Prospective Student: “Hello, 123 University – I have heard that accreditation is important when looking for a degree. Is this true, and is your institution accredited?”
123 University: “Why of course we are. We are accredited through the Derek Zoolander Center for Kids Who Can’t Read Good And Wanna Learn To Do Other Stuff Good Too Accreditation Agency.”
Prospective Student: “Great! I’ll apply right away!”
HOLD ON THERE!
All funny business aside, accreditation is a serious subject. It is critically important prospective students looking at institutions of higher education to understand all types of accreditation. This understanding will ensure the choice you are making on your education is one that is right for you and will be the most beneficial to in the future. This blog post will focus on the two most common forms of accreditation: regional and national.
Accreditation is an external review process to ensure educational institutions are meeting standards for quality education and services. Accreditation of nearly 3,000 colleges and universities in the United States is carried out in six geographic regions through a process known as regional accreditation.
The six 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/distance college or university chooses to apply for regional accreditation, it will be evaluated by the regional accreditation agency based on where the school resides. For example, Colorado State University Continuing Education is regionally accredited through the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools because its programs are delivered from Colorado.
Unlike regional accreditation, national accreditation isn’t based on a school’s location but the type of school. Traditionally, this has included technical, career, and online schools. Because of the specialized nature of the degree earned and the curriculum at these institutions, it is hard to compare with traditional degree programs.
A couple national accreditation agencies are:
- Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology
- Distance Education and Training Council
- Regionally accredited schools often do not accept credit from nationally accredited schools; however, nationally accredited schools will accept credits from schools that are regionally or nationally accredited. For example, if you have a bachelor’s degree that is nationally accredited, a regionally accredited institution may not recognize your credits for transfer or application.
- Both types of accreditation are voluntary – make sure the institution you are looking at has taken the initiative to be accredited.
- Both types qualify institutions to offer federal financial aid.
Accreditation is important, no matter which type. Just be sure it fits your professional and educational goals. Walk away with your diploma knowing you will be able to pursue additional degrees if you want and that your employer will stand by your degree and reward your efforts. Even though the diploma would be fun to read, you don’t want to earn a degree from the University of Zoolander.