Is the term regionally accredited still used?

Discussion in 'Accreditation Discussions (RA, DETC, state approva' started by Dustin, Jan 17, 2022.

  1. Dustin

    Dustin Well-Known Member

    Before I get into an edit war on Wikipedia I wanted to ask what DI thinks about the term "regionally accredited" from an organizational/professional standpoint.

    I recently updated a Wiki article to specify that a school was regionally accredited by HLC. The edit was reverted with someone noting that the DOE doesn't use that term anymore.

    My response was (effectively) "so what?" The Council on Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), who recognizes accreditors still uses the term regionally accredited. So does HLC themselves and the school in questions.

    I'd love to hear others views in case there are important facts I'm leaving out or unaware of. (Also, being right has never been a guarantee of success on Wikipedia so I'm not holding my breath that consensus will be in my favor.)
  2. wmcdonald

    wmcdonald Active Member

    Interesting, but I am certainly not surprised. Use old professor types tell students all the time, Wikipedia is not an acceptable academic source. Now, I will also say that I like the work they do, and appreciate them for some things, but they are not always on point, like this example. You do make a good point, "so what", and in reality, it doesn't matter.
  3. Vonnegut

    Vonnegut Well-Known Member

    The letter from the DOE isn’t relevant as they’re not the accreditor of accreditors and it had arguably other purposes - financial aid access. RAs still exist, are referenced as such by CHEA, and are unquestionably the gold standard of accreditation.
  4. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    Hash it out on the Talk page. You'll have better luck that way than if you get into an edit war with Wikipedians whose supply of free time seems inversely proportional to how high the stakes are.
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  5. Garp

    Garp Well-Known Member

    The US Department of Education makes a logical and reasonable argument. No one that I am aware of really ever made a substantive case that Regional and National Accreditors were qualitatively different in terms of standards or in terms of academic outcomes. There are differences in utility (but as the DoE points out this is largely based on nothing but tradition and belief). There are differences with doctoral programs in terms of research and so on. But are a host of Regionally Accredited for profit and not for profit cash cow doctoral programs really producing substantive academic research as normative (I suspect NOT)?

    CHEA is non governmental. The US DoE is the government and recognizes accreditors.

    Is the term Regional Accreditors likely to remain? Probably (without a game changer) simply because with or without anything behind it, people are stuck in well worn ways of thinking and tradition.
    LearningAddict likes this.
  6. Rachel83az

    Rachel83az Well-Known Member

    People on these forums keep arguing that RA doesn't mean anything anymore. I'll believe it when colleges/universities stop making the distinction between RA/NA. I don't see that happening any time soon.
    Rich Douglas likes this.
  7. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    Depends on where you sit, but for the most part, "regionally accredited" is still a thing.
    Maniac Craniac likes this.
  8. Bill Huffman

    Bill Huffman Well-Known Member

    Here's the argument I'd use on the Wikipedia talk page: Regional accreditation has meaning. It is a well defined and well known term.

    Regional Accreditation
    As implied in the name, regional accrediting organizations operate in specific regions of the country. These organizations grant accreditation to schools, colleges, and universities showing that their credits and degrees meet minimum standards.
  9. sanantone

    sanantone Well-Known Member

    As long as there are state licensing boards that require regional accreditation, it still has meaning.
  10. LearningAddict

    LearningAddict Well-Known Member

    That's what makes it relevant though. "He who holds the money" and all of that.

    Some schools have switched to using the term "Institutionally accredited", some others no longer use either the IA or RA terms, they simply make reference to who accredits them. I'm sure those schools did it because of the letter and not just out of the blue.

    We'll see in time the extent of the impact the DOE has had on this. It's still too early.

    Because of this:

    I see no reason to keep hanging on to this system anyway. A number of programmatic accreditors (particularly those that are gatekeepers to licensing in certain fields) that once barred students educated through NA schools have over time dropped that position and the world didn't collapse. Right before those decisions were made official, people kicked and screamed as if the world would collapse, but anticlimactically for the carnival barkers, nothing happened. I sometimes wonder if the people kicking and screaming just wanted something bad to happen so they'd have more to complain about...

    I just believe that eventually the system will correct to a point that schools are judged individually on their outcomes rather than blanketly based on accreditation. I don't mean that in a sarcastic way either, it just makes sense. If many other countries can do it, and they have, so can we.
  11. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    Which "system"? Accreditation in general? Or the distinctions between RA and NA? I'll address them in reverse order.

    First, non-RA institutional accreditation is a speck on the landscape of higher education. It's a bigger deal here since those accreditors--led by DEAC--went heavy into accrediting DL schools when the RAs were largely reluctant to do so. The RAs are, by far, the big dog here, and they have no reason to be interested in what the other institutional accreditors do.

    Second, the system we have came about because (a) there is no role for the federal government to regulate higher education. Some feel this is because education isn't called out in the Constitution. I happen to think differently, that it is a historical product, where the industry grew and decided to become self-regulating. (Medicine and Law experienced this, too.) By the time higher education mattered to the masses, the universities already had their quality control (accreditation) measures and processes in place. It was the sudden and swelling demand for more of these credentials--and new schools to issue them--that even brought this into question in the first place. But as I said, the RAs have almost all higher education under control. (You can argue the efficacy of that, but that's another matter entirely.)

    Getting rid of institutional accreditation would be a disaster because of the vacuum it would create. The states have shown themselves to be about as varied in their attention to it as they are with any national matter left up to them. Some are quite rigid, while others remain a joke. If you had the federal government do it, you'd need a bureaucracy--the biggest created since DHS, except this one would have to be created from scratch, while DHS was piecemealed together from more than two dozen existing agencies. Yeah, that'll work.

    Now, if these come off as strawman arguments, I apologize. They're not directed at you, but at some possible issues.

    But we didn't. And as I said above, I doubt that we could now.
    Bill Huffman likes this.
  12. Courcelles

    Courcelles Active Member

    As a former member of enwp’s ArbCom, I couldn’t agree more.
  13. LearningAddict

    LearningAddict Well-Known Member

    I think when we say "system" in this context it's meant in an informal sense, but distinction is probably a better word since distinction is what the USDE situation is centered on.

    This is what slightly caught me by surprise when I saw some RA schools do what I was referring to earlier with the terminology changes. I say slightly because I did expect some schools to do it after the USDE's public statement, just not as quickly. Nevertheless, if you're a school that is accredited by a regional accreditation body (and considering how deeply penetrated into the public consciousness that RA is the only way) it seems like it would be best from that position to maintain the same RA language. The NA schools that changed to the new IA designation are more understandable because of the stigma that mentioning NA brings with a number of people.

    Yeah, I wouldn't want to see any of those things happen. My concern is more about the distinction and resulting stigmas against NA schools as a whole just for being NA. I believe that each school should be judged individually and on its own merits and outcomes, but the prevailing public thought is that RA = automatically good (at least at a base level), NA = automatically bad. The USDE had some indirect influence on that by maintaining the distinction and they at least saw their role in it based on the letter.

    It looks insurmountable, and at this point it may actually be. But this is at least a small step to try to find out.

    As an aside, I just noticed that the New York State Board of Regents is not recognized by CHEA. With the exception of the DEAC, CHEA has dropped recognition of all national accreditors that aren't faith-based. With faith-based national accreditors, they don't recognize the AJS. Interesting.
    Rich Douglas likes this.
  14. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    But many institutions and individuals don't make that distinction. In some situations, people with degrees from nationally accredited schools do not see those schools accepted. That's the source of the RA/NA conversation. It's not a judgment of the schools themselves (except to one now-dormant poster), but to the utility of the schools' source of accreditation.
    We don't know to what extent this remains true. To our collective knowledge, this hasn't been measured scientifically in about 20 years. "It was a lot but now it's less" is about as accurate as we can be.

    The debate itself centered on three parties: some graduates of NA schools insisting that certain language here and there assured an equity that obviously didn't exist, some others (like me) who would point that out, and then a bomb-thrower who liked to taunt people about anything that didn't meet his fancy--and DEAC-accredited schools (and for-profits, and fully DL, and....) were one of them.
    It never was. My vague recollection is that the Regents jumped in when the USDoE wanted to recognize state agencies as accreditors, and were the only state to actually do so.
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  15. LearningAddict

    LearningAddict Well-Known Member

    I'm sure, but there are many schools (maybe most? In the past I never made it a point to really look for it with intent but now I'm paying attention to it more since the letter came out) that mention being regionally or nationally accredited on their accreditation pages with some dropping the terms entirely. Here is one example of an historically RA school that is now using the IA term:

    "Niagara University is institutionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)."

    Another one I caught is with ASA College. Before the letter, they wrote this on their accreditation page:

    "ASA College is regionally accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)."

    After the letter, they now write:

    "ASA College is a member of the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)"

    "MSCHE is an institutional accrediting agency recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA)"

    Maybe someday, Rich, it will be a debate of IA (institutionally accredited) versus the new NA (not accredited) :D

    Offline I've rarely encountered discussion about it, but online I've encountered it often, even outside of educational boards and in discussions where it just organically came up in conversation and it's usually someone completely wigging out about NA, lol, so that's always given me some concern.

    I've been exploded on about NA in more places online than I'd care to admit, lol. Some explosions were even violent, this made me start referring to it as "NA rage". I've even been exploded on about it here a few times by new members who blew up and then disappeared, lol. I expect that here, not so much the explosion part but the discussion part with it being an education board.

    Interesting. I never knew NYSBoR wasn't recognized by CHEA until recently. I've considered NYSBoR so under-the-radar that I didn't ever notice that they weren't on the recognition list. Heck, the only reason I finally noticed is because they're listed on CHEA as not being recognized whereas in some past years there was no mention of them at all.
  16. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    I would be just fine with this, but....

    DEAC is completely redundant. (As is, by the way, any other institutional accreditor of degree-granting schools that is not RA.) DEAC, at the degree-granting level, covers no unique ground.

    When it was the National Home Study Council and focused on career training, it had a function. (It still has that function, by the way). But when the RAs lagged in figuring out how to accredit DL, degree-awarding schools, DEAC stepped in and began filling that void. But I would assert that it isn't a void anymore, and that DEAC now merely accredits schools who cannot get RA. It's like a junior accreditor or something. I asserted this for years because no school had ever made the leap from DEAC to RA. (There were a few that had both, but DEAC's accreditation came more quickly for those schools as a stop-gap on their way to RA.) All kinds of evidence that DEAC accreditation was simply easier to get. And now that there are schools who have made the actual leap (instead of doing DEAC along the way to RA), it's even more clear.

    If RA is more desirable, why settle for DEAC? Because some schools have to. That doesn't speak well of the idea that it's all "institutional accreditation." It's not. It's still a two-tiered system.

    The other point I made at the outset is that DEAC is redundant. There is nothing they cover with accreditation--except possibly second-rate status--that isn't covered by the RAs. The two factors to examine with this question are degrees offered and methods used. As we now know, there are plenty of DL-only schools with RA, and there isn't much of anything (or anything at all?) being done at a DEAC school academically that is noteworthy and unique from RA schools.

    This even extends to cost. It's hard to find a degree offered by a DEAC-accredited school not already by an RA school for less. (Again, I'm positive we can find exceptions to this.)

    So, if degrees from DEAC-accredited schools aren't cheaper, easier (I hope), faster, unique in content and delivery, and/or more utile, explain to me the argument in favor of doing one?

    I've suggested for years that a unique niche for DEAC would be akin to being a programmatic accreditor, but instead of focusing on a particular academic discipline, it could instead focus on distance learning delivery. Goodness knows there are a lot of schools doing DL who don't really know what they're doing. But here's the problem with that: I don't think DEAC is particularly adept at distance learning. They've never really evolved away from the "course in a box" mentality and towards embracing other forms of instructional delivery and adult learning.

    Unlike some posters, I don't demand that DEAC be considered comparable to RA. And I have a soft spot in my heart for DEAC, harkening back to the days when the RAs really did seem like the Evil Empire of DL. And I certainly feel if you do a degree at a DEAC-accredited school, you did a real degree...and it should be recognized and accepted as such. Finally, I'm totally against the views of one firebrand who wanted to roll it all up as a degree mill conglomerate of some kind. That was reactionary, unhelpful, inaccurate, imprecise, and just plain mean.
  17. LearningAddict

    LearningAddict Well-Known Member

    Awesome post, Rich.

    I wanted to touch on this one part:

    I was always fond of the way DEAC schools were so focused on self-paced independent study, leaving it up to students to motivate themselves and get the work done.

    It's concerned me to see DEAC schools gradually move from the by-mail independent study setup, to the online-but-independent-study setup, to the online instructor-led weekly class setup common with RA programs as it feels like the soul of what the DEAC was is going away, and maybe some of that is for the better, but still. I've often wondered if the change many DEAC schools have made to offer weekly classes is part of a pre-positioning strategy to become regionally accredited in the future.

    Then there are the prices. Many DEAC schools have been increasing prices to levels that I quite frankly find to be too expensive, especially when considering the relative obscurity of most (possibly all) of those schools, in addition to the lesser utility (the degree of which can be debated in some ways) of the credentials they offer. Just seems like a gradual race toward pricing themselves out of the market. I'm not expecting them all to have Ashworth prices, but when a number of them are charging Harvard prices, that just doesn't seem sustainable.
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2022
  18. Dustin

    Dustin Well-Known Member

    The most predatory NA schools always charged RA prices but there are also always NA schools that charge a more reasonable price, commensurate with the more limited recognition. I yearn for the old days of correspondence schools though. I know Penn Foster has moved digital, but I really loved the time I spent in Foley-Belsaw's Locksmith program. Getting a bound book of lessons, parts and material in the mail, doing the work and returning the packet. It felt substantial. Working through a PDF doesn't feel the same.

    I've considered launching a small business selling those kinds of courses for personal enjoyment, if I could find (or make) the right courses.
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  19. Johann

    Johann Well-Known Member

    Love 'em. If you do, let me know. My kind of thing! Not 'easy money' for a provider, though.

    Foley-Belsaw? Years ago, we had a degree-gettin', locksmithin' preacher around this forum, who was taking a Foley-Belsaw course at the time. He always spoke well of them.
    Last edited: Jan 20, 2022
  20. Rachel83az

    Rachel83az Well-Known Member

    There's something awesome about being able to use physical items. Modern "Collectors Edition" games have nothing on the "Feelies" that were included in the games of yesteryear. As long as the prices aren't insane, I would much rather have physical media when learning, too.
    Johann likes this.

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