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Regional Accreditation Vs. National Accreditation: What’s the Difference?

Before you decide on a particular school, make sure that you know what you’re getting into.

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Before you decide on a particular school, make sure that you know what you’re getting into.

Sometimes, it can be challenging to find an online college that suits your needs without trying to work out accreditation. Even though it can seem like yet another thing to stress about, putting thought into your preferred educational facility’s accreditation can be important. However, not everyone is aware of why it’s important, or even what the differences are. Before you hand in your application form for your preferred college, consider the following information.

Different Accreditation Types

There is no single accredited type of educational facility. Instead, there are three: institutional, regional and national. Regional and national accredited colleges both have their pros and cons, so it’s essential to consider all options before making an informed choice. Otherwise, it may have implications for your career down the road.

Institutional Accreditation

Institutional accreditation refers to the general accreditation of an educational institution, such as a trade school, university college, or community college. This general name means an assurance system has been put in place to ensure any education provider is offering useful learning material its students can use in their chosen career path. Both national and regional accredited institutions have institutional accreditation.

Regional Accreditation

Regional accreditation is one of the most widely recognized forms of accreditation. The credits and degrees you earn from institutions with this accreditation are generally accepted in transfers. These institutions also usually offer instructor-led courses.  It’s worth knowing that regionally accredited colleges can sometimes be more expensive than their national counterparts. The admission standards can also be more competitive, and they tend to have fewer career-oriented programs.

National Accreditation

National accreditation is an accreditation process for facilities that aren’t limited to geographic areas. They may sometimes be less expensive than regionally accredited institutions and offer practical majors for those with particular careers in mind. Traditionally, the admission standards have been more relaxed, as well.

If you decide to attend a regionally accredited college at a later date, your credits may not be able to be transferred from a nationally accredited college. What’s more, self-study courses can be more of the focus rather than instructor-led classes. This may or may not suit your learning style.

How a School Gets Accredited

There is a multi-step process for an education provider to become accredited. Typically, an accreditation agency outlines the necessary criteria. The school will then evaluate itself against these criteria and make any changes it deems appropriate.

After they have carried out that process, an evaluation team will be sent by the accreditation agency to grant accreditation if they are satisfied. Once accreditation has been granted, the school is monitored and, sometimes, reevaluated to make sure it still meets the criteria. Accreditation can be removed if the agency is not satisfied with any part of the educational process.

Attending a Non-Accredited School

Lured in by the competitive fee structure, it can be tempting to enroll at a non-accredited school. However, it’s essential to consider the implications of doing so once the gloss of the healthier bank balance has worn off. If you pursue a degree from a non-accredited college, you may find it harder to get a job in your chosen field than if you had attended an accredited college — regional or national.

The policies and educational standards at non-accredited institutions may be vastly different from those with accreditation. Many employers know that and some might believe the work standard of someone with an unaccredited degree will be lower than someone with a degree from an accredited college.

However, that’s not the only downside. If you try to transfer part way through your education, your credits likely aren’t transferable to national or regional colleges and universities. We’ll touch on this more below. You may also not be eligible for any federal aid, such as loans and grants, that are available to students at accredited institutions.

Transferring Credits

For a variety of reasons like finances, the environment after college, and finding the right fit, a significant number of students decide to transfer schools partway through their education. This is where your decision around accreditation comes into play.

The credit transfer process can be complicated between regionally and nationally accredited institutions. Regional can transfer to regional, regional to national, and national to national. However, in most cases, national credits can’t be transferred to regional institutions. Therefore, if you do decide to transfer, your choice of university or college is quite important. Making sure you can transfer your credits can form a significant part of the decision-making process.

Accreditation is a term you will become quite familiar with as you browse the sites of various educational institutions. Before you shortlist any of your potential favorites, ensure you understand what its accreditation label could mean for your future prospects. 

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