It's the argument that nationally accredited schools march out the most in their attempts to declare themselves the equal of regional accredited institutions. Since the Department of Education does not distinguish between regional or national accreditation, then they are equal and, more importantly, then all the institutions that they accredit are equal. For example, the latest incarnation of this theory arises in this letter which appears to have been solicited by the Distance Education Training Council, a national accrediting agency, to bolster their argument that all accreditation is equal.
The pertinent part of the letter reads: "The Criteria do not differentiate between types of accrediting agencies, so the recognition granted to all types of accrediting agencies-regional, institutional, specialized, and programmatic-is identical. Only the specific scope of recognition varies according to the type of agency recognized."
The Department of Education "criteria" has to do with what is expected of an accrediting agency not what is expected of the schools it accredits. What is relevant are the criteria that the accrediting agencies apply to the schools they accredit. Incidentally the Department of Education has nothing to do with the academic or transfer of credit affairs of any school. Thus, what the Department of Education thinks about accreditation is irrelevant. The letter appears to be solicited by the DETC to make the argument that because the Dept. of Education's Criteria for recognition of an accrediting agency is the "same" for all accreditors, then all accreditation is the same. Secondly, the letter clearly states in the second sentence that "... the specific scope of recognition varies according to the type of agency recognized." Thus the scope of recognition varies according to the type, sooooooooo, all accreditation is apparently not the same, contrary to the first statement. Criteria for inclusion as an accrediting agency has to do with Dept. of Education regulation and has nothing to do with the academics of the schools which are being accredited or the particular criteria applied by the accreditors to decide what school it will accredit.
According to the anon users' scenario and the letter purporting to support it, an accrediting agency which only accredits certificate granting vocational schools and there are some, would be equivalent to the American Bar Association or, in effect, a massage school is equivalent to Harvard Law School. This is, of course, ludicrous. What is relevant are the accrediting criteria of the particular accrediting body, the criteria which schools accredited by that body have to meet. There is obviously a difference between the accrediting criteria of an accreditor who accredits certificate granting purely vocational schools and the accrediting criteria of the American Bar Association, just as there are differences between the criteria of the DETC and other national accrediting agencies and that of a a regional accrediting agency. The Department of Education merely recognizes an accrediting agency for the purpose of whether or not the students attending schools accredited by that particular agency can receive federal loans and grants. The Dept. of Ed. does not pass judgment on the equivalence of the criteria of one accreditor vs. another. no distinction between national accreditors and regional accreditors there must not be one.