There are two main types of accreditations in the United States: regional and national. Both types are important, but they do have some key differences. This article is a comprehensive guide on the topic of Regional vs National Accreditation; similarities and differences between regional and national accreditation that every student should read before pursuing a college degree. We also recommend that students read our in-depth Accreditation Guide, which provides deeper insights into accreditation and its importance.
University of Florida (UF) is a public, accredited university based out of Gainesville, Florida, and is consistently ranked as one of the top universities in the country. UF has a 2,000-acre campus with more than 900 buildings and currently serves more than 50,000 students. UF has robust online learning programs that are flexible, taught by top industry faculty, and provide unparalleled networking and personal growth opportunities. UF graduates are proud members of the Gator Nation of more than 450,000 living alumni who reside in every state and in more than 150 countries.
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Southern New Hampshire University is a private, nonprofit, accredited institution with more than 3,000 on-campus students and over 60,000 online students, making us one of the fastest-growing universities in the country. Founded in 1932, we’ve been relentlessly reinventing higher education ever since and have gained national recognition for our dedication to helping students transform their lives and the lives of those around them.
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Accreditation is a lengthy procedure that requires a school to meet stringent criteria set by outside organizations. It is a title given to institutions that voluntarily participate in an evaluation process to demonstrate that they meet predetermined quality requirements, assuring that the program or institution provides students with a practical, high-quality education.
What exactly does accreditation mean? Accreditation is a method of monitoring and maintaining the quality of an organization, product, or service. It is defined as “the act of awarding credit or recognition”. It simply indicates that the institution maintains appropriate and expected quality and delivery standards. The term ‘accreditation’ is most used in the educational environment. Accreditation is particularly significant in education because it determines whether or not a student can continue their studies at the next level. It is a status or approval that enables students to receive credit for courses taken at specific schools that may be readily transferred to another university or program. Employers also prefer to recruit applicants who have graduated from a school that has been appropriately recognized and accredited by a recognized accrediting agency.
What is National Accreditation
National accreditation is usually awarded to schools that focus on career or religious education. The majority of nationally accredited institutions are for-profit and provide vocational, career, or technical education.
National accrediting agencies play a variety of roles. A national accrediting organization, as the name suggests, accredits universities across the United States. For-profit vocational, technical, and career schools are frequently accredited by them. While some organizations specialize in institutional accreditation, such as the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC), others, such as the American Academy for Liberal Education (AALE), offer both institutional and programmatic accreditation.
Although in most instances, regionally accredited schools and universities rarely take credits from nationally accredited colleges, nationally accredited schools and universities usually accept credits from nationally accredited schools and regionally accredited schools. Colleges will usually accept transfer credits from schools with the same or similar accreditation because it shows that their curriculums and standards are comparable.
Here is a list of Nationally recognized Accrediting Agencies in the United States:
Regional accreditation is a voluntary process through which schools and universities demonstrate that their programs and degrees have reached and will continue to satisfy established requirements. Various locations in the United States are covered by regional accreditation authorities. While the majority of them serve specific regions within the country, several also serve international locations. Regional accrediting agencies accredit schools at all levels, including elementary, middle, and high schools, as well as colleges and universities. Each of these bodies focuses on certifying academically oriented, non-profit universities rather than technical or career-related schools. Six regional accrediting bodies accredit around 85% of all universities in the United States:
Higher Learning Commission (HLC) – covers and serves Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.
What is the difference between regional and national accreditation? Fundamentally, regional and national accreditations are not the same. The main difference is that credits earned at regionally accredited universities are more widely recognized and thus easier to transfer. In college, credits are acquired in the same manner as points are in a game. In a game, students who get enough points progress to the next level. In the context of education, earning different degrees is one method to advance in the college credit game. While points do not normally transfer from one game to another, credits transfer to other institutions. Students who attend online colleges should understand how accreditation affects their academic careers. Although national accreditation may appear to be more authoritative, regional accreditation is older, more popular, and more widespread than national accreditation, save in a few cases. This is evident with most non-profit universities being regionally accredited.
The following are some key distinctions between regional and national accreditation:
Evaluation by a regional agency
Evaluation by a national agency
Each agency covers a specific region
Not based on region; serves the whole country
Applies to regular schools, colleges, and universities in general
Applies to for-profit schools that offer vocational, career, or technical programs in general
Mostly does not accept credits from nationally accredited institutions
Mostly accepts credits from nationally and regionally accredited institutions
Regional vs. National Accreditation – Key Similarities
I. Both regional and national accreditation is voluntary, meaning that schools choose whether or not to seek them out. Schools cannot be forced to seek either type of accreditation.
II. Both regional and national accreditations are essential for transferring credits. Most schools will only accept credits from accredited institutions, so it is vital to ensure that the school the student is enrolled in has the correct type of accreditation.
III. Both regional and national accreditation can be beneficial for financial aid. Many schools will only give financial assistance to students attending an accredited institution. Read the Best Guide to Financial Aidfor detailed information on funding college.
Regional vs. National Accreditation – Key Differences
I. The main difference between regional and national accreditation is their scope. Regional accreditation is usually reserved for schools in a specific geographic region, while national accreditation is for schools that operate nationwide.
II. Another difference is that regional accreditation is usually seen as more prestigious than national accreditation. This is because regional accreditation is more challenging to obtain, and it is reserved for schools that meet a higher standard.
III. Finally, regional accreditation is often required for schools that want to offer specific programs, such as teacher certification. National accreditation is not usually required for these programs.
How do you know if a School is Accredited?
The first and most crucial step in enrolling in a program is to determine whether or not the institution or program is accredited. The procedure is relatively straightforward. Students can check the accreditation status of a school or program using a variety of resources:
Website of the College – The accreditation status of most recognized educational institutions will be prominently displayed on the home page or other internal pages of the college’s website. If prospective students are looking for information on programmatic accreditation, they will most likely find it on the program’s web page.
Website of the Accreditation Agency – A dubious institution could lie about its accreditation status and put whatever they want on its website, claiming it is accredited. As a result, students should check the accrediting organization’s website that granted the institution’s accreditation to ensure its current accreditation status.
Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) – The Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) is a non-profit organization that recognizes institutional and programming accrediting institutions in the United States. CHEA is the only national agency dedicated entirely to accreditation and quality assurance in higher education. It is widely regarded as the “gold standard” for determining whether an institution or program fulfills national criteria. The council provides a list of accredited schools on its website.
U.S. Department of Education (USDE) – The U.S. Department of Education (USDE) keeps track of accredited postsecondary institutions and programs that have been reported directly by accrediting agencies and state approval agencies. It is important to note, however, that the content on this site has not been audited and, therefore, cannot be guaranteed to be accurate, current, or complete. It is always good to contact the appropriate accrediting agency for the most up-to-date and correct information.
Note: Not all accrediting agencies must be accredited by both the CHEA and the US Department of Education. The Secretary of Education in each state recognized accrediting agencies.
FAQs about Regional vs National Accreditation
Q. What is programmatic accreditation?
A. Individual programs within the institute may also be accredited independently, in addition to the institute as a whole. Depending on the career field one wishes to enter, programmatic accreditation may be more important than institutional accreditation. Psychology, education, medical specialties, engineering, and social work are just a few fields where a student’s degree must be accredited outside of the university. Programmatic accreditation guarantees that the course of study meets the field’s educational and experience requirements, ensuring that the student has the essential background to succeed in their chosen career.
Q. Why is accreditation important?
A. Accreditation is one of the most important aspects of college education, regardless of whether it is national, regional, or programmatic. This is true for the following reasons and more:
Employment While some organizations, such as the federal government or multi-national corporations, may need a regionally or nationally recognized education, programmatically authorized degrees may be necessary for students seeking jobs in professions such as teaching and psychology, which require their practitioners to hold certification and a license.
Financial Aid – Students must be enrolled in a regionally or nationally accredited institution or university to be eligible for federal financial aid. Students must complete the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) if they wish to be considered for federal financial aid. As a result, some types of public and private financial aid require regional or nationwide certification.
Credits – When students apply to regionally recognized graduate institutions, they are usually required to have degrees from regionally accredited programs. The same is true for transferring students: regionally accredited institutions will only accept credits from other authorized regionally accredited colleges. Because a regulatory agency has evaluated both universities, the rigor of their curriculum may be validated, allowing for seamless course credit transfer.
Q. Do online degree programs need to be accredited?
A. Even though accrediting authorities – the U.S. Department of Education (USDE), and the Council for Higher Education Certification (CHEA) do not directly address online programs, it is now usual practice for universities to seek programmatic accreditation for their online courses. Students should check if their online school is regionally accredited and, if required, that the program they are enrolling in is programmatically accredited for institutions that offer online programs (commonly classified as distance learning programs).
Q. Can I transfer from one accredited college to another?
A. Yes. While regionally accredited colleges accept transfers from each other, and nationally accredited colleges do likewise, one should note that regionally accredited colleges usually do not accept students or credits from nationally accredited colleges. However, nationally accredited colleges are typically open to receiving credits and transfers from regionally accredited institutions.
Q. Is accreditation required for financial aid?
A. Officially, no, accreditation is not required for financial aid. However, most schools that receive federal financial aid are accredited by one of the six regional accrediting agencies. If a student plans on applying for student financial aid, it is good to check and see if the schools they are interested in are accredited. That way, it is easier to know if they are eligible for aid.
Q. Regional or national accreditation – which is better?
A. So, which type of accreditation is better? Regional or national? That depends on one’s needs and goals. If a student wants to transfer credits or get financial aid, then either type of accreditation will work. But if a student is looking for a more prestigious school or one that offers specific programs, then regional accreditation is the way to go.
Additional Resources for Regional vs National Accreditation
Students looking for more information on accreditation and various other aspects of college education need to look no further. Online Masters Colleges (OMC) has a fantastic collection of resources that provide in-depth information on a variety of topics, including:
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