Should I take classes at a school that isn’t regionally accredited?

Normally we wouldn’t tackle this sometimes prickly question in a public forum, but we’ve been seeing more applications from students who took course credits at schools without regional accreditation. In many of these situations, those credits don’t transfer to EWU.

Sometimes students wonder if it’s a for-profit versus nonprofit issue, but it’s actually much more than that. After all, we accept transfer credits from a quite a few for-profit institutions. Instead, it’s a question of accreditation.

Accreditation is the way a school shows it has high academic standards, and generally speaking, there are two types of accreditation.

  • Regional accreditation. This is the gold standard of accreditation. Schools with regional accreditation are typically non-profit universities and community colleges with a focus on academics, and it’s usually easy to transfer credits from one regionally accredited school to another. Examples include Eastern Washington University, Texas A&M, Harvard University, and Spokane Community College.
  • National accreditation. Nationally accredited schools are mostly for-profit schools with a focus on vocational, career, or technical programs. There are many groups that offer national accreditation, but they all have different focuses and different levels of stringency as to what qualifies as “high quality.”

Why doesn’t the four-year university I want to attend accept credits from nationally accredited schools?

You’ll get quite a few answers to this question, but the answers tend to look like the ones below.

  1. National accreditation agencies are typically newer and haven’t yet built a track record of success.
  2. Schools with national accreditation often offer courses that regionally accredited schools do not, which makes transferring credits complex or impossible.
  3. Some nationally accredited schools have less stringent admissions policies, and that makes it harder for regionally accredited schools to accept credits from those schools.
  4. Depending on the accreditation agency (the group that decides if a school gets accredited), national accreditation can be much less rigorous than regional accreditation.
  5. Some national accreditation agencies have conflicts of interest that make unbiased accreditation difficult to achieve.
  6. In some cases, unethical practices at for-profit institutions have hindered efforts to make national accreditation more trustworthy.

But back to my original question: should I take classes at a nationally accredited school? 

Maybe.

  • Do you want to go to graduate school?
  • Do you plan to transfer to a regionally accredited school?
  • Does your future employer have a bias against credentials from nationally accredited schools?

If the answer is yes to any of these questions, you’re probably better off attending a regionally accredited school from the very first day you step into a classroom.

Moreover, students who attend nationally accredited for-profit schools tend to have higher debt levels, higher loan default rates, higher unemployment rates, lower salaries, and lower bachelor’s degree completion rates.

Remember: the State of Washington is pretty much the best state for transfer students, and EWU is one of the best transfer schools. For example, earning your AA degree at an approved community college in the state guarantees your admission to EWU and most of the state’s four-year universities. Better yet, college-level coursework at these 34 community colleges will typically transfer to EWU and any of the other four-year, public universities.

No other state has a such a robust, healthy system, so in many cases, it makes more sense to start you degree at a regionally accredited community college and transfer to a school like EWU.

 

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