A U.S. higher education institution’s quality is determined by private, non-profit accrediting agencies who evaluate the effectiveness of the institution’s faculty, curriculum and administration. The United States Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation independently evaluate accrediting agencies to ensure that they are operating fairly.

USDE approval is required for institutions to receive federal aid for their students. Typically, credit from non-USDE approve schools will not transfer to USDE approved ones. While not necessary, institutions often seek CHEA accreditation because of the prestige it offers.

Regional and National Accreditation

Prior to July of 2020, the USDE distinguished two types of institutional accrediting agencies: regional accrediting agencies and national accrediting agencies. Both are now recognized and approved by the USDE, without distinction. Unlike the past, this means that regional and nationally accredited schools are effectively the same in the eyes of the USDE — students can get federal financial aid and their credits and degrees should be respected by schools accredited with either form of accreditation.

Given the recency of the changes, we still recommend finding a regionally accredited school. These are the seven regional accreditation agencies:

Regional Accreditors USDE Approved CHEA Approved
Middle States Commission of Higher Education (MSCHE) Yes Yes
New England Commission for Higher Education (NECHE) Yes Yes
The Higher Learning Commission (HLC) Yes Yes
Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU) Yes Opted out
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC) Yes Yes
The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, Western Association of Schools and Colleges (ACCJC) Yes Yes
WASC Senior College and University Commission Yes Yes

Regionally accredited schools are traditionally more respected and typically offer better educational programs than nationally accredited schools. Regionally accredited schools used to only accept transfer credits or honor degrees from other regionally accredited schools. This is supposed to no longer be the case, so students of a nationally accredited schools who wish to transfer to a regionally accredited school, for example, should have fewer issues with transferring credits to a new school. However, schools and states are in the process of changing their rules and requirements to fit the new guidelines.

It is our view that finding a regionally accredited college or university is still a safer choice. Regionally accredited schools are still more respected by the general public because they are the “big name” schools people have come to know as reputable schools. That being said, despite changes with the USDE, employers may still value an online degree from a regionally accredited institution more than an online degree from a nationally accredited institution.

Almost all regionally accredited online Texas colleges and online Texas universities are regionally accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC).

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