Accreditation agencies function under the purview of the United States Department of Education (USDOE) and ensure that certain standards are met by universities and colleges. There are two types of accreditation (1) institutional and (2) programmatic/discipline specific.
Institutional accreditation can be national or regional. Institutional accreditation is not compulsory; but institutions that don’t have it cannot access financial aid funds (Pell grants, federal loans, etc). Programmatic/discipline specific accreditation deals with specific disciplines/programs (business, nursing, etc.). Programmatic accreditation is important, but it’s not the focus of today’s post.
The Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) tracks all accredited institutions by institutional accreditation as well as programmatic accreditation. To find out what type of institutional accreditation your institution has go to http://chea.org/.
To access the list of institutional accreditation agencies review the first page of the following document: http://chea.org/pdf/CHEA_USDE_AllAccred.pdf
To find out what type of institutional accreditation your institution has visit: http://chea.org/search/default.asp or http://chea.org/> select Databases and Directories > select the first option Database of Institutions and Programs Accredited by Recognized United States Accrediting Organizations > scroll down and review the agreement and then in the next step enter the name of the institution.
For example, University of Phoenix is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. According to http://chea.org/pdf/CHEA_USDE_AllAccred.pdf the Higher Learning Commission is a regional accreditor. Therefore, the University of Phoenix is regionally accredited. A similar search for American National University indicates that the school is accredited by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools – ACICS which as indicated here http://chea.org/pdf/CHEA_USDE_AllAccred.pdf is a national accreditor.
Credit transfer across universities and colleges accredited by different accreditation agencies can be challenging. One report found that transferring credits across institutions with different types of institutional accreditation (national or regional) was challenging and a significant number of credits were lost during the process.