Regional vs National Accreditation: Overview, Similarities, and Differences

The word “accreditation” is not strange among people searching for or seeking to attend higher learning institutions, Although many may not fully understand what it means. Accreditation is one of the fundamental criteria that makes an institution come highly recommended or preferred.

It is critical to attend a college or institution that is accredited. Accredited universities can assist you in improving your job chances, financial aid possibilities, and alternatives for continued education. On the other hand, employers and other institutes of higher learning frequently see unaccredited colleges as untrustworthy.

Accreditation comes in various forms, with goals, processes, and outcomes. This article provides essential accreditation information, such as types of certification, differences, and similarities between regional and national accreditation, the accreditation procedure, and answers to frequently asked questions. Kindly read this article carefully, as it promises to be informative and insightful.

To start with, let us examine what accreditation means.

Table of Contents

What is Accreditation?

Accreditation signifies that a school has voluntarily submitted to a third-party accrediting agency’s assessment procedure to ensure educational standards. The accrediting agency looks at factors like teacher quality, student learning, professional results, and whether the school uses data-based research to improve its courses and student services during the evaluation.

Accreditation can also be seen as a voluntary quality assurance program in which schools have an outside entity review their programs and policies to ensure students receive a worthwhile and valuable education. 

Accreditation is also a procedure in which a college or university is evaluated by an impartial authority to see if it meets academic and ethical requirements. This peer-review process is the primary means of ensuring educational quality in the United States.

Schools can be accredited on a regional or national level. Regional accreditation is the gold standard for liberal arts degrees, whereas national accreditation is often utilized for vocational or trade schools or religious institutions.

READ ALSO: How Does College Accreditation Work?

Why You Need To Attend An Accredited Institution

Students gain from attending an accredited university in a variety of ways. Federal financial aid is only available to certified students, and many schools only accept qualifying degrees and transfer credits earned at approved schools. A degree from an approved institution is also required for numerous professional licenses and certifications.

Accreditation ensures that employers and other schools and institutions recognize an institution’s degree programs.

For many students, the distinction between regional and national accreditation is critical and crucial to consider when deciding where to pursue their education.

Attending an institution that is not recognized on either level is a waste of money and effort. The ideal accreditation for you is determined by criteria such as how many credits will transfer if you move institutions, how employable you will become, tuition reimbursements, and prices.

Now let us examine the types of accreditation.

SEE ALSO: Online School Accreditation: How It Works And Why It Matters

What is Regional Accreditation?

As the name implies, Regional Accreditation is accreditation by regional accrediting organizations operating in the country’s specific regions. These organizations grant accreditation to schools, colleges, and universities, showing that their credits and degrees meet minimum standards and requirements. This is a voluntary process that self-regulates the higher education industry. Qualifying for regional accreditation is a complicated process that institutions strive hard to earn. 

Regionally accredited colleges are the most academically oriented, non-profit, or state-owned institutions. The United States has six regional accrediting agencies for higher education institutions. Regional accrediting agencies are supervised by the U.S. Department of Education (E.D.) and the Council of Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). These agencies are in charge of institutions in their respective clusters of states. The regional accreditation bodies include: 

1. Middle States Commission on Higher Education

This covers Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands.

2. New England Association of Schools and Colleges

This body serves Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont.

3. North Central Association of Colleges and Schools

Serving Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming.

4. Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities

This body serves Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington.

5. Southern Association of Colleges and Schools

Serving Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia.

6. Western Association of Schools and Colleges

Covering California, Hawaii, Guam, and American Samoa.

The most exciting thing about having regional accreditation is that this form of certification is The pinnacle of college accreditation, the highest honor. It is also The most well-known sort of college accreditation. With regionally accredited institutions, Transfer credits and degrees are generally accepted, And All corporate tuition reimbursement plans are available to you. Institutions that are regionally accredited Typically offer instructor-led classes.

What is National Accreditation?

As you may have guessed Correctly, National Accreditation is done by National Accreditation Agencies. They focus on For-profit, faith-based, trade, and vocational institutions. National Accreditation is less prestigious than regional accreditation because it is less stringent. The Education Department oversees all national accrediting bodies, and nationally recognized institutions are eligible for most federal financial aid programs.

National accreditation agencies focus on accrediting career programs that offer certifications and degrees. Because these institutions have a more narrow concentration, they are less standardized than typical certified schools and must be assessed every three to five years. Many of these organizations in the United States are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and are not restricted by geography.

There are 2 National Accreditation Agencies most recognized by the CHEA, they are:

  • Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges & Schools (ACICS)
  • Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC)
  • Council on Occupational Education (COE)
  • Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools, Accreditation Commission (TRACS)
  • Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC)
  • Association for Biblical Higher Education (ABHE)
  • Association of Advanced Rabbinical and Talmudic Schools (AARTS)
  • Association of Theological Schools (ATS)
  • Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET)

Significant Similarities Between National Accreditation and Regional Accreditation

Similar to regional accreditation in many aspects, national certification signifies that a school has undergone a voluntary assessment by a third-party accrediting agency that reviewed the school’s academic programs, student resources, and institutional processes.

Regional and national accreditation are both techniques for ensuring that an entire institution, such as a university, college, community college, or trade school, provides high-quality education to its students. 

READ ALSO: What Is Accreditation: Overview And How It Works

Differences Between National Accreditation and Regional Accreditation

Regional accreditation is a sort of institutional accreditation that is older, more established, and more regarded. Nearly all public and nonprofit private institutions are regionally recognized, whereas trade, career, and for-profit schools are typically nationally accredited. Although national accreditation may be more prestigious, the contrary is true. Federal accreditation requirements are less stringent than regional accreditation standards. Thus national accreditation is less relevant when moving from one institution to another. National accreditation organizations frequently accredit schools that focus on career or religious education.

Regional accrediting agencies, as the name implies, function in various parts or regions of the country. They accredit a college’s instructional network, including online programs and distance learning choices. Regional accreditation bodies accredit a variety of schools that provide any or all of these degrees:

  • Associate degree
  • Baccalaureate degree 
  • Master’s degree 
  • Doctoral Degree

Compared to nationally accredited universities, regionally accredited institutions are frequently more expensive. More liberal arts courses are commonly required in regionally accredited institutions. In regionally accredited schools, less career-oriented Programs may be available, And Admissions requirements are frequently enforced to be more competitive.

On the other hand, regionally accredited institutions are frequently less expensive than nationally accredited institutions. It’s also possible that fewer liberal arts coursework will be required in nationally accredited institutions. Majors that are more practical and career-oriented may be available in nationally accredited institutions, and it is also possible that admissions rules will be loosened in nationally accredited institutions.

If you later attend a regionally accredited college, your credits may not be generally accepted in transfer. The difference is that credits earned at a regionally accredited institution are more widely accepted. The Coursework and degrees you offered or attained may not be generally accepted for occupations that require licensure following completion of a degree, which could impact your working in licensed professions like teaching, accounting, engineering, and healthcare. Corporate tuition plans are sometimes excluded in nationally accredited institutions. There are instances when self-study courses are offered instead of instructor-led workshops in nationally accredited institutions. 


Now that you have taken your time to read through this article, the concept of accreditation and the types of accreditation have been thoroughly explained. We hope the knowledge and information provided will help you choose the right institution to attend.

Please take note and carefully research your institution of choice before applying.

FAQs On Regional vs National Accreditation

Are employers willing to accept degrees accredited by a national body?

Career and technical degrees, vocational programs, and religious institutions are frequently accredited at the national level. Employers in specialized fields will accept nationally accredited degrees if they meet their demands and specifications.

Is it possible to get work with an unaccredited degree?

Because many firms prefer to recruit applicants with an accredited degree, attending an unaccredited institution or university may limit your job options. Employers may interpret a lack of accreditation as a sign that the job candidate is not as well-prepared for the position as other candidates.

What are the different types of accreditation for colleges?

Schools may be accredited on a national or regional level. National accreditation is for vocational, technical, faith-based, and for-profit institutions, whereas regional accreditation is for nonprofit, degree-granting institutions. Individual departments or programs within a school receive specialized or programmatic accreditation.

What does it signify when a college or university is not accredited?

A school can evade the norms and requirements imposed on authorized institutions by remaining outside the scope of accreditation. Unaccredited universities may follow their own rules, maintain autonomy, or offer unique programs that fall outside the boundaries of what accreditation allows them to do. It’s also possible that an unaccredited college isn’t a reputable institution of higher learning.

What happens if my college’s accreditation is suspended?

For whatever cause, a school’s accreditation has lapsed, indicating that it no longer meets accrediting standards. It tarnishes an institution’s reputation, leading to a drop in enrollment and, in certain cases, the closure of a school.


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