I often make the suggestion that your teen only pursues credit through a college that is Regionally Accredited. Before I decided to buckle down and actually learn about accreditation (yawn), I encountered the worst-case-scenario. My associate’s degree from the top culinary school in the country didn’t transfer anywhere! I couldn’t understand why, so my education into accreditation began. I won’t bore you, this will be short and sweet. Get through this quick “need to know” post and you’ll be fine.
Regional Accreditation (commonly referred to as RA) is optional, colleges don’t have to pursue it, but public colleges and universities all have it – and most “big name” private universities have it too. It is considered to be the gold standard, not because it sets a standard of excellence, but because it sets a minimum level of standard. If your state requires a license with an educational requirement (like a licensed school teacher, social worker, nurse, doctor, dentist, etc.) chances are high that the educational requirement can only be met through an RA degree.
Still, there are colleges that don’t pursue RA or don’t qualify for it. As an example, a local cosmetology school isn’t going to qualify for RA status- so their lack of having it doesn’t mean they’re not a great cosmetology school! In fact, most trade schools don’t qualify for RA status. Schools that don’t qualify for RA sometimes pursue an alternative form of accreditation, usually specific to their industry. As such, you’ll sometimes see licensed professions – like a cosmetologist- that has a special kind of accreditation required for that profession. Licensed workers of any kind need to make sure that their college matches their future licensure requirements. That’s a big deal.
Interestingly, non-RA accreditors are usually referred to as National Accreditors (NA) and despite “sounding” better, RA is still considered a higher form of accreditation 99% of the time. That remaining 1% only matters if your profession asks for a type of NA accreditation by name.
Recap: Specialty programs can be excellent and not hold regional accreditation.
There are 7 accrediting bodies that each cover a part of the USA. Thus being called “Regional” accreditor. You don’t have to memorize them (you can look them up on Wikipedia if you’re curious).
The RA bodies are all pretty similar in what they require of a college (curriculum, faculty, administration, financial, etc.) As such, the main benefit of a college being RA, is that your courses will transfer into other colleges that are also RA! You can cross regions, that’s usually not a big deal, but the general idea is that if you take English 101 at a Regionally Accredited college in Missouri, you can transfer English 101 to another Regionally Accredited college in Florida (assuming that college accepts transfer credit, of course).
So, are you starting to see the advantage?
If you’re homeschooling for college credit, you’re early in the process. Your teen is 1-4+ years away from enrolling in their target college, so when you earn college credit, making sure that it is RA is a little extra security.
An NA college will almost always accept RA credit, but an RA college almost never accepts NA credit.
So, what should you do?
When your teen has an option of taking cosmetology, or culinary, or English from your local community college, choose that because they are earning credit that comes from an RA college. As such, your likelihood of transfer is exceptional. Taking courses in high school through an NA college is risky unless you’re 100% sure you know their target college / career allows it.
Why earn RA credit? Because it transfers better than NA credit. It’s that simple.
Want to look up a college and see if it’s RA? Check our US Department of Ed Database.
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