Not all colleges and universities are equal, nor are all college and university credits. As a result, credits and degrees from some institutions that call themselves colleges or universities may not be accepted at traditional and established colleges and universities. That acceptance may be crucial in pursuing a new career or degree, so students need to be careful. Accreditation is the key, but not all accreditation is equal. If you look at the faculty jobs section of college or university websites, one usual requirement is that your degree, undergraduate or graduate should be from a regionally accredited institution.
Educational accrediting agencies are non-governmental, non-profit, and widely recognized authorities. Most traditional private and public colleges and universities are regionally accredited by one of the following:
Middle States Commission on Higher Learning.
New England Association of Schools and Colleges.
Higher Learning Commission
Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities.
The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools.
Western Association of Schools and Colleges.
Accrediting Commission for Community Colleges and Junior Colleges
All of these agencies are recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA). Be sure that any college or university you attend has regional accreditation from one of these accrediting organizations or the degree or credits earned may carry little value.
Be especially wary of private colleges and universities that lack regional accreditation but claim to have national accreditation. Although national accreditation sounds like a higher status, in the world of academia, regional accreditation usually matters more. As a rule, regionally accredited universities and colleges recognize only credits or degrees from a college or a university accredited by one of the regional accrediting organizations above.
However, some specific fields of study do require accreditation from a national authority. The Commission on Accreditation of Allied Health Education Programs (CAAHEP) reviews and accredits postsecondary education programs in numerous health and related fields. A graduate of a law school that is not accredited by the American Bar Association might not be allowed to take a state’s bar exam without additional qualifications.
Regional accrediting agencies will list accredited colleges and universities on their websites, so prospective students can check whether the institution of higher learning has regional accreditation.
Before committing to any institution of higher learning, contact the academic advising office of a state university and be sure it would accept degrees and credits from the school you are thinking of attending. If you don’t, you may find yourself with a crushing student loan debt, and without the new career you expected would help pay for the education you received.