there are so many "Diploma Mills" around, he wanted to know how to tell a if a school was legitimate or not.

The first thing to understand is that online technology has all but eliminated the need for a fancy college campus. In fact in today's world of online higher education, school facilities are beginning to look more like business offices than the traditional campuses we are used to seeing.

But the concerns about "Diploma Mills" are real. Here a couple of quick ways to tell if a school is reputable or not:

  1. Is the school accredited by either a regional or national accreditation association? These associations include:
    • DETC - Distance Education and Training Council
    • MSA - Middle States Association
    • NEASC - New England Association of Schools and Colleges
    • NCASC - North Central Association of Schools and Colleges
    • NWCCU - Northwest Commission on College and Universities
    • SACS - Southwest Association of Colleges and Schools
    • WASC - Western Association of Schools and Colleges
  2. Is the school a member of the Servicemembers Opportunity Colleges (SOC), listed by the Defense Activities for Non-Traditional Education Support (DANTES), or certified by the VA for use with GI Bill?

Click here to see a full list of DoED recognized accreditation agencies.

If the answer is yes to either of these questions, you can bet they are NOT a diploma mill.

In other words, don't judge Distance Learning Colleges and Universities by their covers -- the building or address. Judge them by their associations -- the accreditation(s) they keep.

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Online Education GI Bill