American College Education

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American College Education

The post-secondary education system in the U.S. is typically not well understood by most Americans – yet understanding key aspects of it can help you make a good decision about your child’s education. Here’s what you need to know:


The American education system is based on learning units called credits. Most universities require from 120 to 130 credits to earn a bachelor’s degree. Credits are roughly based on the number of hours you would spend in class and/or studying to complete a course. A typical course is worth 3 credits. Full-time students typically take five courses per semester – or 10 courses per year. So a full-time student would accumulate 30 credits per year, or take four years to graduate.

Obviously, the more credits you can earn through other means, the less time and money you will have to spend on your degree. Smart Degree™ Homeschool Advantage provides you with ways to earn college credit through examination for subjects that you already know well.

General Education

At the bachelor’s degree level, American universities are committed to a broad education. Beyond study of their chosen field (major), students are usually required to take coursework in a wide range of subjects – typically math, social sciences, humanities, and natural sciences. These courses, referred to as “General Education,” are intended to give students the broad background deemed important to professional and personal growth.

Bellevue University offers low-cost general education courses to homeschool families. Learn more.


Unlike other countries, there is no central Ministry of Higher Education in the U.S. To ensure a standard of quality, there is a process called Accreditation. It is a system for recognizing institutions that have achieved certain standards of academic excellence. The U.S. is divided into six regions, each under the purview of a different accrediting agency.

The six regional accrediting bodies are:

  • The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
  • The New England Association of Schools and Colleges
  • The Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools
  • The Higher Learning Commission (North Central)
  • The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
  • The Western Association of Schools and Colleges

Regional accreditation is considered the gold standard in the U.S. When your university is regionally accredited, it means your degree is respected by employers and graduate schools throughout the U.S. and the world.

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