How Important is Regional Accreditation?
Here’s your quick answer!
The most important insight about accreditation: Regional accreditation is the gold standard! Regionally accredited institutions usually only accept transfer credits from other regionally accredited institutions. Regionally accredited schools are recognized as giving a comprehensive education and allow for easy transfer of credits between institutions, should a student want to change schools or enroll in a graduate degree program at another school. Nearly 3,000 colleges in the United States have regional accreditation, about 85% of the national total.
While nationally accredited schools may prepare students to enter certain skilled careers (such as culinary arts or automotive mechanics), they likely won’t prepare students to pursue further higher education because regionally accredited institutions generally do not accept transfer credits from nationally accredited institutions. Many of the nationally accredited schools are for-profit schools.
Typically, regionally accredited higher education institutions are non-profit, public or private, and can be of any size; community colleges, large state universities, private research universities, and liberal arts universities. A handful of for-profit schools have regional accreditation.
The seven accreditation commissions represent six geographic regions of the United States. These commissions, recognized by the United States Secretary of Education and by the Council on Higher Education, operate through nongovernmental, non-profit voluntary associations.
National versus Regional Accreditation
Overall, when considering online colleges and programs, students should take into account the following key points about regional and national accreditation:
Regionally Accredited Online Colleges
- Regional accreditation is the mostly widely recognized type of college accreditation.
- Regional accreditation recognizes a college as meeting the “gold standard” of education.
- Typically, students can easily transfer degrees and credits from a regionally accredited school to other schools and programs.
- Online programs at regionally accredited schools typically utilize instructor-led courses, ensuring quality.
- Programs at regionally accredited colleges enjoy eligibility for corporate tuition-reimbursement programs, ideal for working students seeking to advance professionally through higher education.
Nationally Accredited Online Colleges
- The programs typically take a vocational or career-training approach, which may not be standardized.
- While students may earn credits and degrees in these programs, they may not readily lead to entering professions that require additional licensing, such as healthcare, teaching, or accounting.
- Often, students can’t transfer credits from nationally accredited colleges to regionally accredited schools.
- Courses in these programs may take the form of self-study courses, and not instructor-lead.
Also known as programmatic accreditation, specialized accreditation applies to specific programs, departments, or schools within universities. Field-specific agencies, such as the Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB), award specialized accreditation. Specialized accreditation recognizes specific qualities or aspects of educational programs necessary to fields such as business, education, psychology, and engineering.
While not as necessary as university accreditation, specialized accreditation serves as a significant mark of quality. Moreover, some professions regulated by state, regional, or national licensing boards (such as teaching) may require students have earned their degree from programs recognized by specific specialized accreditation agencies.