Thank you for contacting the U.S. Department of Education concerning accredited educational institutions.
The United States has no Federal Ministry of Education or other centralized authority exercising single national control over educational institutions in this country. The States assume varying degrees of control over education, but, in general, institutions of higher education are permitted to operate with considerable independence and autonomy. As a consequence, American educational institutions can vary widely in the character and quality of their programs.
In order to insure a basic level of quality, the practice of accreditation arose in the United States as a means of conducting non-governmental, peer evaluation of educational institutions and programs. Private educational associations of regional or national scope have adopted criteria reflecting the qualities of a sound educational program and have developed procedures for evaluating institutions or programs to determine whether or not they are operating at basic levels of quality.
The United States Department of Education does not accredit institutions or programs. Accreditation is done by independent accrediting agencies; however, the Department maintains a list of accrediting agencies and accrediting bodies that it recognizes. You can find these lists of agencies at the following website: http://www2.ed.gov/admins/finaid/accred/index.html.
For online or correspondence courses, the U.S. Department of Education recognizes the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC), which is a non profit educational association that serves as a clearinghouse of information about the distance study/correspondence field and sponsors a nationally recognized accrediting agency called the Accrediting Commission of the Distance Education and Training Council. You may visit the Distance Education and Training Council's web site at http://www.detc.org. Although DETC accredits some high school programs, the U.S. Department of Education's recognition of DETC only extends to their postsecondary education institutions, not high schools. However, DETC can tell you if they accredit the school you are interested in and can also recommend other schools that offer accredited online or virtual learning courses.
The U.S. Department of Education now has a website that provides access to a master list of accredited colleges, universities, and career and trade schools. The database lists approximately 6,900 postsecondary educational institutions and programs, each of which is 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. To access the database, please visit http://www.ope.ed.gov/accreditation/.
Accreditation does not provide automatic acceptance by an institution of credit earned in another institution, nor does it give assurance of acceptance of graduates by employers. For these reasons, besides ascertaining the accredited status of a school or program, students are advised to take additional measures to determine, prior to enrollment, whether their educational goals will be met through attendance or participation at a particular institution. These measures should include inquiries to institutions to which transfer might be a desire or to prospective employers and when and if possible, personal inspection of the institution in which enrollment is contemplated.