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The Difference between Regional and National Accreditation

The Difference between Regional and National Accreditation

When looking into colleges and other schools, you may often hear the terms ‘regionally accredited’ or ‘nationally accredited’ and wonder what the difference is between the two. Both designations have institutional accreditations, and they are both capable of providing quality educations. In fact, there are many other similarities between the two since they are both recognized by the US Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation. Also, both types of schools can participate in federal financial aid programs. However, there are several key differences between the two.

  1. Programs and Institutions They Can Accredit

Regional accreditation agencies are limited in what they can accredit. These agencies were the first type of accreditation agencies in the United States and were established in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. There are 6 primary agencies, and they exist to communicate between secondary and higher education institutions, in particular, the initial entrance evaluation of prospective students. Initially, their focus was on secondary schools; however, accreditation of colleges and universities followed later. Institutions that seek regional accreditation are typically academically oriented and operate as non-profit organizations. These institutions have the ability to grant degrees.[i]

National accreditation agencies are also limited in what type of institution they can accredit. Accreditation is typically a voluntary process for any institution; however, without the proper credentials, most would not recognize the value in any degree, and credits would likely not be eligible for transfer. Nationally accredited instiutions are commonly for-profit institutions that focus on vocational, career, or technical programs, though they may have degree-granting capabilities at times. National accreditation may sometimes also be used in the non-profit sector for specific programs, such as nursing.[ii]

  1. Accreditors

Regional accreditors evaluate schools, colleges, and universities in the United States in six different geographic boundaries. The Middle States Commission on Higher Education (formerly part of the Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools) accredits institutions in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the Virgin Islands. The New England Association of Schools and Colleges serves the geographic area including Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont. The Higher Learning Commission (formerly part of the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools) serves the largest area, including the states of Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Wisconsin, West Virginia, and Wyoming. The Northwest Accreditation Commission (primary and secondary schools) and the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (postsecondary institutions) include Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools includes Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia. The Western Association of Schools and Colleges serves 4-year institutions in California, Hawaii, Guam, American Samoa, Micronesia, Palau, and Northern Marianas Islands, as well as for American children studying in Asia. And finally, the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges (formerly part of the Western Association of Schools and Colleges) serves 2-year institutions in the same geographical area. Taken together, these 7 organizations form the Council of Regional Accrediting Commissions (C-RAC) that has a board that reviews principles and guidelines to ensure that the regional commissions are operating as they should. They also provide a basis for assessing accreditation standards and practices between the different regions.[iii]

There are ten different agencies that provide national accreditation and are recognized by the US Department of Education. These are the Distance Education Accrediting Commission, the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges, the Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training, the Commission on English Language Program Accreditation, the Council on Occupational Education, the Association for Biblical Higher Education, the Association of Advanced Rabbinical and Talmudic Schools, the Association of Institutions of Jewish Studies, the New York State Board of Regents, and the Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools. These institutions are not limited to set geographic areas and often accredit throughout the nation and sometimes even beyond its borders[iv]

  1. Reputation

Since regionally accredited institutions are typically 4-year and non-profit, they are generally considered to be more reputable than their national accredited counterparts. Many critics note that the national accrediting bodies have far lower standards than the regional agencies, which leads to the schools often being dismissed as disreputable.[v] There have been criticisms cast at both types of accreditation agencies; however, there tend to be more criticisms of national accreditation agencies than regional ones. There have been several changes in recent legislation that aim to reform these institutions in order to hold them more accountable for the cost, value, and quality of the education delivered.[vi]

  1. Ability to Transfer Credits

Within the education system, every college has the right to set standards that accept or refuse transfer credits. However, without regional accreditation, it may be difficult or even impossible to have any credits, certificates, or awards recognized by a regionally certified institution. Most institutions have a protocol that dictates that they will only accept transfer credits from regionally accredited institutions. Since national accreditors generally have lower standards for accreditation, most regionally accredited ones will not recognize their credits. One study conducted by the US Government Accountability Office (GAO) in 2005 showed that while 63 percent of institutions would accept any transfer credit from a regionally accredited institution, only 14 percent would accept transfer credits from a nationally accredited school.[vii]


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References :


[0][i] Higher education accreditation in the United States. (n.d.). On Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Higher_education_accreditation_in_the_United_States

[1][ii] Regional accreditation. (n.d.). On Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regional_accreditation

[2][iii] Regional accreditation. (n.d.). On Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regional_accreditation

[3][iv] Higher education accreditation in the United States. (n.d.). On Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Higher_education_accreditation_in_the_United_States

[4][v] Higher education accreditation in the United States. (n.d.). On Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Higher_education_accreditation_in_the_United_States

[5][vi] Higher education accreditation in the United States. (n.d.). On Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Higher_education_accreditation_in_the_United_States

[6][vii] Regional accreditation. (n.d.). On Wikipedia. Retrieved from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Regional_accreditation

[7]https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Accreditation_Frameworks.svg

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