Study-Up Before Applying to Online Universities and Programs
Connecticut Better Business Bureau is warning prospective students to do their homework when selecting online schools and education opportunities.
With nearly 6.5 million people involved in some form of online learning, according to the 2010 Sloan Survey of Online Learning, it is more important than ever to take precautions to ensure time, energy and money aren't wasted.
“Online education is a wonderful opportunity if you select wisely,” according to Connecticut Better Business Bureau President, Paulette Scarpetti. “However, not all online programs are created equal, and like any other transaction, consumers looking to the Internet for higher education must make sure they are not being taken for a ride by a diploma mill or other unscrupulous operator.”
Get schooled in accreditation - Degrees from accredited universities are more likely to be recognized by employers and other higher education institutions. Before applying, make sure you understand accreditation information provided by the U.S. Department of Education and research accreditation claims through the Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs. Your best bet is to select a regionally-accredited institution.
Take note of enrollment processes - Is admission granted based on test scores, entry exams and additional background information or by simply paying tuition? A reputable institution will have requirements that go beyond accepting payment of tuition. Degree fees are typically based on credit loads so be wary of schools that accept all students or charge a flat degree fee.
Be wary of an easy "A." - Diploma mills may advertise degrees or credits based on work experience. Be skeptical of accelerated degree programs that promise quicker-than-average completion dates. Compare program lengths to those of well-known schools.
Quiz counselors - Speak directly with school counselors to get answers to all financial, degree and enrollment questions. Also, gather information from websites, including physical locations, faculty biographies and program specifics.
Review report cards - BBB makes it easy to check out organizations' marketplace record with BBB Business Reviews, which include ratings, complaint histories and contact details.