What To Look For In Accreditation

Any institute of higher education that accepts federal funding for their educational programs must be accredited by an accrediting body that is recognized by The Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). CHEA is a U.S. based, nongovernmental body that acts as the clearinghouse for all accrediting bodies and sets policies and standards for accrediting agencies. If you are interested in learning about an institutions standing with their respective accrediting body, you can start by searching the CHEA database.  If you are looking for degree solution, check out degreesolutions.com.

There are three main types of accreditation

National Accreditation

Regional Accreditation

Regional accreditation was the original form of higher education accreditation that began in 1885 with a group of secondary schools in New England. It was for traditional schools seeking a standardized method to evaluate students seeking post secondary school education. Because of its initial purpose, its age and its New England roots, regional accreditation carriers more prestige in some academic circles than its younger sibling, national accreditation. There are six regional accreditation bodies and each school listed in our 2012 Top Colleges For Military and Veteran Discounts will have their respective accrediting body listed and we will denote if it is regional or national.

Why should you care about regional vs national accreditation? [important]

“A 2005 study by the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that, in making decisions on credit transfer, about 84 percent of U.S. higher education institutions considered whether the sending institution is accredited, and many had policies stating that they would accept credits only from regionally accredited institutions. About 63 percent of institutions told the GAO that they would accept credit from any regionally accredited institution, but only 14 percent similarly accepted credits from nationally accredited schools. One reason given for regional institutions' reluctance to accept credits from nationally accredited institutions is that national accreditors have less stringent standards for criteria such as faculty qualifications and library resources. Students who are planning to transfer credits from a nationally accredited school to a regionally accredited school are advised to ensure that the regionally accredited school will accept the credits before they enroll.”

National Accreditation

National accreditation was designed to evaluate schools that offered vocational, career, distance or technical study. Given the increased demand in non traditional education fueled mainly by adult learners, the scope of nationally accrediting bodies has changed to encompass degree programs geared mainly toward non traditional students. It is important to note that National accrediting bodies that are recognized by CHEA are reputable and a college or university that is not accredited by a body recognized by CHEA is not eligible for federal financial aid funding.

Specialized and Professional Accreditation

Specific fields of study and programs also undergo accreditation by their respective associations. The purpose of specialized and professional accreditation is to set forth academic learning standards for specific fields and to share best practices. An example of a specialized accreditation is the American Bar Association for law schools, or the AACSB (Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business) for colleges of business. You can find a full list of specialized accrediting bodies here.

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