Online students are repeatedly told that accreditation is important when it comes to choosing online colleges. Do we agree? Yes, accreditation is incredibly important but the matter does not end there. Did you know that there are two types of authorizations that colleges can apply for? There are two types of accreditation that online colleges can apply for – regional and national.
As an online student, the next stage is to understand the regional vs. national accreditation debate so that you can make the best choice between recognized colleges. The U.S. Department of Education defines the goal of accreditation as a way to “ensure that education provided by institutions of higher education meets acceptable levels of quality.” Evaluate both systems of accreditation before you make a choice.
In the process of regional accreditation, the colleges of the United States are divided into six geographical regions and are then judged based on a number of factors like quality of education, faculty and others.
The six regional accreditation authorities are:
- Middle State Association of Colleges and Schools
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges
- North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
- Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges
- Pros & Cons
Regionally accredited online colleges offer degrees that are most recognized and sought-after. The benefits of choosing such a college will perhaps be most evident when you are trying to transfer credits and degrees to other colleges. Regionally recognized college credits are easily accepted by all other colleges. If you are hoping to qualify for a corporate tuition reimbursement plan, a regionally accredited college is your best bet. This type of authorization is considered the gold standard and employers may sometimes prefer to hire students from colleges with regional credentials.
However, admission to these colleges is based on competitive examinations in some cases. They are also known to be more expensive as compared to nationally accredited colleges.
National accreditation is not determined by geographical location and is used to evaluate particular types of colleges that are generally classified as ‘vocational institutions’. The courses offered by nationally approved online colleges tend to be more career-oriented and less driven to the liberal arts.
While there are a number of national accreditation agencies, these three are the most popular and accepted of the lot:
- Distance Education & Training Council (DETC)
- Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges & Schools (ACICS)
- Accrediting Commission of Career Schools & Colleges (ACCSC)
- Pros & Cons
National accredited colleges are generally more economical than their regional counterparts. Admission is comparatively easier and they are perfect options for career oriented study courses. The overall system of imparting education is more practical and focused on relevant skills with less liberal arts study.
However, the credits you earn may or may not be transferable. The DETC which accredits online colleges is a fairly new authority and credit transfer may be difficult. If your chosen career option requires licensing after the degree, your nationally endorsed college degree may not be good enough for the licensing authorities. As compared to regionally accredited colleges, these colleges offer more self-study course-work without the help of instructors.
Regional vs. National Accreditation – Our Verdict
There are three major factors that you need to consider before choosing regional (RA) or national accreditation (NA).
- Credit Transfer: Do you intend to study further and move your credits to another college? RA might be a better option for you because NA colleges accept RA credits while vice versa may not be true.
- Employer Acceptability: Most employers won’t know the difference between RA and NA colleges. However, if your licensed profession (teaching, engineering, healthcare, etc.) does not accept your NA college degree, you might find yourself in hot water.
- Expense: Generally, RA colleges are more expensive as compared to their NA counterparts. However, if tuition cost is a big concern, you can apply for financial aid and scholarships which might make RA colleges affordable. Both types of online colleges qualify for federal loans and financial aid.
So, regional vs. national accreditation – which one is better? Make your choice depending on your specific needs. The goal of education is to add value to your life and career. Evaluate your academic and financial needs as well as your employers’ needs before you make the final choice.
About The Author: Stephanie Colaco is a freelance writer, editor and former HR professional. An Honors college graduate, she spends her free time helping students/professionals achieve their academic goals by publishing articles and creating blog posts that answer their many questions on sites like OnlineDegreeReviews.org and CollegesAndUniversities.org. Connect with her on Google+.