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Dive Brief:

  • Calbright College, an online community college in California, received accreditation for the first time Friday from the Distance Education Accrediting Commission.
  • The approval lasts through June 2026 and comes almost two years before state lawmakers’ deadline of April 2025. 
  • Accreditation is the first step in a multi-year process for Calbright to begin offering transferable credits, it said in a news release. The college, which is free for California residents and awards certificates instead of degrees, doesn’t currently teach courses for credit.

Dive Insight:

Calbright opened in 2019 as a way to increase economic mobility in the state. Its programs are specifically designed for working adults and offer credentials meant to raise their earnings potential.

The college’s students are almost entirely nontraditional — 91% are aged 25 or older and 34% are caregivers or parents, it said last month. 

Accreditation is the latest of Calbright’s recent milestones. It also received full funding from the California Legislature’s latest budget and doubled its enrollment in a year. The college now has more than 2,800 students. 

But the institution had a rocky start and has experienced administrative tumult.

In 2020, Calbright’s founding president and CEO resigned after less than a year on the job. The college successfully avoided multiple calls from legislators to defund it. And a 2021 state audit recommended that Calbright close if it didn’t improve on student support services and other metrics. 

DEAC’s approval provides another step forward for the college.

“In receiving this initial grant of accreditation, Calbright College has demonstrated its commitment to educational standards and ethical business practices that assure quality, accountability, and improvement in higher education,” the accreditor said Monday.

Moving forward, Calbright is interested in both accepting credits from outside institutions and allowing its students to transfer credits elsewhere. Both processes are likely feasible by early 2026, the college said.

Accreditation also expands Calbright’s access to grants and state and federal funding designed to support student needs.

Ajita Talwalker Menon, Calbright’s president and CEO, lauded the accreditation as validation of the college’s progress thus far.

“This milestone not only affirms the exceptional work of our faculty, students, and staff, but also paves the path forward as we move through and beyond our seven-year start-up period,” she said in a statement this week. “Accreditation is yet another mechanism through which we can build an institution that meets our students where they are, designed around their needs and goals, in order to nurture their success.”