Discover Your Strategies > The Rules for Independent Students

The U.S. Department of Education recognizes both regional and national accreditation agencies, both of which work to ensure that institutions of higher education meet acceptable standards of quality. Colleges and universities volunteer to have a detailed evaluation of their campus, finances, faculty, academic programs, educational delivery methods and more. Colleges that achieve accreditation become qualified to offer federal financial aid to their students.

The most familiar accreditation is regional accreditation. This means that one of the six regional accrediting agencies has evaluated their institution and has approved them for accreditation. The six agencies include:

Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools (MSACS) –

Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands as well as schools for American children in Europe, North Africa and the Middle East

New England Association of Schools and Colleges (NEASC) –

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

North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCACS) –

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

Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) –

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

Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) –

California, Hawaii, Guam, American Samoa, Micronesia, Palau and Northern Marianas Islands

Southern Association of Colleges and Schools (SACS) –

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


National accreditation, on the other hand, is based on the type of school, rather than on geographic location. A couple examples of national accreditation agencies include the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC) and the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC).

Regional accreditation is the more recognized standard among the educational community and the transfer of credits among regionally-accredited colleges is generally free of complication. There is a level of trust that roughly the same academic standards are being applied in each region. Prospective employers and graduate schools have also learned to trust the academic standards of students graduating from regionally-accredited schools.

Students should research the accreditation at every college they consider attending. Regional accreditation is always the safest choice, but that does not mean that students cannot be successful in the transfer of credits from nationally-accredited schools into those with regional accreditation. Some colleges will consider them and others will not. Students should research this before taking courses that are not regionally accredited.

One effective method for the transfer of credits from a nationally accredited college to a regionally accredited college is to see if the nationally-accredited course has been reviewed by the American Council on Education (ACE). Many regionally-accredited colleges accept ACE credit therefore, courses should transfer if the course is ACE recommended and if the receiving college accepts ACE courses. One example would be Penn Foster College in Arizona which has developed affordable, self-paced, independent study material for students. They have national accreditation, but over 150 of their courses have been recommended by ACE for college credit.




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