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What is Regional Accreditation?

By Vanessa Harvey
Updated May 17, 2024
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Regional accreditation refers to the membership that an institution of higher education has in an association that is recognized regionally and nationally. It might be thought of as a "stamp of approval" from a trusted agency in the field of education. This approval serves to ensure students and funders of educational costs that all of the educational programs offered by the school are of high quality, current, standardized and widely accepted by employers. In some countries, such as the United States, these associations exist regionally rather than nationally.

These regional associations handle accreditation of colleges and universities. Groups of post-secondary schools formed agencies in the late 1800s for the express purpose of improving the educational programs they offered. This step to oversee quality of education took place in six geographic regions in the United States, and each agency was responsible for the schools in its region. The agencies that these colleges and universities formed came to be recognized as authorities on academic programs with the insight and experience necessary to offer what is known as regional accreditation.

Colleges and universities must meet the criteria established by the accrediting agency to be considered for regional accreditation, a review process that can take several years. Schools must prove that they are legitimate, they must meet student enrollment requirements, and they must grant degrees, among other requirements. Despite the requirements of the accrediting agencies, a variety of educational institutions can apply for membership. Some of the types of schools that have regional accreditation include private institutions, those that are affiliated with the military and schools that are affiliated with a religious organization or church. They can be public or private institutions that are for profit or non-profit, or they can even be an online school.

There are some benefits to attending a school with regional accreditation. College credits earned at a regionally accredited school almost always transfer to other schools, whether those institutions are regionally or nationally accredited. Students planning to attend graduate school or to work for large corporations generally are encouraged to study at a college or university that holds regional accreditation because of the wide respect for their stamps of approval. Quality of education at such schools, however, is not necessarily superior to the quality of education available in institutions that are not members in one of the respected accrediting agencies.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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