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Regional v. National Accreditation: Why You Should Care

January 31, 2008 By: Category: Best College Tips, Choosing a College

Most students don’t even think to ask whether their school is regionally or nationally accredited, but this can be a huge mistake.  Intuitively, you would think that nationally accredited programs provide more than regionally accredited programs; however, this isn’t necessarily the case.  Both accreditations have their ups and downs and both are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. So make sure to read this article so you don’t kick yourself later.

Most traditional schools (Big Ten, Pac-10, etc.) are actually regionally, not nationally accredited.  This is because regional accrediting agencies started as leagues of traditional colleges, and national accrediting agencies started as associations of institutions that served schools that weren’t originally colleges or universities.  One accreditation isn’t necessarily better than the other.  It just depends on your situation.  The following is a list of questions to ask before you choose:

1) Is there any chance you will transfer your credits?
Nationally accredited schools almost always accept credits from regionally accredited schools, but regionally accredited schools often DO NOT accept credits from nationally accredited schools.  This is the most important thing to consider.

2) Are you planning to attend graduate school?
Again, nationally accredited graduate programs almost always accept regionally accredited undergrad degrees, but regionally accredited programs DO NOT always accept nationally accredited undergrad degrees.

3) Are you on a really tight budget?
Some nationally accredited programs are less expensive than regionally accredited programs, and non-accredited programs are sometimes even cheaper. 

4) Do you plan to work for a big company?
Most employers would never even think to ask whether your college was regionally or nationally accredited, but they might ask whether it was accredited.  I would especially worry about big companies with trained Human Resource professionals.  They would be the most likely to ask about it.

5) Are you seeking career advancement or personal enrichment?
If you are just going back to school for fun or to meet the requirements of your current employer, then it might not matter whether the school is accredited at all.

In conclusion, it totally depends on your situation, but if you ask the right questions then you’ll make the right decision and make your life a lot easier. 


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