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Regionally Accredited Online Universities

There are literally dozens of accrediting organizations in this country for higher education. The federal Department of Education (DOE) has no mandate for accrediting schools; the Secretary of Education is, however, required to publish a list each year of the organizations that the Department recognizes as valid, responsible accrediting agencies. In the eyes of the DOE, there are two types of accrediting associations: those that evaluate colleges and universities as institutions, and those that evaluate specialty schools for their programmatic value.

As an example of "programmatic" evaluation, for nursing school accreditation the Commission on Collegiate Nursing Education evaluates schools that offer bachelors' degrees in nursing and above. The American Physical Therapist Association has a commission that evaluates schools offering both physical therapist degrees and the associates' degree in physical therapist assistant. These organizations accredit online degrees in some cases.

For colleges and universities that offer undergraduate and graduate degrees in many fields, the "gold standard" for accreditation is recognition from one of six regional associations of colleges and schools. For example Harvard, the University of Massachusetts, and Northwestern Connecticut Community College are all accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.

These six regional associations do list accredited online education schools that have some regional campus identity. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) is the established non-governmental agency that grants recognition to all regional accrediting associations; CHEA maintains a database of all accrediting organizations, regional and national, recognized by both CHEA and the Department of Education.

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