Regional accreditation that was given by any of the six Regional Accreditation Associations is the most popular, widely known and I should say the most reliable basis of assuring the value of your online education in terms of acceptance and validity especially if you will work within the United States.
But there is the so-called National Accrediting Agencies that like Regional Accrediting Association are likewise recognized or accredited by the US Department of Education (USDE) and the Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) to develop a set of evaluation criteria, conduct evaluations and determine if the institution met those criteria that will ensure the standard and quality of education.
The Regional and the National Accrediting Association have some similarities: all of them are non-profit organizations and follow the same voluntary process in which the university who wants to be accredited need to undergo an extensive program evaluation. Both Regional and National are also eligible to offer federal financial aid to their students.
The main difference between the Regional and National is their background and geographic scope. Regional started as association of traditional colleges in a specific state; hence, they have area of concentration. The National on the other hand started as association of various institutions with common ideas like biblical or secular organization and catered to those institutions that were not originally colleges.
Although that there were legitimate National Accrediting Associations who are duly recognized by either ESDE and CHEA, the issue is really about the transferability of course credits from one school to another. Nationally accredited schools generally accept credits from both regionally and nationally accredited schools but regionally accredited schools usually do not honor credits from nationally accredited schools. This is the same for graduate or doctoral degrees as there is some regionally accredited schools that do not accept students who earned their degrees in nationally accredited schools.
Another and I think the most important factor, since online education are widely popular in adult learners is the validity of the accreditation to your employer or company. Our prime reason why we wanted a bachelor’s degree or a master/doctoral degree is for career advancement and so, we need to be sure that our earned degree will be valid and recognize by our employers.
And perhaps, it is in this reason why I prefer studying in a regionally accredited school but if your purpose why you want to earn a degree is for personal enrichment, I guess, the issue between regional or national accreditation will not be a big deal. Remember that the goal of accreditation is to ensure that education provided by institutions of higher education meets acceptable levels of quality.
But if you choose to study in a nationally accredited school, just be sure that its accrediting agency is listed in USDE and CHEA to ensure the quality of your education. For the complete list of the accrediting organizations recognized by the U.S. Department of Education and CHEA, please click here.