College Accreditation Basics

While researching colleges, you may come across the terms "accredited" or "accreditation." But what exactly do these terms mean? Accreditation means that the school has met a certain set of guidelines set by a particular higher education accrediting body. Once the college or University has met the specified criteria, accreditation is granted. Accrediting agencies typically are private organizations who are approved by the National Education Association

There are three primary types of accreditiation:
  • Regional Accreditation: Regionally accredited colleges are academically oriented institutions, and those that typically offer bachelor's level degrees. Regional accreditation is awarded to colleges that meet criteria set by the accrediting agencies. There are six regional accrediting bodies.
  • National Accreditation: This is designated typically to vocational schools, religious schools, and often times online colleges. While nationally accredited institutions can accept credit from regionally or nationally accredited institutions, regionally accredited schools often do not accept credit from nationally accredited institutions.
  • Programmatic Accreditation: This type of accreditation is granted to specific programs (majors) within a college or university.

Find out more information on our accreditation pages.

Why is it Important?

You may wonder why accreditation is so important. First and foremost, major employers often check to see if potential employees have graduated from an accredited university and not just a run-of-the-mill school. Employers want to be sure they are hiring candidates who came from certified schools with high academic standards. Additionally, if a student chooses to go forward into graduate school, some colleges will turn down the applicant.

So how do you know if you're attending an accredited school? Since accreditation is very important, most accredited schools state their status on documentation and website material. If you aren't sure if your school is actually accredited, ask a college representative, as they will have a better indication of what type of accreditation the school holds, if any. You can also verify accreditation through the U.S. Department of Education.

In addition to employability, accreditted schools must uphold high standards of academic integrity and have a good transfer policy.

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