FARGO (AP) - The Higher Learning Commission is weighing a merger between Aakers College and its parent Rasmussen College.

If approved, Aakers would be accredited by the same regional agency that accredits most other area colleges and universities, giving students more flexibility to transfer credits.

"We have requested this merger because we believe the resulting changes would offer significant benefits to our students and the communities we serve," said Aakers President Tawnie Cortez.

The private for-profit college, which has campuses in Fargo and Bismarck, is nationally accredited by the Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools, but credits typically won't transfer to regionally accredited schools.

Aakers is owned by Rasmussen College, which has six locations in Minnesota and one in Rockford, Ill.

A team of Higher Learning Commission consultants visited Aakers this month as part of the process to approve the merger, Cortez said. The Higher Learning Commission said it takes four to five months for the review process to be completed.

If approved, Aakers would be renamed Rasmussen College but would have the same ownership and management, Cortez said.

She would not comment on other implications of a merger with Rasmussen.

Michel Hillman, vice chancellor for academic affairs for the North Dakota University System, said if Aakers is regionally accredited it would create a better framework for transferring courses.

North Dakota University System officials were worried about Aakers' proposal last month to add new bachelor of science programs. They said students wouldn't realize the credits would likely not transfer.

Aakers states in its handbook that courses may not be transferable to other colleges and requires students to sign a statement verifying they understand that.

Tuition at Aakers and Rasmussen varies depending on what courses a student takes, said Bob King Jr., marketing director for Rasmussen.

Currently, a full-time student at Rasmussen pays about $14,000 for a year's tuition, and an Aakers student pays about $12,000 for one year, King said.

He said he did not know how the merger might affect tuition rates.

Aakers recently announced plans to build a new campus in Moorhead, Minn., that will offer health-related programs. Plans are to open the campus this fall.