Are Community Colleges Accredited?

Yes, most community colleges are accredited. Accreditation is important for many reasons and as a student seeking a degree, you should try to enroll in a college that is accredited by a recognized body so that your degree is recognized and valued by employers. But what is accreditation? How does it work? and How to find out if a particular college is accredited? All these questions are answered in this guide to community college accreditation.

Key Takeaways

Yes, most community colleges are accredited. Accreditation is important for many reasons and as a student seeking a degree, you should try to enroll in a college that is accredited by a recognized body so that your degree is recognized and valued by employers. But what is accreditation? How does it work? and How to find out if a particular college is accredited? All these questions are answered in this guide to community college accreditation.

Education is diverse and interesting. When it comes to education, traditional college campuses, private colleges, public institutions, homeschooling, online universities, and many other options are available. 

While many students consider factors such as cost and location when selecting a school, they sometimes don’t pay close attention to accreditation. What is the significance of accreditation? 

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Simply put, it means that what the school says it will provide is accurate. It is an objective review that adds credibility. The primary goal of accreditation is to ensure that higher education institutions are credible and provide high-quality education. 

Third-party organizations accredit schools. This aids in providing an unbiased review of the school's offerings, allowing students to have confidence that they will receive what they are promised from an institution. Continue reading to learn about the accreditation process and why it is so important.

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Are community colleges accredited?

Yes, all good community colleges are accredited in the United States. When selecting a college or university, students may be unaware of the significance of accreditation. Accreditation ensures academic excellence. 

The decision to attend an accredited school can have an impact on a student's ability to receive federal financial aid or transfer credits to a new school. Students should ensure that their prospective school is accredited.

Related: How to apply for community college (and why you should)

What exactly is accreditation?

Accreditation is a voluntary process through which colleges, universities, and academic programs demonstrate their quality. In the United States, there are three types of accreditation: regional, national, and programmatic.

Colleges and universities can be accredited on a regional or national level. National accreditation is more common in trade schools and religious schools, whereas regional accreditation is more common in public and nonprofit colleges.

Accreditation of specialized academic programs or departments in specific fields such as nursing, education, and business is known as programmatic accreditation.

A close shot of paper and stamp
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How do colleges get accreditation?

Accreditation is done by both government agencies and non-governmental organizations. Accreditation agencies provide university, college, and academic program accreditation through a rigorous evaluation process. 

Accreditation demonstrates to the larger educational community that an institution or program and its graduates are credible. 

The Department of Education (ED) and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation keep a close eye on approved accrediting agencies for colleges and universities. They ensure that each accrediting agency can be trusted by the public.

Related: Local community colleges: 10 Benefits that boost your advantage

Why is accreditation important?

Accreditation is important when choosing a college for many reasons, including financial aid and even for the job you will get after you graduate. As a result, accreditation is an important aspect of your college decision that should not be overlooked. If the institution you attend is not accredited, you will face the following major disadvantages:

1. Inability to apply for government financial aid

Accreditation is contingent on schools participating in federal Title IV or state financial aid funding. If your college is not accredited by a nationally recognized accredited agency, you will not be eligible for any government-sponsored financial aid

Given that government financial aid and student assistance programs play a significant role in funding tuition at any community college, choosing a non-accredited institution automatically means forgoing a significant portion of financial assistance.

2. Inability to transfer credits

Credits from a non-accredited college will not transfer properly if you transfer to another school. Course credits can only be transferred from nationally accredited institutions. Almost all schools accept credit from regionally accredited institutions.

Do keep in mind that sometimes academic programs or departments with specialized accreditation usually only accept transfer credit from programs with accreditation from the same specialized accrediting agency.

Related: The complete Unmudl guide on how to transfer from community college to university?

3. Disadvantages in the job market

Many employers will look over your educational background, especially if you are just starting out in your professional career. Obtaining an education from a non-accredited institution rather than an accredited college may not reflect well on your application.

With the job market becoming more competitive, you want to ensure that your candidacy stands out during the hiring process – and a non-accredited degree may not help you achieve that goal.

If you are looking for a way to get hired quickly, Unmudl has several short certificate courses from accredited community colleges that are just right for you.

You might also be interested in: Can I use community college to help me change careers?

4. Employer tuition assistance becomes ineligible

The majority of employers that offer tuition assistance will not be willing to reimburse your tuition costs from an unaccredited institution as they will not want to invest in employee development from an institution with no guarantee of quality education.

Hot topic: Do community colleges have payment plans?

5. Graduate school prerequisites issue

If you want to pursue graduate school or wish to transfer to a 4-year program after an associate’s degree from a community college, you must first complete your undergraduate education at an accredited institution. 

Your classes, credits, and even degree will not be accepted as a prerequisite for most graduate programs if you do not have accreditation.

Three new graduates smiling
Photo by Karolina Grabowska from Pexels

The type of accreditation also matters

Accreditation usually applies to educational institutions as a whole, but it can also apply to specific programs. Institutions can be accredited on a regional or national level. Continue reading to learn about the distinctions between national, regional, and specialized accreditation.

National Institutional Accreditation

National accreditation is typically granted to schools that specialize in a particular type of education. Some programs are only available at colleges that are nationally accredited. 

National accreditation is granted to the majority of religious schools, as well as some technical training and vocational institutions. The following are some of the most well-known national accrediting organizations:

Regional Institutional Accreditation

Regional accreditation indicates that a school met quality standards after undergoing a peer-review process conducted by an independent agency. The majority of nonprofit and public colleges and universities are regionally accredited. 

The Council of Regional Accrediting Commissions is a consortium of seven regional accrediting organizations, which are listed below:

Focusing on States: California, Hawaii, Guam, American Samoa, Micronesia, Palau, and Northern Marianas Islands (and some schools in Asia)

Focusing on States: Arkansas, Arizona, Colorado, Iowa, Illinois, Indiana, Kansas, Michigan, Minnesota, Missouri, North Dakota, Nebraska, New Mexico, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Dakota, Wisconsin, West Virginia, and Wyoming

Focusing on States: New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Delaware, Maryland, the District of Columbia, Puerto Rico, and the U.S. Virgin Islands

Focusing on States: Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, Rhode Island, Vermont, and some international institutions

Focusing on States: Alaska, Idaho, Montana, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, and Washington state

Focusing on States: Alabama, Florida, Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Mississippi, North Carolina, South Carolina, Tennessee, Texas, and Virginia

Focusing on States: California, Hawaii, Guam, American Samoa, Micronesia, Palau, and Northern Marianas Islands (in addition to certain schools in Asia)

It is easy to check for accreditation by just visiting the relevant site for your state. As an example, here is a great article with a list of every single accredited community college in the state of Texas: How Much Does Community College Cost in Texas?

Specialized or Programmatic Accreditation

While regional and national accreditation is concerned with educational institutions as a whole, programmatic or specialized accreditation is concerned with the educational quality of smaller academic programs or departments. 

To qualify for licensure or certification in many professional fields, individuals must hold a degree from a programmatically accredited course or degree. There are many accreditation agencies covering a vast number of fields of study.

Nurses, for example, must have a degree from a program accredited by the Accreditation Commission for Education in Nursing in order to be eligible for a nursing license.

The Council for the Accreditation of Educator Preparation, the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology, and the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs are three other well-known programmatic accrediting agencies.

Some specialized accrediting agencies only accredit specific degree levels within a field, whereas others accredit all educational levels. The American Psychological Association, for example, accredits doctoral graduate programs in psychology but not bachelor's or master's programs.

Regional Accreditation vs. National Accreditation

There are several distinctions between regional and national accreditation, and both types of accreditation have advantages and disadvantages.

Regional accreditation confers more prestige and acceptance. Many employers prefer or require job candidates to be graduates of regionally accredited schools, especially in professions such as education, social work, and engineering.

Regionally accredited schools may charge higher tuition than nationally accredited schools, but they may have easier access to federal financial aid. Regionally accredited schools typically accept only transfer credit from other regionally accredited schools.

Nationally accredited institutions, on the other hand, might be more affordable than regionally accredited ones because tuition is lower.

Some disadvantages of attending a nationally accredited school include the possibility of having difficulty transferring credits, particularly to regionally accredited schools. 

Furthermore, students planning to attend graduate school may find it more difficult to qualify for admission than those who have completed an undergraduate degree at a regionally accredited college or university.

Non-accredited institutions

The United States has thousands of institutions to choose from to meet the needs of a diverse pool of students, so selecting universities should be done with caution. 

If you want to attend an institution that is not accredited or has "accreditation" from an agency that is not on the Department of Education or CHEA list, you should carefully consider your options. 

Often, if an institution is new, it has not met the time guidelines and requirements needed to be considered for accreditation. If this is the case, you should ensure that the quality of the institution's education can be held accountable in other ways, such as through their professional reputation or their ability to place graduates in inappropriate jobs.

As a general rule, however, we discourage you to apply for non-accredited colleges because of the many complications they may cause both now and in your future.

Final Words

One of the most important factors to consider as a student or prospective student when selecting a school is accreditation. This will be important not only when transferring credits, but it may also impact your future employment opportunities.

Accredited schools are more credible sources of education because third-party agencies have evaluated their mission and promises. Accreditation compels institutions to meet and maintain their high standards, increasing public trust and confidence in them and increasing accountability. 

This allows potential students and their families to put their trust in the institution and their courses based on the accreditation received. For a list of accredited courses offered by dependable community colleges visit Unmudl.

We hope this article has been able to shed light on the complicated issue of college accreditations and we hope that you can now make an informed decision because of it.

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