Regional vs. National Accreditation - Which is better for Online Colleges?

Regional Accreditation is state-owned and highly prestigious whereas National Accreditation is career-oriented, vocational and profit-seeking in nature. Discover the differences between the Regional and National Accreditation.

Updated by Ankita Tiwari on 1st March 2019

What does accreditation mean?

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

It 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.

It 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. 

For a college or university, accreditation means to be recognized with a seal of approval. There are two types of Accreditation - National Accreditation and Regional Accreditation.

What is Accreditation?source - pexels.com


Why is accreditation 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 colleges accreditation 

  1. Regional Accreditation 

  2. National Accreditation 

  3. Specialized Accreditation 

What is 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 accrediting bodies in the United States are mentioned.

  • Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools (MSA/MSCHE) - Middle States Commission on Higher Education is a voluntary, peer-based, non-profit association that performs peer evaluation and accreditation of public and private universities and colleges.

  • New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) - New England Association of Schools and Colleges is an association that provides educational accreditation for each level of education.

  • North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA) - North Central Association of Colleges and Schools include colleges, universities, and schools in 19 US states which involve educational accreditation.

  • Northwest Accreditation Commission (NAC) - It is recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as the authority on the educational quality and institutional effectiveness of higher education institutions.

  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) - This is acknowledged by the United States Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation.

  • Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) - It is in charge of the approval of public and private universities, colleges, secondary and elementary schools.

George Mason University

source- toddstarnes.com


Regionally accredited online institutions

Following is the list of some online colleges and universities with regional accreditation.

Regionally accredited online colleges
College/University Regional Accrediting Body
Drexel University MSCHE
George Washington University MSHCE
Norwich University NEASC
George Mason University SACS
Trident University International WASC 

What is 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. But that is not the case. 

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

  • It involves specialized non-academic focus and the requirements are not as standardized as those in the case of Regional Accreditation.

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

  • These national agencies are not restricted to any particular region.

  • 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.

Crown College

source - crown.edu

The two most popular national'college accreditation agencies recognized by CHEA are Distance Education & Training Council (DETC/DEAC) and Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).

Other national accreditation agencies include the Council on Occupational Education (COE) and Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools, Accreditation Commission (TRACS). 


Nationally accreditated institutions 

The list of the colleges and universities with national accreditation along with their associated accrediting agencies is given in the table.

College Or University National accrediting agency
Abraham Lincoln University DEAC
Crown College ABHE
Catholic Distance University DEAC
Full Sail University ACCSC
Columbia Southern University DEAC

Difference between National Accreditation and Regional Accreditation

Accreditation Journey - which is better

source-abhe.org

The table lists the major differences between National Accreditation and Regional Accreditation.

Differences between Regionally Accredited Colleges and Nationally Accredited Colleges
Regional Accreditation National Accreditation
Schools are reviewed by their designated regional agency. Agencies review institutions of a similar type, such as career, vocational, and technical (art & design etc.) schools.
Maybe more expensive than nationally-accredited schools. Maybe less expensive than regionally-accredited schools.
More selective during the admissions process. Has more relaxed admission standards.
Mostly academic, non-profit institutions. Predominantly for-profit institutions.
Must fundraise in order to meet their budget via private donations, federal grants, and legacy giving. Earn revenue via enrollment or selling educational products. Might be accountable to shareholders.
Typically, nationally-accredited schools will accept credits from both regionally- and nationally-accredited schools. Credits are not transferable to a regionally-accredited college.
Eligible for all corporate tuition reimbursement plans. Graduates are not always eligible for corporate tuition reimbursement plans. 

Which is better - Regional or National Accreditation?

What is 'better' for you?

If you mean 'better academically', then one can not conclude that one type of online university accreditation is better than the other. However, the nationally accredited online colleges do lack in some real benefits and perks, associated with regionally accredited online colleges.

Regionally Accredited Online Colleges

Regional Accreditation is advantageous but it is not without some downsides.

Benefits

  • Considered as the gold standard of college accreditation as it is highly prestigious

  • Has the largest possible acceptance and is the most widely recognized type of college accreditation

  • Credits and Degrees are easily transferrable

  • Eligible for all corporate tuition reimbursement plans

  • Instructor-led courses are provided

Drawbacks

  • It is usually more expensive than nationally accredited colleges

  • More liberal arts coursework is generally required

  • May offer less career-oriented programs

  • Employs high and competitive admission standards

Nationally Accredited Online Colleges

These are less preferred when compared with regionally accredited colleges, but they also offer various benefits.

Benefits

  • Usually, it is less expensive than its regionally accredited counterparts

  • Less liberal arts coursework is required

  • Offers more practical and career-oriented majors

  • Relaxed admission standards are generally employed

Drawbacks

  • Nationally accredited universities readily take in students from regionally accredited universities, while the other way around ... tough luck!

  • Coursework and degrees may not be widely accepted for professions that require licensing after degree attainment.

  • Corporate tuition and reimbursement plans may not be included.

  • Sometimes, instructor-led course sessions are not provided and one has to rely on self-study. 


Programmatic Accreditation

There is a third type of accreditation that prospective students should look for when evaluating institutions - programmatic accreditation, sometimes called 'specialized accreditation' or 'professional accreditation'.

While national and regional accrediting agencies review higher educational institutions as a whole, programmatic accrediting agencies examine individual academic units, programs or disciplinary offerings.

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.


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. 


Regional vs. National Accreditation - Why does it matter?

One of the most important factors to consider when selecting a college or university is whether or not your institution of choice is accredited nationally or regionally at the institutional level.

What Matters to you?

source - art2oinspire.me

Is my degree accredited?

Ensuring that your college is accredited is a key to making the most out of your education. Here’s how you can be sure that your institution is accredited.

  • Check for national or regional institutional accreditation.

  • Check the Department of Education’s Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs (DAPIP) to be sure that your institution is listed as either nationally or regionally-accredited.

  • Explore if your intended career path requires programmatic accreditation.

  • If you’re pursuing a career in Human Services, Business, Nursing, or a specialized area, it may benefit you to verify if your institution's degree program is accredited.  


How does it affect you?

Seeking admission to an institution which is not nationally or regionally accredited may lead to wastage of both time and money.

The kind of accreditation plays a major role in areas that may affect you like both -

  • A student (such as cost or how many credits may transfer in case you have to switch schools) and,

  • After graduation (such as employability, tuition reimbursement, and employment background checks).

Three Major Factors To Consider

Financial Aid

Students fail to receive federal financial aid if they attend an institution that is not regionally or nationally accredited. In order to receive federal financial aid, an institution must be a Title IV-eligible institution.

Title IV refers to the section of the Higher Education Act that oversees federal student aid.

Institutions deemed Title IV-eligible are qualified by the U.S. Department of Education. Title IV-eligible institutions can be either regionally or nationally accredited.

Scholarships are institution-based financial aid and are provided by the college depending on the students' needs and performance. 

Transfer of Credits

Transfer of credits is a complex matter and the decision of whether to accept previous credits or not lies in the hands of the receiving institution.

In case you decide to switch college, your new institution may not accept credits from a non-accredited institution.

Nationally accredited institutions accept credits from any other Nationally accredited unit or Regionally accredited unit as well, but the transfer of credits in case you are moving from a nationally accredited school to any regionally accredited college is difficult. 

Impact on Employment

Over 50% of all employers conduct background checks and confirm the educational credentials of potential employees.

Graduating from an accredited institution assures the employers that you’ve received your degree from a legitimate institution and you possess the skills required for their organization.

National Vs Regional Accreditation

Source - ed smart.org


Conclusion

Nationally Accredited Colleges rank 'better' in terms of the two most notable dimensions - Affordability and Ease of Admission.

Regionally Accredited Colleges, on the other hand, score 'better' on other criteria such as academic reputation and prestige, transfer of credit, and the widest possible acceptance by other universities.

So, depending on what factors matter the most to you, you must decide upon which type of accredited online programs to choose.

It is one of the most crucial decision one has to take, so, choose your online degree program accordingly.