This is what I found out in elearners(.)com:
College Accreditation - Regional vs National Accreditation
by Admin | Published on: April 02, 2012 |
Before you begin your online degree, you'll want to select a college or university that is accredited. Accreditation means that a school has been evaluated by education authorities, to ensure it is offering high quality learning opportunities.
Accreditation is not a "one size fits all" concept. There are different types of accreditation - including regional accreditation and national accreditation. Colleges and universities voluntarily apply to receive their accreditation from different bodies, or different accrediting agencies. The following information outlines why some schools are regionally accredited, while others are nationally accredited, while others may have a "specialized" accreditation.
Once you understand the different classifications, you'll be better equipped to make the college choice that's right for you.
In the United States, there are 6 regional accrediting agencies. Each agency covers a different section of the country. For example, the New England Association of Schools and Colleges accredits schools that are located in New England (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.) The other 5 agencies evaluate schools that are based in other states.
The 6 regional accreditation agencies are:
- Middle State Association of Colleges and Schools (Commission on Higher Education)
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges (Commission on Technical and Career Institutions and Commission on Institutions of Higher Education)
- North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (The Higher Learning Commission)
- Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (Commission on Colleges)
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges (Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges and Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities)
If an online college chooses to apply for regional accreditation, it is evaluated by the regional agency that presides over its home state. These are the only 6 bodies that can award regional accreditation. They are all recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). You can learn more about these regional accrediting agencies, including which schools they accredit, by visiting their individual Web sites.
National accreditation is not based on geography. National accreditation was designed to evaluate specific types of schools and colleges. For example, the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology (ACCSCT) evaluates career schools and technology programs. The Distance Education and Training Council (DETC) accredits colleges that offer distance education.
Often, schools apply for national accreditation when their model of instruction or their course content is different from most "traditional" degree programs. Regional accrediting agencies may not be able to compare a career school with a liberal arts college, because the modes of study are so dissimilar. To use an old expression, it would be like comparing apples and oranges. National accreditation allows nontraditional colleges (trade schools, religious schools, certain online schools) to be compared against similarly designed institutions. Different standards and categories are measured, depending on the type of school in question.
Specialized accreditation, also known as program-based accreditation, is awarded to specific programs or departments within a college or university. Specialized accreditation is offered by agencies that represent specific fields of study or profesional organizations. These agencies do not accredit entire colleges. Instead, they accredit the programs within certain colleges that prepare students for their industry.
For example, the Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology (ABET) accredits engineering programs within various colleges and universities. If you plan to become a licensed engineer, you may want to limit your search to programs with this accreditation. If you plan to become a teacher, on the other hand, you don't need to worry about whether or not a college's engineering program has specialized, ABET accreditation.
Other professionals should also investigate specialized accreditation. Students who study medicine, dentistry, nursing, law, or engineering (to name a few) generally need to graduate from an accredited program with specialized accreditation. The American Medical Association (AMA) accredits medical programs; the American Dental Association (ADA) accredits dentistry programs; the National Nursing League (NLN)
accredits nursing programs; and the American Bar Association (ABA) accredits law school programs.
What Regional and National Accreditation Have in Common
Regional accreditation and national accreditation have a number of important things in common:
Both are voluntary. Colleges do not have to apply for any type of accreditation.
Both types of accreditation involve a lengthy and detailed review process. Agencies evaluate schools' programs, campuses, faculty, finances, and educational delivery methods.
All regional and national accreditation agencies are nonprofit organizations. Accrediting agencies do not make money off their evaluations, and they do not work for the government.
Both types of accreditation qualify colleges to offer federal financial aid to their students. If a college is neither regionally nor nationally accredited, you cannot receive federal financial aid to attend that institution. (Note: accreditation is not the only factor that allows for Title IV or federal student assistance funds. Be sure to ask your admissions counselor whether or not his/her college is eligible.)
Differences Between Regional and National Accreditation
Regional accreditation agencies concentrate on specific areas of the country. National accreditation agencies can represent colleges across the United States and even in some other countries.
Historically, regional accreditation agencies started as leagues of traditional colleges and universities in a specific area. National accreditation agencies started as associations of schools with a common theme. Many served schools that were not initially founded as colleges or universities.
Several national accreditation agencies, such as the Association for Biblical Higher Education, the Association of Theological Schools, and the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools, accredit faith-based schools. These national agencies can assess faith-based schools more freely. If a faith-based school were to apply for regional accreditation (which is secular), it may be asked to make compromises in its religious teachings.
Issues to Consider
When deciding which type of accreditation is right for you, there are several issues you may wish to consider.
The main issue is the transferability of credits from one school to another. While nationally accredited institutions will usually accept credit from regionally or nationally accredited institutions, regionally accredited schools often do not accept credit from nationally accredited institutions.
This also means that if you hold an associate's degree from a nationally accredited school, you may have to start over if you later decide to pursue a bachelor's degree from a regionally accredited school. Similarly, if you hold a nationally accredited bachelor's degree, you may not be eligible to enter a master's program at some regionally accredited institutions. Considering that state colleges and universities are all regionally accredited, and that state schools are an inexpensive local option for many students, this is definitely something to keep in mind.
Another important issue is cost. There are a few nationally accredited schools that are extremely inexpensive, and that low tuition rate can be enticing. However, with financial aid and scholarships
, you can often minimize the cost difference that comes with a regionally accredited school.
The final issue to consider is acceptability by prospective employers. To be frank, most employers don't know the difference between the two types of accreditation. Very few employers will question the name of the college you attended, let alone its accreditation status. If you do run into concerns about your school or its accreditation, you may want to direct your employer to the U.S. Department of Education's Web page on accreditation issues. An explanation from this government authority will confirm that both types of accreditation are valid.
If you have a specific employer in mind, or if you hope that your degree will lead to a promotion at your current job, you might want to ask a Human Resources employee about the school(s) you are considering.