A U.S. higher education institution’s quality is determined by private, non-profit accrediting agencies who evaluate the effectiveness of the institution’s faculty, curriculum and administration. The United States Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation independently evaluate accrediting agencies to ensure that they are operating fairly.

USDE approval is required for institutions to receive federal aid for their students. Typically, credit from non-USDE approve schools will not transfer to USDE approved ones. While not necessary, institutions often seek CHEA accreditation because of the prestige it offers.

Regional and National Accreditation

There are two types of accrediting agencies: regional accrediting agencies and national accrediting agencies. Regional accrediting agencies have the approval of the USDE, while national accrediting agencies may not have the approval of the USDE. When choosing a school, you should almost always look for one that has been accredited by one of the seven regional accreditation agencies:

Regional AccreditorsUSDE ApprovedCHEA Approved
Middle States Commission of Higher Education (MSCHE)YesYes
New England Commission for Higher Education (NECHE)YesYes
The Higher Learning Commission (HLC)YesYes
Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (NWCCU)YesOpted out
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)YesYes
The Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges, Western Association of Schools and Colleges (ACCJC)YesYes
WASC Senior College and University CommissionYesYes

Regionally accredited schools are more respected and typically offer better educational programs than national accredited schools. Typically, regionally accredited schools will only accept transfer credits or honor degrees from other regionally accredited schools. Furthermore, employers will usually value an online degree from a regionally accredited institution more than an online degree from a nationally accredited institution.

Almost all regionally accredited online California colleges and online California universities are regionally accredited by WASC Senior College and University Commission

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