Subject area: 
Online Learning

Accreditation is a process used by higher education to evaluate colleges, universities, and educational programs for quality and to assess their efforts toward continuous quality improvement. Accreditation is conducted by private, not-for-profit organizations designed specifically to conduct external quality reviews. In the United States, there are regional accrediting organizations operating in six different regions of the country. These organizations review degree-granting nonprofit and for-profit institutions within their regions, both two-year and four-year schools. Regional accrediting bodies accredit colleges and universities that operate totally online, just as they accredit traditional institutions.

Regional accreditation ensures that an institution’s academic program meets acceptable levels of quality. Institutions must be accredited by a federally recognized accrediting agency to qualify for participation in federal financial aid programs that provide low cost loans to students. Oftentimes, too, employers want to verify the accreditation of a college or university before they will pay for tuition or fees as part of a company-sponsored benefits program.

Attending a regionally accredited institution is an important consideration if you think you might want to transfer credits to another institution or will want to pursue admission to graduate programs later on. Regionally accredited colleges and universities typically accept credits from other regionally accredited institutions. Each individual institution may decide which transfer credits to accept, however.

The regional accrediting bodies recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the states (WICHE states underlined) whose institutions they oversee are:

♦ Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools

Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, and Virgin Islands

♦ New England Association of Schools and Colleges

Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont

♦ The Higher Learning Commission—North Central Association of Colleges and Schools

Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming

♦ Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities

Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington

♦ Southern Association of Colleges and Schools

Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia

♦ Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities—Western Association of Schools and Colleges

Four-year institutions in California, Hawaii, American Somoa, Guam, Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of the Marshall Islands, and Republic of Palau.

♦ Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges—Western Association of Schools and Colleges

Two-year institutions in California, Hawaii, American Somoa, Guam, Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas, Federated States of Micronesia, Republic of the Marshall Islands, and Republic of Palau.