When choosing which school to attend, it's important to find a college or university that is accredited. Accreditation means that a school has been evaluated by education authorities, to ensure it's offering high quality learning opportunities.
Accreditation is not a "one size fits all" concept. There are different types - including regional, national and specialized accreditation. Once you understand the different classifications, you'll be better equipped to make the college choice that's right for you!
If an online college chooses to apply for regional accreditation, it is evaluated by the regional agency that presides over its home state. These are the only six bodies that can award regional accreditation, and they're all recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). You can learn more about these regional accrediting agencies, including which schools they accredit, by visiting their individual Web sites.
In the United States, there are six regional accrediting agencies that each cover a different section of the country. They include:
Middle State Association of Colleges and Schools
Sponsored accredited schools:
New England Association of Schools and Colleges
North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
Western Association of Schools and Colleges
Specialized accreditation, also known as program-based accreditation, is awarded to specific programs or departments within a college or university. Specialized accreditation is offered by agencies that represent specific fields of study or professional organizations. These agencies do not accredit entire colleges. Instead, they accredit the programs within certain colleges that prepare students for their industry.
Professionals should also investigate specialized accreditation - including students who study medicine, engineering, dentistry, nursing, or law as they generally need to graduate from a program with specialized accreditation:
- American Medical Association (AMA) accredits medical programs
- Accreditation Board of Engineering and Technology (ABET) accredits engineering programs
- American Dental Association (ADA) accredits dentistry programs.
- National Nursing League (NLN) accredits nursing programs
- American Bar Association (ABA) accredits law school programs
- Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) accredits business and accounting programs
Issues to Consider
Transfer-ability of Credits
While nationally accredited institutions will usually accept credit from regionally or nationally accredited institutions, regionally accredited schools often do not accept credit from nationally accredited institutions.Considering that state colleges and universities are all regionally accredited, and that state schools are an inexpensive local option for many students, this is definitely something to keep in mind.
Another important issue is cost. There are a few nationally accredited schools that may be inexpensive, and low tuition rates can be enticing. However, if you're eligible for financial aid and scholarships, you may be able minimize the cost difference that comes with a regionally accredited school.