The college and university system has gone through several cycles in terms of opportunities for enrollment. Early on, these institutions were designed to cater to the wealthy elite, which included white men. Over time, women, minorities, and even those from a diverse range of socioeconomic backgrounds gained entry into the system. And although higher education is still costly, a college degree can be had for an affordable sum, depending on the school and program attended. And over the past several years, a new revolution has taken place, making the prospect of obtaining a degree even more affordable and accessible. Thanks to online courses, many students can now earn a degree at a fraction of the cost of attending a campus, and from the comfort of their own home. But you need to take the time to find a program that will properly further your education and career prospects. Here are a few guidelines to separate the good online degree programs from the bad.
The first step is to look for accredited schools, or those that have undergone a vetting process and been deemed to uphold certain educational standards. When you attend an accredited school, either virtually or in the real world, what you’re telling employers is that you’ve submitted to a program that adequately prepares you to enter the workforce. And all you have to do to find online colleges and universities that fit the bill is search on the U.S. Department of Education website at http://ope.ed.gov/accreditation/.
While you’re at it, it’s probably a good idea to do some other research, as well. If you’ve been looking at traditional college campuses, you’ve probably take the time to consider college rankings. And while online schools may not be ranked the same way, still you should be able to find or ask about statistics related to the number of students completing programs, going on to find jobs following graduation, and even those who default on loans. All can be red flags that indicate an online institution that is not set up to help students or that is not recognized as meeting standards for excellence in education.
Another thing you may want to look into is transfer credits. If you are planning to use your online program as a way to save money and earn credits so that you can transfer to a more traditional college or university later on, or if you want to earn a bachelor’s degree online before attending another school for your graduate program, you need to make sure that the credits you earn are accepted by other schools. In truth, you might want to find out even if you don’t necessarily plan to transfer. If established and respected institutions won’t accept transfer credits from the online program you’re interested in, you shouldn’t be surprised if employers don’t honor your degree as valid, either.
Finally, it’s important to verify support services offered through the online school. This could include financial aid, which you need to make sure you understand going in. Even though Washington or Wyoming’s average online college tuition is bound to be lower than traditional schools, you might still need help covering costs. But more importantly, it pertains to access to teachers and administrators. Online education offers students convenience and flexibility, but there’s a good chance you’ll have questions pertaining to your coursework, your academic path, and career opportunities after the fact. A good online degree program will make resources readily available to help you with all of your needs.