To manage the quality of the higher education experience, better schools seek accreditation with various accrediting bodies. Committees of educators or private citizens (rather than the government) will audit the school to make sure it meets specific quality standards. Institutions are not required to seek accreditation but most do.
The highest type of accreditation are the 6 regional accrediting associations that cover the entire country. These include:
- Middle States Commission on Higher Education – Delaware, District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, Virgin Islands
- New England Association of Schools and Colleges – Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont
- North Central Association of Colleges and Schools Higher Learning Commission – Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, West Virginia, Wisconsin, Wyoming
- Northwest Accreditation Commission – Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Washington
- Southern Association of Colleges and Schools – Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, Virginia
- Western Association of Schools and Colleges – Includes both Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities and Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges – American Samoa, California, Guam, Hawaii, Pacific Basin
You will also find national agencies that may accredit specific types of schools like religious or technical institutions.
Accreditation is important for a few reasons:
- The degree you earn will be more recognized if you earn it at an accredited institution.
- If you want to transfer schools, those credits you have earned from completed coursework are more likely to transfer from one accredited institution to another.
- Most financial aid, scholarships and grant programs are only available for accredited institutions.
Accreditation doesn’t guarantee the institution you want to attend adheres to high standards but lack of accreditation can serve as “red flag” that any credits or degrees you earn may not be accepted by other institutions.
To check if the school you are considering is accredited, visit the Council for Higher Education Accreditation’s website.