College Accreditation: What Does It Mean?

Aug 19, 2013 No Comments by

Maybe you’ve heard the terms “college accreditation” before but you don’t really know what all the fuss is about. What does it have to do with you and your college career? How could it impact your future if you don’t understand what it is before you enroll in an online college degree program? 

Here are some FAQs regarding college accreditation:  

What exactly is college accreditation? 

College accreditation is a validation process for universities, colleges, and even certain degree programs. Certain general standards must be met in order for colleges to obtain accreditation status.  

What are the types of general standards that must be met? 

  • Faculty reputation
  • College mission
  • Education quality
  • College goals and objectives
  • Student services
  • Admission requirements 

What types of accreditation are there? 

There are 3 types of accreditation: regional, national, and specialized. 

Regional accreditation is awarded by one of 6 regional, accrediting agencies that oversees individual states:

  • Middle State Association of Colleges and Schools
  • New England Association of Schools and Colleges
  • North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
  • Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges
  • Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
  • Western Association of Schools and Colleges 

National accreditation, however, isn’t tied to a particular geographical location and was created to evaluate schools that don’t necessarily fit into the traditional college category—like religious or trade schools. Most nationally accredited schools accept transfer credits from regionally or nationally accredited institutions. However, regionally accredited colleges tend to only accept college credits only from other regionally accredited schools. If you want the option of transferring credits, then you should consider regionally accredited colleges. 

Specialized accreditation has to do with accrediting certain college programs like law, nursing, engineering, or dentistry. For example, the American Medical Association or (AMA) accredits medical programs.  

Is there any difference between accreditation for online colleges as opposed to traditional, physical colleges? 

No. Regional or national accreditation standards are the same for distance learning or traditional, college campuses. 

What are degree mills? 

Degree mills AKA diploma mills are to be avoided. These institutions offer degrees, such as a bachelor’s, for a fee. They are unaccredited even though they might say that they are accredited. If they are “accredited,” it is typically because they paid an accreditation mill for their accreditation—no matter how authentic the school’s name appears. Earning a degree from a degree mill could be problematic for you. Most employers do not recognize diplomas issued by degree mills so you could end up wasting your money on a degree that is not legitimate and basically worthless.  

What resources could I use to find out if my college is accredited?

If you want to find out more about whether or not the college you are interested in attending is accredited or not, visit the Council for Higher Education Accreditation’s at or the U.S. Department of Education at 




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