Nationally Accredited vs. Regionally Accredited Online Programs

Accreditation. As a prospective student chances are good this word will be tossed at you from every direction in your hunt for higher education. Amid the countless acronyms and long agency names, it seems every educational institution under the sun claims accreditation by one group or another.

Is accreditation important? Is it a factor you should consider? The answer is absolutely!

What is accreditation?

Accreditation is a voluntary process by which colleges and universities undergo rigorous evaluations by education authorities to ensure adherence to high educational standards.
There are two main types of higher education accreditation, regional and national. While arguments over regional vs. national may play out in online forums and institution websites, the truth is that each type has a niche. Which is better depends on what you’re looking for.

Regional accreditation

Regional is considered to be the gold standard of college accreditation. Regional accreditation means a college or university has been accredited by an approved association in its geographic area. These associations typically focus on evaluating liberal arts colleges and universities. Regionally accredited colleges and universities tend to be favored by students interested in:

  • Prestige- regional is the most widely recognized type of college accreditation
  • Degree and credit recognition- regionally accredited degrees and credits are more widely accepted in advanced education programs and transfer.
  • Corporate tuition reimbursement plan acceptance- all regionally accredited degree programs are eligible for corporate reimbursement plans.
  • Instructor-led courses- regionally accredited colleges generally provide instructor-led courses, rather than self-study courses.

National accreditation

National accreditation is not based on geography, and tends to focus on evaluating specific types of non-traditional colleges and schools, such as career, trade and religious colleges. These institutions often operate on different instruction models and offer different course content than regionally accredited liberal arts colleges. Nationally accredited schools and colleges tend to be less expensive and often employ more relaxed admission standards. These schools may require less liberal arts course work and generally provide more job-specific skill sets.

Choose what’s right for you

Earning an online degree is a practical and rewarding way to advance your education and career. Online students have an ever-increasing selection of exceptional, highly respected programs to choose from. Whether nationally or regionally accredited, the program you choose should meet your needs and help you to reach your goals. For more information about online college and university accreditation, visit the U.S. Department of Education,, and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation,, websites.

Published on April 15, 2014