National accrediting agencies, like regional accreditors, review colleges and universities at the institution-level. However, they are not limited to working with schools in a particular location, and instead provide accreditation to institutions throughout the United States.
National accrediting agencies primarily focus on faith-based, career-related, or online education, although it’s important to point out that most national accreditors review on campus and online, as well as blended schools and programs.
A school’s accreditation status can affect you, as a student, in many ways, including:
- applying to graduate school
- meeting employer expectations and certification requirements
- receiving federal student aid
- transferring academic credit
One type of accreditation is not inherently better than another. The processes used by national and regional accrediting agencies to evaluate academic quality are similar. However, if you are planning to transfer credit, regional accreditation may be preferred.
While each school establishes its own policies regarding what will be accepted and how it might be applied toward a specific degree program, some schools will only consider transfer credits that were earned at regionally accredited schools. If you are interested in the possibilities of transfer credit, be sure to research the requirements in advance.
National Accrediting Agencies
The following are some of the more predominant national accrediting agencies currently evaluating colleges and universities at the institutional-level:
- Association of Advanced Rabbinical and Talmudic Schools – Accreditation Commission (AARTS) (no website available)
- Association for Biblical Higher Education – Commission on Accreditation (ABHE)
- Association of Theological Schools – Commission on Accrediting (ATS)
- Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools – Accreditation Commission (TRACS)
- Accrediting Bureau of Health Education Schools (ABHES)
- Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC)
- Accrediting Council for Continuing Education and Training (ACCET)
- Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS)
- Council on Occupational Education (COE)
- Distance Education and Training Council – Accrediting Commission (DETC)
- National Accrediting Commission of Career Arts and Sciences, Inc. (NACCAS)
Finding Recognized National Accreditors
The U.S. Department of Education (USDOE) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) independently evaluate the work of accrediting agencies, and officially recognize those who have been found to be reliable in their review of colleges and universities.
The USDOE focuses on accreditation as a requirement for distributing financial aid, while the CHEA focuses on accreditation as a way to measure academic quality. It’s important to understand that the USDOE and CHEA do not accredit schools and programs themselves, but instead provide a good place for prospective students to start in their own search for accredited options.
Here are a few resources you can use to find out more about which accrediting agencies are recognized by the USDOE and/or the CHEA, and in turn, which schools are accredited by the recognized agencies:
- Database of Accredited Institutions and Program: Search this USDOE site by school or accrediting agency.
- Directory of Recognized Organizations: A list of accrediting agencies recognized by the CHEA.
- Recognized Accrediting Organizations: A side-by-side list of accrediting agencies and their status as recognized by the USDOE and/or CHEA.