Regional Versus National Accreditation FAQ’s

By University of Arkansas Grantham September 13, 2012

At Grantham University, we're frequently asked the difference between Regional Accreditation and National Accreditation. Over time, we've developed this list of Frequently Asked Questions in response:

What is the difference between national and regional accreditation?

There are many more similarities than differences between national and regional accreditors; this has become increasingly true over time. Both types of accreditors are eligible for recognition by the U.S. Department of Education. Both are reviewed periodically by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) to make certain that they meet the criteria for federal recognition as published in Title 34 of the Code of Federal Regulations. ED’s recognition criteria is exactly the same for national accrediting agencies and regional agencies. The primary function of both national and regional accreditors is to assure quality of education and continuous improvement.

As is noted in the name, one main difference between national and regional accreditation in the geographic scope of the agency. National accreditors accredit schools throughout the United States, while regional accreditors limit their scope to a specific set of states.  It should be noted that both national and regional accreditors may also accredit non-U.S. institutions.

Another difference is the type of school accredited, although this distinction is diminishing. Historically, national accreditors were formed to accredit career-focused, non-degree granting trade schools. However, as earning a degree has become more important in the United States, these schools have increased the academic rigor of their programs and now many offer associate’s, bachelor’s and graduate degrees. Regional accreditors, on the other hand, began by accrediting private and state supported liberal arts and research institutions, and continue to do so today. However, regional accreditors have expanded their scope to include many traditionally career-focused schools.

Some national accreditors have distinct missions. For example, the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC, formerly DETC) specializes in accrediting distance-learning institutions - those are the only institutions DEAC accredits, while regional accrediting bodies also accredit "brick and mortar" resident colleges and universities.

For more information on accreditation in the United States, please visit the U.S. Department of Education’s website at https://www.ed.gov/accreditation, and the Council of Higher Education Accreditation’s website at https://www.chea.org/.

Is one accreditation better than another?

Educational institutions seek accreditation from the type of agency best suited to the institution’s mission and to helping assure the quality of the education provided to its students. Perceptions and opinions differ, but there are more similarities than differences between the two types of accreditation. Both are eligible for recognition by the Department of Education. Both are reviewed periodically by the U.S. Department of Education (ED) to make certain that they meet the criteria for federal recognition as published in Title 34 of the Code of Federal Regulations. ED’s recognition criteria is exactly the same for national accrediting agencies and regional agencies.

For more information on accreditation in the United States, please visit the U.S. Department of Education’s website at https://www.ed.gov/accreditation, and the Council of Higher Education Accreditation’s website at https://www.chea.org/about-accreditation.

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University of Arkansas Grantham
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