To operate a school in the U.S., a license must be obtained from the state's department of education. The license simply allows an institution to operate; it doesn't reflect the quality of programs provided.
Regional accreditation is considered the best indicator of an institution's quality. In this country, there are six regional accrediting agencies. The Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges is the regional accrediting body for our area. The accreditation process involves a comprehensive self-study; peer evaluation of faculty credentials, curriculum quality, and overall performance; and recommendations for improvement. When you transfer from one regionally accredited college to another, you can be assured that approved credits will move with you.
The Council for Higher Education (CHEA) maintains a database of recognized national accrediting agencies. Since both legitimate and bogus accrediting agencies exist, be careful to research the accrediting body to make sure it is valid.
Choosing an academic program at a non-accredited institution could impact your transfer and employment options.