It can be a challenge to narrow down what school to attend before you’ve even chosen your major. A college or university can have national or regional accreditation. What’s the difference? That depends on your goals and circumstances.

Difference Between National and Regional Accreditation

The main difference between a regionally accredited institution list and a national one is that the regionally accredited credits are more widely accepted. This makes them easier to transfer. Non-profit colleges typically have regional accreditation rather than national accreditation.

Regional Accredited University List

There are six major regional organizations in the United States that are tasked with giving colleges and universities accreditation. These independent organizations are called accrediting bodies or associations.

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A college that meets the standards of the accrediting body will be on a list of regionally accredited colleges.

The MSA/CHE Accreditation

It’s a mouthful, and it carries a lot of weight in validating premiere collegiate programs around the country. The Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Higher Education offers accreditation to institutions for the entire college rather than the individual programs within the college.

The members of the higher education commission are charged with accrediting degree-granting schools in Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Maryland, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico and the U.S. Virgin Islands. Some international locations that also offer degree programs to American students also fall under the MSA/CHE watch.

New England Accreditation Association

Faculty, administrators and public staff from the member universities of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges Commission on Institutions of Higher Education accredit higher education schools in the Northeast area of the United States. Colleges and universities in Connecticut, Massachusetts, Maine, New Hampshire, Rhode Island and Vermont receive accreditation from this premiere commission.

Some international schools also receive accreditation if they offer programs for American students and meet the requirements of the NEASC-CIHE.

Centrally Located Association of Colleges

Colleges and universities in a wide swath across the middle of the country are accredited annually by the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools Higher Learning Commission. Degree-granting schools get on the list of regionally accredited colleges by meeting the basic requirements in the following states:

  • Arkansas
  • Arizona
  • New Mexico
  • South Dakota
  • Wisconsin
  • Nebraska
  • Ohio
  • Oklahoma
  • West Virginia
  • Kansas
  • Wyoming
  • Illinois
  • Indiana
  • Iowa
  • Colorado

Higher Education Schools in the Northwest

The Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges Commission on Colleges and Universities determines the specific criteria and procedures for evaluation to be considered for accreditation. Colleges and universities in the following states fall under this commission’s policies:

  • Alaska
  • Nevada
  • Oregon
  • Utah
  • Washington
  • Montana
  • Idaho

Accreditation for Southern States

Colleges and universities that offer associate, baccalaureate, master’s and/or doctoral degrees in the Southern states are accredited by the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Institutions that grant these types of degrees in the following states fall under the association’s accreditation guidelines:

  • Alabama
  • Florida
  • Tennessee
  • Texas
  • South Carolina
  • North Carolina
  • Mississippi
  • Virginia

International institutions in Latin America and other countries are also covered under the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges.

Western Colleges and Universities

There are three commissions within the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College Commission. These commissions work with three different segments of the education community, including k-12, junior and community colleges and senior schools.

The Western Association of Schools regionally accredited institution list includes California, Hawaii, the territories of Guam, Commonwealth of the Northern Marianas Islands, the Pacific Basin, Federate States of Micronesia, Republic of Palau and American Samoa among other international institutions of higher education.

About the Author

Kimberley McGee is an award-winning journalist with 20+ years of experience writing about education, jobs, business trends and more for The New York Times, Las Vegas Review-Journal, Today’s Parent and other publications. She graduated with a B.A. in Journalism from UNLV. Her full bio and clips can be seen at www.vegaswriter.com.