In one of the first posts published as part of this blog, we discussed the importance of accreditation and the need to understand the difference between national and regional accreditation. Since writing that post, I have continued to come across military-connected students who are still confused about the difference. So, I felt the need to focus on the topic again.
Why is understanding this difference so important to military-connected students? There are two main reasons why understanding this difference is important to military-connected students.
The first reason is the transferability of credits.
As a general rule of thumb, any college credits earned from a regionally accredited college or university will be accepted by any other regionally or nationally accredited college or university. However, college credits earned from a nationally accredited college or university may or may not be accepted by a regionally accredited college or university. Why? The reason is accreditation standards. Remember, a regionally accredited college or university has to go through an additional level of standards before being accredited. As such, not all nationally accredited credits will be accepted by regionally accredited schools, and therefore, their credits may not be accepted for transfer.
The second reason is not only credits may not be accepted, entire degrees may not be accepted as well.
This is particularly true if you plan on going on to your Master’s or other advanced degrees. Regionally accredited schools that offer Master’s and Doctoral programs will very rarely accept a bachelor’s degree for admission to their program.
So, let’s put this into perspective.
You are a service member enrolled into a degree program offered by a nationally accredited school. You are using military tuition assistance and your GI Bill benefits to fund your education. While on active duty, you are able to complete your bachelor’s degree. You leave the service and decide to continue your education and earn your Master’s degree at a prestigious regionally accredited university. However, when you apply and submit your previous college transcripts, the admissions official notifies you that they cannot accept your bachelor’s degree because it was earned from a nationally accredited institution.
Unfortunately, this scenario has been played out before, numerous times. To combat this, many of the nationally accredited institutions have established Master’s programs to support graduates of their undergraduate programs, allowing them to continue their education.
So with this in mind, the advice I give military-connected students before they begin their studies, is to “begin with the end in mind”. I ask them what their long-term goal is regarding their education. If they plan on getting into the education field or ultimately earn a doctorate, then perhaps earning a bachelor’s degree from a nationally accredited institution might not be in your best interest, and will be more costly.