The Pioneer Post

The Pioneer Post is a resource for online students that provides tips and information about distance education.


Monday, April 26, 2010

Part II of "Going back to school: Step by step"

By Les Hollingsworth

After reading our first post, you’ve identified a list of four or five online programs or institutions that might fit your needs. Now it’s time to winnow that list to your top choices. The absolute first criterion is having the correct accreditation. Insufficient accreditation must make an option disappear faster than a thief at a police convention. Here are the facts:
  • Not all online programs are equal. Make sure the school is regionally accredited. This is the gold standard for accreditation. National accreditation is technically a second-rate accreditation and is less reputable to other institutions and future employers. This can negatively impact transfer credits and many employers won’t recognize nationally accredited degrees, i.e. you paid money and invested time in a degree that isn’t worth anything.
  • Be advised: Admissions folks at some non-regionally accredited universities will dance around this question. Also, don’t judge the acceptability of a nationally accredited institution based on the size of its student body. It just means that there are a lot of people who could find themselves in a tough spot down the road.
  • Watch for schools that create their own accrediting body. This is a common practice used by degree mills. They create fictitious (and very formal sounding) accrediting bodies and tout them on their website but they’re really just gas. You can confirm regional accreditation for an institution by checking the Council on Higher Education Accreditation’s website at
  • Programmatic accreditation is a specialized award that should be in addition to regional accreditation. This includes groups such as AACSB, AABSP, and PMI GAC as well as many others. These groups help ensure quality in a specialized academic discipline. In general, they don’t accredit institutions; they ensure specific standards in a given program. Consider these a bonus; they're not a requirement (and many institutions can’t monetarily afford to pursue them) but they could be used to break a tie between a first and second choice.
That's it for now. If you have additional questions, please feel free to contact me at My goal is to be a resource for anyone who seeks to improve themselves through education. Good luck!

Next time: public universities versus private for-profit universities.

About this series

Whether you're a new graduate with a bachelor’s degree, a blue-collar employee looking to strengthen your resume, or a skilled professional looking to climb the corporate ladder, it’s likely that you’ve thought about continuing your education. The odds are also good that you’ve wondered about doing it online. This five-part series will provide a few tips and thoughts over the next two weeks to help you decide.



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