2024 Update: Breakthroughs in E-Learning and Their Impact on University Education
If you don’t know where to start, don’t worry. Below is your one-stop guide to everything you need to know about regional accreditation.
What Does Accreditation Mean?
Accreditation is a way of displaying that someone or something has been officially recognized as having the required status, quality, and credentials to perform a particular activity. It acts as quality assurance to prospective students and governing bodies, ensuring that your institution meets a certain standard when it comes to delivering quality education.
Gaining and maintaining your accredited status is an effective motivation tool to push you and your institution to continually improve the service that you provide.
Do I Have To Get Accredited?
To run a post-secondary education institution you will need to be accredited. Initially, you will be given a provisional license and you must then be granted accreditation by a Department of Education accreditor in a pre-agreed amount of time. If you fail to meet this deadline then your license is at risk of being suspended or even revoked.
Being accredited also comes with numerous other benefits such as the ones we’ve listed below.
1. If your institution is not accredited then your students will not be able to qualify for any federal or state loans to fund their education.
2. Employers will often use post-secondary institutions to train their staff and if you’re not accredited they may instead choose a direct competitor that is accredited. If you are a non-profit institution then it could even influence their decision to make a charitable donation to you or not.
3. If you are not accredited then you will not be able to offer certain professional licensure exams to students, essentially making the programs worthless. More information on what types of programs require accreditation can be found here.
4. Students can transfer their credits with greater ease between accredited institutions as they are uniformly recognized. It is unlikely that a student would wish to transfer to your institution if you are not accredited and this can be the deciding factor in switching to you or staying put.
5. Because the education at your institution is recognized as being of a higher quality you will be able to charge a larger amount for tuition.
What Types of Accreditations Are Available?
Two main types of accreditation are available to post-secondary education institutions.
As the name suggests, institutional accreditation is awarded to institutions as a whole that are recognized as having met a particular standard.
Programmatic (sometimes known as specialized) accreditations focus more on individual programs or specialist schools within the institution itself. To qualify for a programmatic/specialized accreditation you must already be accredited on an institutional level.
What Is Regional Accreditation? Institutional accreditation can be further broken down into two separate sub-categories.
Although, we will only be discussing regional accreditation on this page, be sure to check out our previous posts to learn more about National Accreditation and Programmatic Accreditation. We also have a page where you can learn more about the different types of post-secondary education.
Regional accreditation is a type of accreditation that is awarded to post-secondary education institutions but is divided up into six different accrediting agencies based on geographic location. For example, an institution in the northeast of the country will have its accreditation determined by a different agency than one in the southwest.
Although criteria between the six agencies may differ, this will be marginal and all will deliver a similar quality accreditation. There is a common understanding that regional accreditation is more difficult to obtain than national accreditation and due to this, is the superior option.
Regional accreditation typically costs at least $100,000 which will cover
- Accrediting agency fees
- Staff required to meet the accreditor's minimum standard
- Consulting fees should you choose to hire an accreditation consultant
With many seeing regional accreditation as the most prestigious available, if your institution is regionally accredited then you can charge more for your services.
Regionally accredited institutions are also eligible for all corporate tuition reimbursement whereas this is not guaranteed for national accreditation.
Who Are the Regional Accrediting Agencies?
Accrediting agencies are private, non-governmental organizations that assess the quality of post-education institutions and programs.
All accrediting agencies are assessed, regulated, and recognized by both:
The US Department of Higher Education (DOE)
The Council for Higher Education Acceleration (CHEA)
If they are not recognized by at least one of these regulatory bodies then they are not a legitimate accrediting agency and should be avoided as their ‘accreditation’ is not recognized. Every few years agencies are reviewed and if they fail, they lose their recognized status. If your institution is accredited by an agency that loses its status then you will also lose yours and will have to begin the accreditation process again.
For more information about their role in recognizing accrediting agencies read one of our previous posts here.
Regional Accrediting Agencies
There are currently six regional accrediting agencies that operate within the United States which are collectively known as the Council of Regional Accrediting Commissions (C-RAC).
These six agencies are:
New England Commission of Higher Education (NECHE)
Higher Learning Commission (HLC)
Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
WASC Senior College and University Commission
To see which agency serves your area see Open Your University tab in the menu that explores the different types of post-secondary education.