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Regional Vs. National Online Bachelor Degree Accreditation

Both a process and a status, accreditation is a means of assessing the overall quality of institutions. Peers in a given field, such as higher education, determine the standards by which these institutions are assessed. The benefit of accreditation for students is the assurance that any college of university bearing the accreditation of a recognized peer authority meets a certain minimum level of quality standards.

For over 100 years, accreditation has played a role in U.S. institutions, including higher education where, today, it operates in a regulatory capacity. Accrediting bodies are generally of two varieties: regional and national.

Regional Accreditation

Regional accreditation was formed at a time when the United States had yet to develop a centralized system of education. As a result, various regional associations began forming in order to serve those roles. As the country’s population grew, so too did the size, reach and influence of these organizations. Today, regional individual accrediting bodies may cover several states and U.S. territories.

Most organizations offering regional accreditation fit one of three types:

* state-owned
* non-profit
* degree-oriented

National Accreditation

Newer in inception than regional accreditation, national accreditation imposes a sense of import by virtue of its name alone, with a body nationally assessed perhaps sounding more respectable than one that’s “only” regionally assessed. However, the real difference between the two is in the type of institutions they assess, not the value of their assessment. That is to say, national accrediting bodies accredit for-profit institutions. If not profit-oriented, then a nationally-accredited institution is otherwise likely a religious school with its own technical or vocational program. Nationally-accredited colleges and universities proffer either degrees or certificates and, given their tendency toward a non-academic and specialized focus, set less uniform standards.

The Difference Between Regional and National Accreditation

For starters, regional accrediting bodies tend to impose stricter standards of quality on qualifying institutions. That means they tend to demand more of the schools they accredit, including that the schools demand more of their students. National accreditations could be said to be comparatively “looser” than regional accreditation, and, knowing that, recruiters and employers may value it less favorably than its regionally-accredited counterpart.

How This Affects You

If you’re seeking an online bachelor degree program to join, one of the questions to ask yourself is whether the field you’re pursuing requires an academic degree or a vocational or technical certificate to qualify for entry. If the jobs you’ll be pursuing after graduation require an academic degree, then explore regionally-accredited institutions; if you’ll serve those job prospects better with a technical or vocational certificate, then examine nationally-accredited institutions.

In the case of pursuing a bachelor’s degree online, the choice seems obvious: search schools with regional accreditation. However, this would be a useful time to make sure that, for the career you have in mind, a technical or vocational certificate mightn’t serve you better. Once you know for sure, find those schools that are the right and best fit for you, and apply with gusto.

Other Key Considerations

If you’ve already earned some college credits that you’d like to transfer to the new school you plan to attend, find out whether your existing credits came from a school with regional or national accreditation. Then, apply to schools of that same type, as each type of accreditation qualifies credits for transfer to other schools of that same accreditation type.

Accreditation and Why It’s Important

Accredited Online Bachelors Degree

As a new degree-seeking student, it’s important that you do your homework when making the final decision on where to pursue your degree. Where you go to school can impact your career, and one of the factors to consider is the school’s accreditation status. Here’s a quick overview of accreditation and how it impacts you.

What is College Accreditation?

Accreditation is a process conducted by an outside agency to ensure that an institution of higher learning and/or its degree programs meet certain standards of quality and adhere to all applicable regulations. A consortium of peers sets the standards for the evaluation process of each new college accreditation or the renewals of currently accredited colleges.

Why Should I Care About It?

College accreditation can help you to better gauge whether a prospective university is worth your time and investment. By knowing a school’s accreditation status, your hard-earned money and valuable time will be put to good use. Enrolling at an accredited school means that you can take advantage of federal grants, loans, scholarships, and financial aid. Furthermore, graduating from an accredited school also qualifies you for certification exams, which can increase your attractiveness to potential employers.

According to the Department of Education, more than 85% of all colleges are accredited. Most online and on-campus degree programs are accredited either by regional or national agencies. Thus, choosing the right school for your accredited online bachelor’s degree is crucial. Accreditation not only validates a program to employers but also gives you the opportunity to transfer credits from one school to another. According to ACICS (Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools), acceptance of credits from another college is up to the receiving educational institution and there are no laws or rules requiring them to accept all transferable credits. However, some traditional colleges and universities will “accept academic credits or degrees only from institutions that are regionally accredited”.

Can Online Education Also Be Accredited?

Yes. Just like any other brick-and-mortar educational institution, online education can be accredited and be just as valuable. Earning a degree from an institution without accreditation could pose potential issues when seeking a job, as some employers may not look too fondly at your educational background.

As a final note, while there are various accredited online schools out there, do steer clear of those that claim to offer “international accreditation.” The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) warns: “The council and federal government don’t recognize any international accrediting bodies.”

College Accreditation Types
Accreditation of colleges can be on a national or regional level. Some colleges are accredited nationally or regionally. To maintain educational quality, there are two organizations that recognize these accrediting agencies and they are (1) Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) and (2) U.S. Department of Education (USDE).
Regional Versus National Accreditation

While national accreditation may sound broader in scope than regional accreditation, this can be deceiving. In fact, many traditional colleges and universities like Stanford, University of Southern California, Harvard, Yale and many others are regionally accredited. This is a reason why it is generally considered by most higher education bodies as the gold standard for validating the academic quality and rigor of an institution. Plus, regionally accredited institutions are typically research-oriented or state-level.

Many schools offering applied education programs are nationally accredited. Of these institutions, some are nontraditional schools that simply don’t fit into the categories specified by regional accreditation bodies. In other words, nationally accredited schools are typically the ones who chose not to apply for regional accreditation simply due to lack of qualifications.

How Regional Accreditors Assess Institutions

Each educational institution is typically assessed using the following criteria:

• Overall Mission
• Objectives and Goals
• Student Requirements for Admissions
• Services Available to Students
• Quality of Education
• Reputation of Faculty

More on the Issue of Credit Transferability

As noted above, ACICS states that acceptance of college credits from another institution is up to the specific requirements of the receiving college. It is very important that when considering credit transferability, regional is usually preferred over national accreditation. While nationally accredited schools will usually accept credits from both regionally and nationally accredited schools, regionally accredited schools typically do not accept credit from nationally accredited institutions. Similarly, a degree earned at a nationally accredited school may not be recognized by a regionally accredited school. There are exceptions in every case, so it’s best to consult with any schools you may be interested in.

Regional Accreditation Agencies in the United States

There are six regional accreditation agencies in the US, each of which is charged with accrediting the academic programs of institutions within their specific region. They are as follows:
The Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Senior College and University Commission (SCUC) is in charge of the accreditation of colleges in California and Hawaii, including Stanford University, UCLA, USC as well as a small number of 100% online schools including Trident University.
The New England Association of Schools & Colleges (NEASC) accredits colleges in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont, such as Harvard, Yale, as well as the Southern Connecticut State University, and the University of Hartford.
The Middle States Commission on Higher Education
Accreditation of colleges in the Mid-Atlantic region (Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, and Puerto Rico), such as Princeton, University of Pennyslvania, Columbia and American University in Washington D.C.
The North Central Association of Colleges and Schools Higher Learning Commission
Accreditation of colleges located in Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Nebraska, Ohio, Oklahoma, New Mexico, South Dakota, Wisconsin, West Virginia, and Wyoming. Examples are the University of Oklahoma, Arkansas State University and Capital University in Ohio.
The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
Accreditation of colleges in Alaska, Idaho, Utah, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington), such as the University of Washington, Montana State University and Oregon State University.
The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
Accreditation of colleges in the southern region (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia), such as the University of Texas, Hardin-Simmons University in Texas and Jackson State University in Mississippi.
You can find out if the college or university you are interested in is accredited by visiting the regional accrediting board website and looking up the institution name.