When looking at colleges, one very important factor is the school’s accreditation. Accreditation is the process where an outside body evaluates and gives seals of approval to colleges.
It indicates that the college has met the criteria of the accreditation process.
U.S. accrediting agencies grant regional accreditation throughout the country. Six in total, that cover different geographic regions.
While this isn’t the only indicator of quality that matters for a college, it is best for students to know and understand the kind of accreditation that a college has before enrolling. It could make a big difference in their academic and professional careers.
Regional accreditation vs National accreditation
The first–and possibly most important–thing to know about regional accreditation is that it is generally more prestigious and more strenuous than national accreditation.
This may be confusing, as it can seem counter-intuitive. However, regional accreditation bodies have been around for much longer than their national counterparts. And, in general, agencies give regional accreditation to academic-focused institutions. Whereas many for-profit, vocational, and technical schools are nationally accredited, but not regionally.
So, depending on what kind of degree you’re seeking–and what kind of career path you are hoping to take–you may be okay to enroll in a nationally accredited college. But, don’t be confused by the fact that colleges are listed as being regionally accredited.
Transferring credits from regionally accredited online colleges
Another very important consideration with regard to a college’s accreditation status is how credits or degrees will transfer to other colleges and universities.
Accreditation reflects the prestige of the degree itself. Other colleges and universities also use it to evaluate whether they should accept incoming credits or recognize degrees earned at other colleges.
In many cases–but, not all–non-profit and state-owned colleges only accept incoming credits or undergraduate degrees conferred by regionally accredited online colleges.
Enrolling in a non-regionally accredited college is a major issue for some students who want to transfer colleges or pursue a graduate program elsewhere. In these cases, it’s incredibly important to research beforehand. You want other schools to accept your credits from your current school.
Regional accreditation agencies
- Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges
- Higher Learning Commission
- Northwest Accreditation Commission
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges