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What is the difference between nationally and regionally accredited schools?



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Accreditation means that a school has been evaluated by education authorities, to ensure it is offering high quality learning opportunities.

To ensure students receive quality higher education, accrediting agencies evaluate institutional programs. The two primary types of accreditation agencies are national and regional. While the two are similar in many ways, there are also some crucial differences.

National Accreditation

  • National accreditation is not based on geography. National accreditation was evaluates specific types of schools and colleges. For example, the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges of Technology (ACCSCT) evaluates career schools and technology programs while the Distance Education and Training Council (DETC) accredits colleges that offer distance education. Often, schools apply for national accreditation when their model of instruction or their course content is different from most "traditional" degree programs.
  • National accreditation agencies recognize institutions across the U.S. and some schools abroad.
  • National accreditation agencies started as associations of schools with a common theme.

Regional Accreditation

  • Regional Accreditation is evaluated by the regional agency that presides over its home state. They are all recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA).
  • Regional accreditation agencies cover specific regions within the U.S. The regions are the Middle States, New England, North Central, Northwest, Southern and Western.
  • Regional accreditation agencies started as leagues of traditional colleges and universities in a specific area.


The U.S. Secretary of Education recognizes both national and regional accreditation agencies. They perform the same functions, such as establishing program standards, setting goals for improvement and determining criteria for professional licenses and related courses.


Regional agencies formed from higher education institutions in geographic proximity to each other banding together. National agencies, on the other hand, started from higher education institutions with similar programs or interests banding together.