Transfer across Institutions Accredited by Different Accreditation Agencies


It is important to keep in mind limitations related to credit transfer across universities and colleges accredited by different accreditation agencies when planning for college. Today’s post provides another way to look at college credit transfer through the lens of institutional accreditation. Losing credits during transfer can increase student debt and delay college graduation.

In 2006 the U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) examined college credit transfer between institutions with different types of institutional accreditation. The report found that transferring college 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. Specifically, the report found that credits completed at institutions with national accreditation did not transfer to institutions with regional accreditation. Finally, institutions develop their own policies and practices with regard to college credit transfer and while some institutions accept credits from nationally accredited institutions others don’t.

Losing credits during transfer adds to student debt and delays graduation. Students that cannot transfer all the credits or a large chunk of the credits completed at one institution have to secure additional financial aid (grants & loans) to finance the rest of their education. Plus, more time spent in college delays the ability of students to work full-time and earn income.

Accreditation agencies function under the purview of the United States Department of Education. They ensure that certain standards are met by universities and colleges. There are two types of accreditation – institutional and programmatic/discipline specific.

Institutional accreditation can be national or regional. Institutional accreditation is not compulsory, 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

To access the list of institutional accreditation agencies review the first page of the following document:

To find out what type of institutional accreditation your institution has visit: or > 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  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 is a national accreditor.


The takeaways for today are:

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