In the US, accreditation is a big topic in higher education (i.e., college). To learn some of the reasons why it’s important, check out this article on what it means if your college is accredited — and what it means if your college isn’t.

This article is part of a series about approved accrediting agencies. Unfortunately, there are also fake accrediting agencies. This series includes three articles.

  1. What is regional accreditation?
  2. What is national accreditation?
  3. What is specialized accreditation?

Often considered the “gold standard” of accreditation, the regional accrediting agencies accredit institutions in regions of the country. As this map shows, there are six regions.

  1. Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities (Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington)
  2. Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Senior College and University Commission (the region has a separate agency for 2-year colleges) (California, Hawaii, the United States territories of Guam and American Samoa, the Republic of Palau, the Federated States of Micronesia, the Commonwealth of the Northern Mariana Islands and the Republic of the Marshall Islands)
  3. Higher Learning Commission (Arizona, Arkansas, Colorado, Illinois, Indiana, Iowa, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, Nebraska, New Mexico, North Dakota, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, West Virginia, Wisconsin, and Wyoming)
  4. Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges (Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia)
  5. Middle States Commission on Higher Education (the region has a separate agency for some non-degree post-secondary institutions) (Delaware, the District of Columbia, Maryland, New Jersey, New York, Pennsylvania, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands)
  6. New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Commission on Institutions of Higher Education (Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, and Vermont)

Regional accrediting agencies do not look only at certain programs in a college. Instead, they accredit the entire college or university, all its programs. So colleges generally do not talk about a specific major — say, English — being “regionally accredited.” Instead, the college publicizes that, as an institution, it is regionally accredited.

Because it is widely considered to be the “highest” type of accreditation in the US, credits from regionally accredited institutions are the most transferable to other institutions. Additionally, degrees from regionally accredited colleges can open more possibilities for graduate or professional school (e.g., master’s degrees, law school, etc.).

An article from the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education puts it this way: “Attending a regionally accredited institution is an important consideration if you think you might want to transfer credits to another institution or will want to pursue admission to graduate programs later on.”

Note that not all colleges and universities require regional accreditation for transfer credit and graduate admissions. But if a college does restrict transfer or graduate admissions on the basis of accreditation, regional accreditation will be the standard they use.