It’s no secret that tuition continues to increase, and given the cost, it’s important to make sure that the education you receive is worth the money you pay for. A fundamental way to examine the quality of a school’s courses or online courses is to examine the accreditation status of the school.
What is accreditation?
University accreditation is taught by a group of assessment committees called accreditation agencies. They periodically review the curriculum of each school to confirm that each institution offers high-quality education to students.
Legitimate accreditation agencies are recognized by the Higher Education Accreditation Council (CHEA) and/or the United States Department of Education (ED), which certify that schools meet certain standards of academic excellence. A full list of accreditation bodies can be found in the ED database of accredited post-secondary institutions and programs or on the CHEA website.
Why is there accreditation?
There are no federal regulations for higher education in the United States regarding quality and academic standards. Instead, each state maintains its own guidelines. As state governments provide flexible supervision, some institutions practice dishonest practices and offer inferior education. Independent accreditation bodies are therefore the only way for potential students to assess the educational performance of an institution.
Regional accreditation vs. national
There are three types of accreditation bodies: regional, national, and programmatic. The quadrennial public and private institutions are accredited by seven regional bodies, each respecting the standards of a specific geographic area. Please note that two university accreditation agencies are affiliated with the Western Association of Schools and Colleges. Below is a list of regional accreditation bodies as well as the states and regions within their region.
Intermediate State Higher Education Commission (MSCHE): Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands, and certain geographic areas outside the United States.
New England Higher Education Commission (NECHE): Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, and some international programs.
Northwestern Higher Education Commission (NWCCU): Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington, and certain international programs and accreditation of programs offered by distance education in these institutions.
National organizations accredit business and vocational schools, including Bible schools. Many non-profit organizations are accredited nationally, while non-profit schools are accredited regionally. In the United States, most schools are regionally accredited.
Programmatic accreditation bodies such as the Nursing Education Accreditation Commission or the Chiropractic Education Council review specific departments to determine whether their programs adequately prepare graduates for careers in this field. CHEA maintains a directory of these groups, some of which are certified by CHEA, some by ED, and others by both.