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25 Helpful Government Resources to Find Legit Online College Programs

by Theresa Donahue on February 24, 2010

If you want a reputable online education, then you need reputable sources to learn more about the programs you choose. The following list contains twenty-five helpful government resources to find legitimate online college programs. In some cases — as in accreditation — the resources include agencies that have been recognized by the U.S. government.

The list below is divided into categories that cover college search engines, accreditation and diploma mills and a final category that touches on helpful sites you may not have considered for online degree searches. Each link is listed in alphabetical order within those categories.


The search engines list in this category usually list online degree programs or colleges that offer distance learning.

  1. College Finder: The Federal Student Aid program online provides a detailed search for colleges based upon location, setting, size, academics, cost, campus life and student body. Try their “Matching Wizard” to find schools that match your dreams, then check each ‘dream’ school against a search that provides information about accreditation, like the one at College Navigator below.
  2. College Navigator: The U.S. Department of Education provides a search engine that breaks colleges out by level of award, institution type, state and more. Each search provides statistics about the school in question, including accreditation, varsity athletic teams and campus security issues.
  3. Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs: Sponsored by the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Postsecondary Education, each of the postsecondary educational institutions and programs contained within the database is, or was, accredited by an accrediting agency or state approval agency recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education as a “reliable authority as to the quality of postsecondary education.” When you use this database, you’ll need to confirm if the institution continues to remain accredited. You can use the College Navigator above, or another search engine that maintains current accreditation statuses.
  4. Find the Right Colleges for You: The Federal Student Aic program provides several different options for college searches. Search results, for the most part, provide online admission application processes and links to campus tourst.
  5. Search for Schools, Colleges, and Libraries: This search engine is geared toward finding public and private learning institutions by location. Search results show location, NCES (National Center for Education Statistics) district and school IDs and contact information.


Without accreditation, there would be no basic standard to judge a school’s legitimacy. This legitimacy is important, especially when determining the credibility of an online school or distance-learning degree program. The following information covers accreditation, including distance or online learning searches provided by the government or approved by the government.

  1. Accrediting Agencies Recognized for their Preaccreditation Categories: While the regional sites are listed here, this page also lists a number of agencies approved by the U.S. government.
  2. Accreditation in the United States: The U.S. Department of Education provides numerous links to information about accreditation and national and regional accreditation agencies.
  3. Diploma Mills and Accreditation: This is another resource from the USDE, which provides information about diploma mills, fake accrediting agencies and links to lists of unaccredited schools.
  4. Diploma Mills and Accreditation – Resources and Publications: The USDE provides more resources about diploma mills, accreditation and links for further reading on this page.
  5. Directory of CHEA Recognized Organizations 2009-2010: Although not a government organization, the CHEA is recognized as a leading authority on accreditation. This list includes accrediting organizations identified as legitimate by the CHEA.
  6. Specialized Accrediting Agencies: Sometimes a college is recognized by special accrediting agencies (such as an arts school, some nursing schools or a Christian school). The government has compiled information about these accrediting agencies on this page so you can learn more about those agencies.

The following information is about the regional accreditation agencies. The U.S. is divided into six geographic regions, and each agency below represents one of those six regions. These links are not provided by government resources, but by government-recognized accrediting agencies:

  1. The Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools: Responsible for accreditation of colleges in the middle states region (Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico).
  2. The New England Association of Schools & Colleges: Covering college accreditation in the New England region (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont).
  3. The North Central Association of Colleges and Schools: Handles college accreditation in the north central region (Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, New Mexico, South Dakota, Wisconsin, West Virginia, Wyoming).
  4. The Northwest Association Of Schools And Colleges: Handles accreditation of colleges in the north west region (Alaska, Idaho, Utah, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington.)
  5. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools: College accreditation for colleges located in the southern region (Alabama , Florida , Georgia , Kentucky , Louisiana , Mississippi , North Carolina , South Carolina , Tennessee , Texas , Virginia)
  6. The Western Association of Schools and Colleges: This agency covers accreditation of colleges in the western region.

The two links listed here, like the list above, are private organizations rather than government entities. But, they are recognized by the government for their legitimacy.

  1. Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools: ACICS was founded in 1912, and is one of the most respected and longest established national accreditor for academic institutions in the United States. It is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). ACICS currently accredits more than 680 institutions throughout the United States and more than a dozen foreign countries enrolling approximately 650,000 students, mostly in distance education issues.
  2. Distance Education and Training Council: The DETC is a non-profit [501 c 6] educational association located in Washington, D.C. and that was founded in 1926 to promote sound educational standards and ethical business practices within the correspondence field. It gained the approval of the USDE as a nationally recognized accrediting agency, and it also is recognized by the CHEA. DETC defines, maintains, and promotes educational excellence in distance education institutions.

Other Government Sites

  1. College.gov: Learn more about why you might want to attend college, how to find a school and how to fund your online or distance-learning education through this government portal.
  2. Healthfinder Accreditation: While this list cannot provide you with college information, it can provide you with a list of organizations that you might want to associate yourself with during college if you choose a healthcare profession. Many of these organizations provide scholarships, grants and fellowships for students who become members.
  3. Star Schools Program: This page at the USDE offers information about distance-learning programs that have encouraged improved instruction in mathematics, science, foreign languages, and other subjects and that reach out to underserved populations. Look through this site to learn more about the winners, including contact information.
  4. Star Schools Program Sites: This page compliments the previous link, adding more information about various distance-learning programs that have been recognized by the government for their achievements.
  5. State Higher Education Agency: This list provides links to education programs, colleges and universities, financial aid assistance programs, grants, scholarships, continuing education programs, and career opportunities in each U.S. state through a state governmental education site. The site includes most online or distance learning programs.
  6. Students.gov: This site provides college directories, military information, tools to help plan your education and more. The searches include national, regional and local sources for anyone who wants to attend school in the U.S. and earn a degree through various circumstances.
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