Before you enroll in an online college degree program, it’s important to make sure the school has institutional accreditation from a regional accreditation agency, not just a national accreditation agency. This means that the school as a whole meets the high standards required by the appropriate regional accreditation organization for the school’s physical location – even if the courses are taken online.
The Recognized Regional Accreditation Organizations
The Council for Higher Education Accreditation recognizes the following regional accreditation bodies:
- The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges Western Association of Schools and Colleges, based in California, is responsible for accrediting schools that grant associate’s degrees in California and Hawaii, as well as several territories and islands.
- The Higher Learning Commission, headquartered in Chicago, accredits colleges and universities throughout Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, West Virginia, Wisconsin and Wyoming.
- The Middle States Commission on Higher Education, based in Philadelphia, accredits schools across Delaware, Maryland, New Jersey, New York and Pennsylvania, as well as those in Washington, D.C., the Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico.
- The New England Association of Schools and Colleges Commission on Institutions of Higher Educationhandles accreditation of schools in Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont.
- The Georgia-based Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges is responsible for regional accreditation in Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas and Virginia.
- The WASC Senior College and University Commission, like the Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges Western Association of Schools and Colleges, handles matters of regional accreditation in California and Hawaii. However, instead of focusing on institutions that grant associate’s degree, this organization accredits schools that offer degrees at the bachelor’s level or higher.
Regional Accreditation of Online Programs
For students who attend traditional, on-campus programs, it’s clear which regional accreditation organization their school should have. As an online college student, though, you might never set foot on campus. Your school could be hundreds of miles away. How do you know which regional agency accredits your college?
Accreditation is one reason it’s important to know where your school’s physical location is, even if you never have to commute to it. Your online college should proudly provide information about which of the accreditation organizations awards it regional accreditation – and that accreditation should match up with the location of the school’s physical headquarters and mailing address. If in doubt, check with the appropriate accreditation organization directly – before you enroll.
Because regional accreditation is often regarded as more reputable than national accreditation, you want to make sure that the online college you choose to attend is regionally accredited. Otherwise, you could eventually find yourself learning that the courses and credits you completed at this school won’t transfer to another institution, or that the degree you worked hard to earn doesn’t hold much weight with employers or state licensing boards.