College Accreditation and Getting Started with a Community College
Accreditation is a very important factor to consider when shopping for colleges. First of all you want to make sure your college actually is accredited before you spend a dime on them. I found this out the hard way being home-schooled for my freshman year of high school. My parents got an online home-school program that I faithfully completed. Fast forward to my senior year. My parents and I found out the school was not accredited. Fortunately completing enough credits to graduate did not incur any additional cost. Unfortunately, yours truly had to really put in extra hours to make up the required credits.
Investing in an education from the wrong institution can result in both wasted time and wasted money. You don't want that. That is probably why you're still reading. To cut to the chase, there are two different types of accreditation in the US: regional and national. At first glance it would seem like national is clearly the better option. However, this is not the case. While you are unlikely to encounter problems with either accreditation, you may run into snags if you try to transfer credits from a nationally accredited college to a regionally accredited college. Although many will probably transfer, I have heard plenty of horror stories of people having to retake classes after transfer. This is obviously going to vary between colleges, but your best bet is to pick a college and carefully plan your degree to ensure you will not have problems with credit transfer.
There are six regional accreditation agencies. If your college's homepage or About page lists one of them, you're in good shape. You can usually find your college's accreditation on the Home or About page. If not, you can probably Google it by searching the name of the college along with the word “accreditation.” I advise this step to be your first one. Once you know where your college stands, you can make an informed decision on applying and enrolling in classes.
You may be wondering why you should even bother with a community college if you're longing for a diploma from a more renowned college. The answer to this question is that you can still get an associates...then transfer to a more renowned college. That is not a promise, of course. You still need a certain GPA to transfer to some colleges. Yet the option is still there in many cases. If you go successfully go this route, you can save a lot of money in comparison to the same education strictly from a state college.
So....you've warmed up to attending a community for your first two years, getting your associates, then transferring. You can stay in the local area, either at your own house, a friend's place, or your parents'. Now you're not only saving thousands on tuition, but also living expenses. You have also knocked out most of your general education. Plus, you now have a diploma to hang on your wall. It only gets better from here.
It is hard to argue the value you get for your dollar at a community college. After all, you're only goal is to knock out two years of college. Now you're saving money that can be invested in something else. Good job!