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National Accreditation vs. Regional Accreditation

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As a prospective online student, you may need to choose between schools with national accreditation and schools with regional accreditation. Your choice may affect your ability to transfer credits, be accepted for graduate studies, or gain employment. Knowing the similarities and differences between national and regional accrediting agencies can help you make an educated decision.

Meet the Accreditors

The Distance Education and Training Council (DETC) is commonly referred to as a “national accreditor.” They are a single organization that focuses on accrediting distance learning schools throughout the United States.

The regional accreditors are a network of six organizations, each focusing on a specific region of the United States. Regional accreditors grant approval to brick-and-mortar schools as well as online schools.

What National Accreditation and Regional Accreditation Have in Common

Whether you choose a school with national accreditation or regional accreditation, you can rest assured that your degree is legitimate. Both forms of accreditation are recognized by the United States Department of Education (USDE) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Federal financial aid is available to students attending schools with either form of accreditation.

The DETC and all of the regional accrediting boards complete a thorough evaluation before granting accreditation to any school.

How National Accreditation and Regional Accreditation Are Different

Regional accreditation is the most commonly accepted form of accreditation. Because most brick-and-mortar colleges are accredited by a regional organization, they tend to be more accepting of transcripts and degrees that come from regionally accredited online schools. Some employers also prefer degrees from regionally accredited schools.

The DETC is a newer accreditor. Degrees from nationally accredited schools are becoming more acceptable both in the educational community and in the workplace. According to a 2006 DETC survey, 70% of graduates from DETC accredited schools who attempted to transfer credits or degrees were successful. Schools in the Higher Education Transfer Alliance have agreed to consider transcripts from both regionally and nationally accredited programs. However, it is important to remember that some colleges have policies to only accept transfers from regionally accredited schools.

Choosing Between National Accreditation and Regional Accreditation

When choosing between national accreditation and regional accreditation, consider your future goals. If your new degree will be your final degree, you plan to complete your education at the same school, and your future employers will not care about your school’s accreditation, either choice is acceptable. If you may change schools before completing your degree, you want to pursue further education after graduation, or you will seek employment with companies concerned about accreditation issues, you may be better off with a regionally accredited college.
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