Frequently Asked Questions
The DETC office in Washington, D. C. receives
numerous phone calls and e-mails every day requesting information
on accredited institutions. The main consumer question is, "Is
the XYZ Institute accredited?" Other questions are more complicated.
Hopefully the following FAQ’s will answer most of the questions
you may have. If not, please feel free to contact
the DETC staff for more information.
What is Distance Education?
Distance education is education designed for learners who live
at a distance from the teaching institution or education provider.
It is the enrollment and study with an educational institution
that provides organized, formal learning opportunities for students.
Presented in a sequential and logical order, the instruction is
offered wholly or primarily by distance study, through virtually
any media. Historically, its predominant medium of instruction
has been printed materials, although non-print media is becoming
more and more popular. It may also incorporate or make use of
videotapes, CD or DVD ROM’s, audio recordings, facsimiles,
telephone communications, and the Internet through e-mail and
Web-based delivery systems. When each lesson or segment is completed,
the student makes available to the school the assigned work for
correction, grading, comment, and subject matter guidance by qualified
instructors. Corrected assignments are returned to the student.
This exchange fosters a personalized student-instructor relationship,
which is the hallmark of distance education instruction.
Historically, most distance education courses were vocational
in nature, but today courses are offered for academic, professional,
and avocational purposes for students of all ages. There are numerous
specialized programs, such as those for blind persons and for
parents of small children with hearing impairments. Distance education
is available in practically any field, from accounting to zoology.
Courses are offered in gemology, high school diploma, journalism,
locksmithing, child day care management, yacht design, and many
Distance education courses also vary greatly in scope, level,
and length. Some have a few assignments and require only a few
months to complete, while others have a hundred or more lesson
assignments requiring three or four years of conscientious study.
Since 1890, more than 130 million Americans have studied at DETC
member institutions, including Franklin D. Roosevelt, Walter P.
Chrysler, Walter Cronkite, Barry Goldwater, Charles Schulz, and
many other distinguished alumni of DETC members.
Unlike most distance education courses offered by traditional
colleges and universities that are semester and classroom oriented,
with courses offered by most of the DETC-accredited institutions
you can study any time and anywhere. Distance education is especially
suited for busy people who wish to increase their knowledge and
skills without giving up their jobs, leaving home, or losing income.
You learn while you earn. Many courses provide complete vocational
training; others prepare you for upgrading in your present job,
without losing wages, experience or seniority. You receive individual
attention, and you work at your own pace.
In recent years, technology has played a significant role in transforming
the traditional distance education school into a dynamic, interactive
distance learning method using toll-free telephone lines, as well
as a diverse array of personal computers, video devices, CD and
DVD ROMs, online courses over the Internet, interactive devices,
and other modern technological innovations. The future for distance
study promises to be exciting!
What Does Accreditation Mean?
Click here to watch DETC's Executive Director explain "Why Accreditation is a Student's Best Friend"
The word "accreditation" has acquired many shades of
meaning over the years. Distance education accreditation is certification
by a recognized body that a distance education institution has
voluntarily undergone a comprehensive study and peer examination
that has demonstrated that the institution does in fact meet the
established standards. The institution must perform the functions
that it claims: that it has set educational goals for students
who enroll, offers formal, organized learning experiences and
services that enable students to meet these stated goals, and
can, in fact, show that students and graduates have benefited
from the learning experiences provided.
Basically, accreditation is a process that gives public recognition
to institutions that meet certain standards. It is a promise that
an institution will provide the quality of education it claims
to offer. Accreditation assures the student that the institution
operates on a sound financial basis, has an approved program of
study, qualified instructors, adequate facilities and equipment,
effective recruitment and admission policies, and advertises its
Historically and currently, accreditation may be said to:
• foster excellence in education through
the development of standards for assessing educational effectiveness;
• encourage improvement through continuous self-evaluation
and planning; and
• assure the educational community, students, state and
federal authorities, the general public and other interested
agencies or organizations that an institution has clearly defined
and appropriate objectives; maintains conditions under which
their achievement can be reasonably expected; appears in fact
to be accomplishing them; and can be expected to continue to
DETC accreditation is an institution-wide source
of nationally recognized accreditation that covers all distance
study courses offered by an institution. It is unique in American
accreditation because it is one based upon a method of instruction
rather than educational level or subject matter discipline. It
covers all programs, courses and distance study endeavors of an
institution, including degree, non-degree, vocational and avocational
Why Become Accredited?
Why would an institution want to be accredited?
Accreditation provides an opportunity to improve the educational
quality of your institution. It provides a means of evaluating
and comparing your courses/programs, facilities, and procedures
with those of others. It involves a process whereby an accrediting
body grants public recognition to an institution as having met
certain standards. However, the greatest value of accreditation
is to be found in undergoing the process itself, a process of
self-evaluation in which an institution voluntarily monitors and
controls its own behavior to ensure that its "programs and
policies embody standards of good practice."
DETC accreditation is founded on these philosophic principles:
• Accreditation is purely voluntary.
The applicant institution voluntarily elects to apply for accreditation
and it voluntarily agrees to comply with all standards and policies
of the Commission.
• Accreditation is a non-governmental peer review
process in which the integrity and good faith of an institution
and its officers are essential.
• The burden of proof in demonstrating compliance with
standards rests with the institution, not with the Accrediting
Commission. The institution must prove to the Accrediting
Commission that it meets or exceeds the standards.
• The Accrediting Commission considers information about
an applicant institution from any source in reaching
• Accreditation is by its nature a formal, but nonetheless,
collegial process. It works best when there is a common
agreement that the chief purpose for seeking accreditation is
the identification of soundness, honesty and quality in the
practice of distance education.
See "Benefits of Accreditation."
Q. Is there financial aid available for courses taken
with DETC-accredited institutions?
A. Once an institution is accredited, it is eligible to participate, if it chooses to and is otherwise qualified, in a number of financial student assistance programs, which include:
• Federal Title IV student loans and grants
• The Montgomery G.I. Bill
• The Post 9/11 G.I. Bill
• Military Tuition Assistance Programs for Spouses (Career Advancement Accounts) and Active Duty Army Vocational courses (AVOTEC)
Also, most DETC institutions offer monthly tuition payment plans. You should check with institutions individually for more information.
Q. If I get a high school diploma
from a DETC-accredited institution, will it be accepted?
A. A high school diploma from an accredited distance education
institution is comparable to a resident high school. However,
if you are planning on enrolling in a college or university, you
should check with them first to see if they will accept your diploma.
Q. Is DETC accreditation equal to “regional”
A. In every measurable way, yes! DETC accreditation is just as
valid as any regional accreditation, and the Secretary of Education
has officially recognized DETC since 1959 and by the Council for
Higher Education and its predecessors since 1975. We meet the
precisely same standards as do the regionals, and we would hasten
to add we have vastly more experience and tougher, more stringent
standards for distance learning than any other agency in the U.S.
Distance learning is our only business.
Q. Will the credits I receive from
a DETC-accredited institution be accepted by a traditional college
A. Our 2006 survey of DETC graduates showed that
of those who attempted to transfer
credits and degrees, 70% were successful.
Acceptance of degrees or credits from DETC-accredited institutions
is largely determined by the policy of the "receiving organization,"
e.g., an employer, a college registrar, etc. DETC accreditation
is not a guarantee that credit will transfer to any college or
university. You should always check with the college or university
that you wish to transfer your credits to before you enroll in
a course. The American Council on Education reviews courses of
DETC-accredited institutions and makes credit recommendations
that are published annually in "The
National Guide to Educational Credit for Training Programs"
or call Oryx Press at 1-800-279-ORYX.
Q. If my credits do not transfer
to a regionally accredited college, is my DETC credential useless?
A. No! The sine qua non of an institution’s quality
is not if its credits transfer: this is a false premise. The fact
that regionally accredited colleges refuse to accept credits from
another school because it is not regionally accredited flies directly
in the face of national policies advocated by American Council
on Education (ACE), the American Association of Collegiate Registrars
and Admissions Officers (AACRAO), Council for Higher Education
Accreditation (CHEA), et al. The real issue here has less to do
with the academic quality of the sending institution, and more
to do with anti-competitive business practices of the receiving
institution. Competition is heating up in higher education, and
there are forces at work to control the inroads being made by
“upstart” operators. Congress, the Department of Education,
and the Department of Justice have been looking into this anti-competitive
practice by higher education, and we suspect we will see significant
activity in the coming months on this matter.
Q. Do you have a list of colleges
or universities who will accept credits or degrees from DETC-accredited
A. No. There are more than 3,000 colleges and universities in
the United States, and the decision to accept credits from DETC-accredited
institutions is made by the registrar and/or dean at each college
or university. Publishing an accurate and up-to-date list would
almost be impossible.
Q. Is distance learning as effective
as learning in a classroom setting?
A. Numerous individual testimonials have been offered over the
years attesting to the benefits of distance education. Beyond
these claims, formal studies have been conducted to measure the
effectiveness of the distance education method. All of the research
published since 1920 has indicated that correspondence/distance
study students perform just as well as, and in most cases better
than, their classroom counterparts.
Online learning has definite advantages over face-to-face instruction when it comes to teaching and learning, according to a new meta-analysis released in 2009 by the U.S. Department of Education.
The Federally-conducted study found that students who took all or part of their instruction online performed better, on average, than those taking the same course through face-to-face instruction. Further, those who took "blended" courses—those that combine elements of online learning and face-to-face instruction—appeared to do best of all. That finding could be significant as many colleges report that blended instruction is among the fastest-growing types of enrollment.
Q. Do DETC institutions have good
A. Yes! DETC institutions are known to have highly sophisticated
and well developed student services, carefully crafted curricula,
and world-class faculty. And they deliver on their promises. Since
1890, over 130 million Americans have enrolled with DETC members.
Q. As a new applicant, how soon do we need to submit
a draft of our Self-Evaluation Report?
A. You must submit two copies of the SER draft within 60 days of submitting your Application for Accreditation to DETC. The staff will schedule a Readiness Assessment by an expert evaluator. The evaluator will review the SER to determine if your institution is prepared to undergo a full onsite examination by an Examining Committee.
Q. How long does the accreditation process
A. Generally, it can take about 18-24 months for the entire procedure.
A smaller school may be able to prepare for accreditation in as
few as 18 months. The Accrediting Commission meets in January and
June, so prospective applicants are advised to initiate the process
at least 12 months before the meeting they wish to have their
Q. From whom may one seek advice in preparing to undergo
an accreditation review?
A. The Accrediting Commission staff in Washington is available
for consultation by mail, phone, e-mail, or personal visit regarding
any questions about the accrediting process, procedures, or standards.
Please contact the Commission offices for assistance.
Q. What other publications are useful to study as an institution
prepares for an accreditation review?
A. The DETC Accreditation Handbook,
available to download for free online or bound for purchase covers the entire accreditation process from beginning to end.
The Course Development Handbook,
and the Student Services Handbook
are also useful. The online DETC
Evaluator Training Program course also is an excellent guide.
The best preparation is for senior staff at the institution to enroll in and complete the DETC Course on Preparing for Accreditation, which now is offered online. (Please Note: Enrollment in this course is required by at least one staff member at a school undergoing accreditation review.)
To learn more about DETC's online course offerings, or to enroll, please visit the Online Courses page in the Member Services section of the DETC website. (Access to the Member Services section of the site is restricted. To obtain a guest username and password to access the online courses page, please send an email to Rob Chalifoux, DETC's Director of Media and Events.)
Q. As an applicant, may we mention the Accrediting Commission
or our applicant status in our literature?
A. No. This would be inappropriate and has the potential to mislead
the public about your institution’s affiliation with DETC.
Q. Does the Commission offer additional assistance and counseling
with the accreditation process?
A. Yes. The DETC offers free online courses designed to assist institutions with the accrediting process. The DETC Course on Preparing for Accreditation and the DETC Evaluator Training Program are both currently available.
(To learn more about DETC's online course offerings, or to enroll, please visit the Online Courses page in the Member Services section of the DETC website. (Access to the Member Services section of the site is restricted. To obtain a guest username and password to access the online courses page, please send an email to Rob Chalifoux, DETC's Director of Media and Events.)
Q. Must a distance study institution be located in the United
States to qualify?
A. No. Distance study institutions outside of the U.S. may apply
for accreditation. The Commission has a special policy for non-U.S.
institutions. (See Policy
on Non-U.S. Institutions)
Q. If an institution offers a Doctoral-level degree program,
may it apply for accreditation?
A. Yes. The Commission will accept applications for accreditation from institutions offering a Doctoral degree program, so long as it is a Professional Doctoral degree, e.g. a Doctor of Business Administration or a Doctor of Education. If there is doubt about what qualifies as a professional doctoral degree it is best to check with the Commission staff before applying for accreditation.
Q. Must the school be in operation two years before it may
apply for accreditation?
A. At the time of application the institution must have been enrolling students continuously for the preceding two consecutive years under the present ownership and with its current programs. It must also demonstrate that it will operate continously thereafter. The two-year period begins with the date of the first student enrollment.
if an institution’s parent company is currently accredited
by another recognized accrediting agency, then the institution
must only have 12 months of continuous operation as a distance
study institution before it may be accredited. Institutions may
initiate an application near the end of its appropriate waiting
Q. Can an accredited school transfer its accreditation or
the benefits of its accreditation to another institution or individual
by sale, contract, franchise, or other arrangement?
A. No. Accreditation by the Accrediting Commission of the Distance
Education and Training Council is institutional and is extended
only to the accredited institution and its approved programs.
Accreditation cannot be transferred in any way to an entity not
under the ownership, management, and control of the accredited
institution. All distance study programs and distance study-related
activities under the ownership, management, and control of the
accredited institution must be included in the accreditation,
or none can be accredited. When an accredited institution undergoes
a change in ownership, management, or control, the institution
must undergo a complete accreditation review.
Q. How long is an application for accreditation valid?
A. An application for accreditation is valid for one year from
the date it is received by the Commission.
Q. What are the costs involved for accreditation?
A. There are actually four types of fees:
1. on-site review fees
2. subject specialist review fees
3. annual accreditation fees
4. DETC annual dues
To estimate the on-site review fees and subject
specialist review fees, consult the DETC
Accreditation Handbook. The DETC dues and accreditation fees are based
on annual tuition receipts (see "DETC
Dues and Fees").
Q. Are accrediting reports and documents made public?
A. No. The process of accreditation is regarded as a confidential
one, and accreditation reports and documents are treated in a
confidential manner. The public is notified of final Accrediting
Commission decisions, but chair reports, school responses, etc.,
are not released to the public.
Q. DETC has been criticized for extending accreditation to institutions that, at one time, held what most people consider to be phony “accreditation” from an unrecognized “accreditation mill.” Why does DETC do that?
A. The small number of institutions that fall into this description have performed well after receiving DETC accreditation, because an applicant institution has to demonstrate that it meets our tough standards before it is accredited by DETC. DETC agrees with fighting the cheapening of accreditation, but telling institutions that once held this kind of accreditation that there is no chance to reform is the wrong tactic. DETC believes in one of the fundamental roles of accreditation: to stimulate institutional self-improvement and to set institutions on the path to academic excellence so that students may benefit, regardless of an institution’s past associations. Prohibiting an institution to pursue accreditation will only allow that institution to continue old practices without reform and to continue to lead students astray.
Q. Must all courses, including kits, tools, textbooks, hardware,
etc., be sent to the Accrediting Commission for review?
A. Yes. However, for applicants with an extremely large number
of courses, subject specialist evaluators may be appointed to
accompany the examining committee visiting the applicant institution.
Q. Will course material be returned to the institution after
subject specialists review the material?
A. No. All course material, including kits, tools, textbooks,
and hardware, is consumed in the course review process and is
not returned to the applicant institution.
Q. Do outside observers serve on visiting Examining Committees?
A. The Commission routinely extends an invitation to the appropriate
state licensing agency to have someone serve on the Examining
Committee as an Observer. On occasion, federal officials are also
invited to serve as observers. The institution pays no examination
fees for such observers. The Chair’s Report and the Institution’s
Response to the Chair’s Report are shared with the state
observers who attended the on-site visit.
Q. Do "competitors" serve on visiting Examining
A. No. Evaluators known to have competing interests with the applicant
institution are not appointed to serve on a committee. DETC accreditation
is, however, a "peer review" process. Committees are
made up of executive officers of other accredited institutions.
Q. Must the travel expenses for visiting Examining Committees
be paid in addition to the on-site examination fees?
A. No. The on-site examination fee is a "flat fee" which
includes the cost of travel for the Examining Committee members
(except for non-U.S. institutions).
Q. How much does the accreditation visit cost?
A. The fees for an on-site review vary according to the size of
the institution and the number of its courses and site locations.
A school with one course seeking initial accreditation can expect
the fee to range between $8,000 and $15,000. Larger institutions
with many courses can expect a higher fee.
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