Online College Accreditation

If you are planning on attending an online college, accreditation is important because it signifies that a particular school has met the standards of quality education set by a board or government agency. To know more about online college accreditation, read this blog.

Updated by Arpit Sachdeva on 25th January 2019

Accreditation - Ever wondered what this term means and how is this related to you. Every student when selecting a college- whether online or traditional should make sure that the college must be accredited. So, let’s explore what is accreditation and why is it important. 

What is Accreditation?  

Accreditation is a process of validation in which all the education bodies of higher learning are evaluated. The standards for accreditation are set by a peer review board whose members include faculty from various accredited colleges and universities.

accreditation stamp 

Why accreditation is important? 

Accreditation has the following purposes- 

  • Helps determine if an institution meets or exceeds minimum standards of quality. 

  • Helps students determine acceptable institutions for enrolment. 

  • Assist institutions in determining an acceptability of transfer credits. 

  • Helps employers determine the validity of programs of study and whether a graduate is qualified. 

  • Provides a basis for determining eligibility for federal student assistance. 

Types of Online College Accreditation 

  1. Regional Accreditation 

  2. National Accreditation 

  3. Specialized Accreditation 

Regional Accreditation 

The word ‘regional’ seems to be deceiving, but it actually refers to the area or the region where the accrediting organization operates. 

When people ask if you have attended an 'accredited university' in the United States, the people most commonly mean a regionally accredited university. 

It is considered the most esteemed and widely - recognized type of accreditation. Regionally-accredited schools are reviewed by their designated regional agency. 

According to the U.S. Department of Education, more than 85 percent of all colleges in the United States are regionally accredited. A vast majority of online schools are regionally accredited. 

Six major regional accreditation bodies are mentioned here. 

  • MSA/MSCHE — Middle States Association of Colleges & Schools 

  • NASC — Northwest Commission on Colleges & Universities 

  • NCA — North Central Association of Colleges & Schools 

  • NEASC — New England Association of Schools & Colleges 

  • SACS — Southern Association of Colleges & Schools 

  • WASC — Western Association of Schools & Colleges 

 Map of regional accreditation 

Regionally Accredited Online Institutions 

These are some of the examples of different institutions and their respective accreditation agencies- 


Regional Accrediting Body 

Penn State World Campus 


University of Florida 


Northeastern State University


Drexel University


Rutgers University 


National Accreditation 

National Accreditation is a much newer concept. Many people get misled by the term ‘national,’ thinking it is better or more widely-recognized than regional accreditation. 

Nationally accredited schools, in general, are profit oriented or religiously affiliated, offering vocational or technical programs. They award both certificates and degrees. 

Nationally accredited schools are reviewed once every 3-5 years to ensure that they continue to meet the requirements standards laid down by accrediting agencies. 

The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) also recognizes a number of 'national accreditation agencies'. 

The two most popular “national” college accreditation agencies recognized by CHEA are: 

  • Distance Education & Training Council (DETC/DEAC) 

  • Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC) 

Other national accreditation agencies include: 

  • Council on Occupational Education (COE)   

  • Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools, Accreditation Commission (TRACS)  

    Nation accreditation

National Accreditation Online Institutions 

These are some of the examples of different institutions and their respective accreditation agencies- 


Accrediting Agency 

American National University 


Andrews University


California Coast University 


Full Sail University 


Grantham University



Specialized or Programmatic Accreditation 

These accrediting agencies review programs within a college or university that has already been accredited by one of the regional or national accrediting bodies. 

Programmatic accreditation is offered to singular programs, departments, or schools within an institution and the accrediting body is often concentrated on an individual academic discipline, such as nursing or medical science. 

This ensures that students are given quality education in a particular area of study. Though different than regional accreditation, it offers the same level of prestige. 

 specialized accreditation

Eligibility Requirements for Online Accredited Colleges 

In order for a school to even be considered for accreditation, there are a number of requirements they must first meet. These include: 

  • Required to be operating as an “educational institution or organization whose primary purpose is providing education or training”. 

  • Must be properly “licensed, authorized, exempted or approved” by the appropriate institutional authority for the state and be compliant with all local, state, and federal requirements. 

  • When applying, should have been offering classes for at least two years. 

  • Must be able to document that the institution is financially healthy and able to meet any financial responsibilities. 

  • Agrees to the possibility of owners, officers, and managers undergoing a background check. 

  • Cannot have any pending or finalized action enacted by a state or accrediting agency. 

eligible boy

What to Avoid- Fake Accreditation 

In order for accreditation to have any meaning, it is important that your online college’s accrediting agency be recognized by the Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) or the U.S. Department of Education. Essentially, the accrediting agency itself needs to be accredited. 

With the increase in the trend of online colleges, the number of fake and bogus online college accreditors has also increased. Hundreds of fake online colleges have been heavily advertised on the web. These colleges are accredited by fake agencies with very official sound-names. 

 Fake university 


So, to finally conclude Accreditation is the quality-assurance process for colleges and universities.  

It plays a crucial role in online colleges as accreditation ensures whether the degree or program will be recognized by the employer or not.  If you are in the course of choosing your college, be very sure that the colleges on your list must have proper accreditation. 


  What is accreditation?

Accreditation is an essential evaluation of the quality of an institution, basically, focussing on two factors - Quality Assurance and Quality Improvement.

Accreditation is both a process and a status to ensure that higher education institutions and programs meet a set of standards developed by the accrediting councils. 

  What is regional accreditation?

Considered the most prestigious form of accreditation, more than 85 percent of higher education institutions in America are regionally accredited. These schools are held to the highest standards and frequently hold their students to similar requirements.

Admission to regionally accredited schools can be more competitive, but the recognition provided is attractive to both students and potential employers. 

  What is national accreditation?

Unlike regionally accredited schools, most institutions receiving national accreditation are less academically-focused and instead fall under the category of career or trade schools, which offer vocational courses and programs or training centers. Requirements for national accreditation tend to be less stringent. 

  Which one is better- regional or national accreditation?

Regional accreditation is termed more superior than National because credits earned from institutions that are regionally accredited are more widely accepted and thus more easily transferable.

  What are the regional accrediting associations?

The six regional accreditation boards are:
  • MSA — Middle States Association of Colleges & Schools
  • NASC — Northwest Commission on Colleges & Universities
  • NCA — North Central Association of Colleges & Schools
  • NEASC — New England Association of Schools & Colleges
  • SACS — Southern Association of Colleges & Schools
  • WASC — Western Association of Schools & Colleges


  Do employers take online college degree seriously?

Most employers today accept online degrees. As many well-respected universities now offer online programs, employers accept them to a greater extent than in the past, experts say.

  What accreditation should online colleges have?

In order for accreditation to have any meaning, it is important that your online college\'s accrediting agency be recognized by the Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) or the U.S. Department of Education. Essentially, the accrediting agency itself needs to be accredited.