Is Regionally Accredited Better Than National?

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Updated: February 29, 2024, Reading time: 10 minutes

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I had always wondered if regionally accredited was better than national. However, I had never answered this confusing question until recently, when I was comparing two colleges for a master’s degree program. One was regionally accredited, and the other was nationally accredited.

If you are wondering the same question: “Is regionally accredited better than national?” keep reading as I will tell you everything I know about this interesting topic.

Grad School Center is an advertising-supported site. Featured or trusted partner programs and all school search, finder, or match results are for schools that compensate us. This compensation does not influence our school rankings, resource guides, or other editorially-independent information published on this site.

Is Regionally Accredited Better Than National?

Regionally accredited schools are often better for people looking for a real challenge and a prestigious degree, while nationally accredited ones are better for someone looking for a faster and slightly easier degree to get started as soon as possible with their professional career.

Regionally accredited schools are intensive learning institutions focused on delivering the best quality of education. They are typically more expensive than nationally accredited schools, which confer a degree of prestige and poise on those who attend them.

Nationally accredited schools are learning institutions that offer education in trade courses, online, and vocational careers. They usually have less rigorous coursework and a more flexible course timeline.

Which Are The Main Accrediting Bodies?

When deciding between a regionally accredited and a nationally accredited institution, it is crucial not just to stop at the type of accreditation but also to go further in the specifics and analyze the institution’s accrediting body.

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Talking about national accrediting bodies, the most popular and reputable ones include:

On the other hand, according to the US Department of Education, regional accreditation is actually the most generally accepted kind of accreditation, having been granted to over 85% of all US universities.

Unlike the many national accrediting bodies, the regional accreditation bodies are just seven:


The significant challenges with accreditation are:

What Are the Differences Between National and Regional Accreditation?

There are many differences between national and regional accreditation, and some of them are:

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Scope of Recognition

National Accreditation: Accrediting bodies at the national level accept this kind of accreditation, which focuses on particular kinds of establishments like online colleges and vocational schools.

Regional Accreditation: Accreditation is granted by one regional accrediting body covering institutions within defined geographic regions, such as the Middle States or the Southern Association.

Accrediting Bodies

National Accreditation: National accrediting organizations like the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS) grant accreditation, which the U.S. Department of Education acknowledges.

Regional Accreditation: Do all Ivy League colleges have regional accreditation? A standard shared by the top 25 schools in the 2021 US News & World Report Best National University Rankings. Accreditation is granted by one of the seven regional accrediting bodies, each responsible for a specific geographic area.

Focus on Programs

National Accreditation: Specialized or career-oriented programs are often prioritized in national accreditation, focusing on technical or trade schools and other institutions that provide focused vocational and practical training.

Regional Accreditation: Assesses the entirety of the institution, including all academic offerings and support services, providing a comprehensive evaluation of its overall educational quality, effectiveness, and operational excellence.

Transferability of Credits

National Accreditation: Credits may be less universally accepted by other institutions, particularly those with regional accreditation.

Regional Accreditation: Credits are generally more widely accepted by other regionally accredited institutions, providing greater transferability.

Rigor of Standards

National Accreditation: Accreditation standards under national accreditation may exhibit variability, often characterized by flexibility to accommodate diverse institutions with distinct educational approaches and program offerings.

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Regional Accreditation: Embracing stringent and uniform criteria, regional accreditation exemplifies a heightened academic and operational excellence standard, emphasizing a commitment to rigorous educational benchmarks and institutional effectiveness.

Recognition by Employers and Grad Schools

National Accreditation: Some employers and graduate schools may recognize degrees from nationally accredited institutions, depending on the field.

Regional Accreditation: Widely recognized and accepted by employers, graduate schools, and other educational institutions, offering broader recognition.

Eligibility for Federal Funding

National Accreditation: National accreditation could constrain access to federal funding, potentially limiting students’ eligibility for essential financial aid programs and affecting their ability to afford higher education.

Regional Accreditation: Typically, regional accreditation serves as a necessary condition for accessing federal funding, and safeguarding students’ qualifications for various federal financial aid initiatives and support programs.

Institutional Autonomy

National Accreditation: Institutions that hold national accreditation frequently have more latitude in determining how to best implement their standards and instructional strategies, customizing them to fit particular objectives and distinctive institutional features.

Regional Accreditation: Regional accreditation strengthens a commitment to upholding uniform and high academic standards throughout recognized schools within a particular geographic region, even though its defined requirements may constrain institutional autonomy.

Knowing the differences between national and regional accreditation enables people to choose a school that will best serve their academic and professional goals by making educated selections, resulting in a well-thought-out and deliberate choice for their educational path.

How Does a College Get Accredited?

The accreditation process for colleges is a comprehensive and systematic evaluation that ensures institutions meet established standards of quality and effectiveness. The process involves several key steps and is typically conducted by accrediting bodies recognized at regional or national levels.

Independent Research

The institution must perform a comprehensive self-study as the first stage in the accreditation process. This introspective study evaluates the institution’s goals, curricula, faculty credentials, student support services, administrative procedures, and mission. The self-research thoroughly summarizes the institution’s advantages, disadvantages, and potential growth areas.

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Accreditation Report Preparation

The institution prepares An accrediting report based on the results of the independent research. This document describes how the organization satisfies or surpasses the accreditation requirements established by the accrediting authority. 

External Evaluation

To obtain accreditation, a group of experts must perform an external evaluation. This team, which is frequently made up of academics and administrators from other universities, visits the campus, interacts with staff and students, and evaluates the accrediting report. 

Verifying the self-study’s high-quality results and confirming that the institution complies with the requirements of the accrediting body are the two main goals of the external review.

Accreditation Decision 

The accrediting authority decides whether to grant accreditation after receiving the external evaluation results. Institutions may be awarded accreditation, put on probation if specific shortcomings are found, or denied accreditation if the necessary requirements are unmet. 

Typically, accreditation is awarded for a predetermined amount of time, after which schools must renew. It is not a one-time event.

Continuous Improvement

Accreditation is a commitment to ongoing progress rather than a one-time accomplishment. To improve the caliber of education offered, accredited schools must resolve any deficiencies, put the accrediting body’s recommendations into practice, and participate in continuous self-evaluation.

Monitoring and Renewal 

To ensure they adhere to accreditation requirements, accredited institutions are periodically monitored. They also have to go through a renewal process to keep their certification. The cyclical nature of certification emphasizes how crucial it is for higher education to maintain a constant commitment to quality and advancement.

What Are the Benefits of Accreditation?

There are many benefits associated with a school’s accreditation, and they include:

Federal Financing

An institution’s eligibility for essential federal financing is guaranteed by accreditation, a fundamental component of high-quality education. This funding helps us to continue upholding our high standards, making resource investments, and improving the quality of education for every student. It is the lifeblood of our academic endeavors.

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Credits from accredited institutions carry greater transferability, facilitating a smoother academic journey. Recognized accreditation ensures the quality and standard of education, fostering trust among institutions. Consequently, students find transitioning and applying their earned credits easier when moving between accredited educational entities.


Graduates of accredited schools frequently have more employability due to the stringent standards and quality assurance established by these institutions. Employers usually respect the broad education and abilities gained in such programs, which gives graduates a competitive advantage in the labor market.

Global Recognition

International recognition of a school’s dedication to quality is provided via accreditation, which cuts across national boundaries. International students benefit from this recognition since degrees from recognized universities are respected and valuable, giving graduates a leg up in both the academic and professional worlds.

Professional Development 

Faculty and staff development is given top priority at accredited colleges. Teachers can provide high-quality instruction because they receive ongoing training and stay up-to-date on the latest developments in education. 

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This dedication improves the educational process and guarantees that students take advantage of the most recent developments in pedagogy, equipping them for possibilities and difficulties in the future.

What Is the Best Regional Accreditation?

In the US, regional certification is widely regarded as the top standard. Strict academic requirements are guaranteed by the six regional accrediting organizations, which include the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and the Higher Learning Commission. However, the “best” certification varies according to the school’s location and each student’s academic objectives.

Is a Nationally Accredited Degree Worth Anything?

Regionally certified degrees are usually more respected than those with national accreditation. Regionally recognized degrees are preferred by many employers and educational institutions because of their higher academic standards. 

Even though certain professions might accept degrees that have been nationally validated, it’s essential to find out about company preferences and industry conventions to make sure the degree will be valued and recognized.

What Is the Gold Standard for College Accreditation?

Regional accreditation, governed by seven regional accrediting agencies, is the gold standard for college accreditation in the United States. Schools that fulfill these organizations’ strict operational and academic standards are acknowledged for offering the best quality education.

Is Regionally Accredited Better Than National - fact


Regional and national accreditation decisions are based on personal objectives and requirements. National certification might be appropriate for specialist fields, even though regional accreditation is well known for its strict criteria. In the end, the criteria should be in line with one’s goals for schooling and profession.

We’re certain of one thing—your search for more information on picking the best graduate degree or school landed you here. Let our experts help guide your through the decision making process with thoughtful content written by experts.