Regional Versus National Accreditation: Which is Better?

By Brenda on July 1st, 2011


In the world if online colleges and universities accreditation is a huge deal. People want to make sure they attend a school that offers programs that have been analyzed by a neutral party to make sure content is solid and the degree is recognized by employers and other institutions. Accreditation means the school and its programs have received the “stamp of approval” to confer degrees based upon the accreditation agency’s curricular standards.

But there are two different types of accreditations: regional and national. So when it comes to choosing between the two which is better or does it even make a difference? Read on to find out the facts.

Regional Accreditation:

Regional accreditation has long been the norm in the world of postsecondary education. Nearly 90% of all colleges and universities, including online schools, are regionally accredited. Regionally accredited institutions are more characterized by being academically oriented, non-profit institutions compared to nationally accredited institutions that are predominantly for-profit and focus on career and vocational training.

Regionally accredited schools are characterized by more stringent admissions standards and higher tuition rates. These types of institutions typically have an emphasis in liberal arts requiring students to take a variety of courses in humanities, social sciences, communication, English composition, mathematics, and natural sciences before moving on to courses within their major. The regional accreditation bodies recognized by the United States Department of Higher Education are:

  • Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools
  • New England Association of Schools and Colleges
  • North Central Association of Colleges and
  • Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
  • Western Association of Schools and Colleges
  • Southern Association of Colleges and
  • Council for Higher Education Accreditation

National Accreditation:

The Council for Higher Education Accreditation recognizes some, but not all, national accrediting bodies. National accrediting agencies generally focus on career education. Many career colleges, trade schools, and online schools are nationally accredited. The three main national accreditation agencies are:

  • Distance Education & Training Council (DETC)
  • Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges & Schools (ACICS)
  • Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC)

Students should be aware that many national accreditation bodies are not recognized by the Council on Higher Education Accreditation and are often times accrediting bodies owned by the schools themselves. Here is a brief list of bogus national accreditation agencies:

  • Accreditation Council for Distance Education (ACTDE)
  • Accreditation Panel for Online Colleges and Universities (APTEC)
  • Accrediting Commission International (ACI)
  • American Accrediting Association of Theological Institutions
  • American Council of Private Colleges and Universities
  • American Association of Drugless Practitioners (ADP)
  • Association of Accredited Bible Schools
  • Association of Distance Learning Programs (ADLP)
  • Association of Private Colleges and Universities
  • Association for Online Academic Accreditation
  • Association for Online Excellence
  • Association for Online Academic Excellence
  • Board of Online Universities Accreditation (BOUA)
  • Council for Distance Education

Nationally accredited schools differ in several ways from their regionally accredited counterparts but that does not mean they are inferior institutions. It all depends on what the particular student is looking for in a school. Nationally accredited schools usually have lower admissions standards, are far less expensive, offer much more practical/career oriented curriculum without the liberal arts emphasis.

It is important for students to know the difference between regionally and nationally accredited schools so they can make an informed decision. For example, some regionally accredited institutions will not accept transfer credits from any school that only has a national accreditation. This could be a serious setback for a student who desires to transfer from a regional to a national school.



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