Connecticut BBB Recommends Giving Online Education Programs the Third Degree

With nearly 6.5 million people involved in some form of online learning it is more important than ever to take precautions to ensure time, energy and money aren't wasted.


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.

This post is contributed by a community member. The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect those of Patch Media Corporation. Everyone is welcome to submit a post to Patch. If you'd like to post a blog, go here to get started.

Concerned Brookfield Citizen September 06, 2012 at 11:39 AM
So explain wht Charter Communications is still accredited?
Connecticut Better Business Bureau News September 06, 2012 at 02:19 PM
If you read any company's BBB Business Review it will explain the criteria for accreditation, whether there are complaints and how they are resolved. Consumers have the power to not do business with any company that does not have a good marketplace record. That is the strength of consumer feedback, and why it is an integral part of the BBB model. Tens of millions of consumers are extremely satisfied with the quality of information provided by BBB and have been for a century. The proof is that they consult our resources on a daily basis, not only to complain, but to make educated decisions. If anyone's personal experience is that a poorly-rated company doesn't seem to care, a logical approach would be to make a purchasing or hiring decision based upon your own discretion based on what other consumers are saying. We see very few complaints from consumers who use our system and overwhelmingly receive praise. On the flip side, we do see negative comments from business owners against whom complaints have been filed and refused to address them.
jim laguardia September 06, 2012 at 02:48 PM
it is a poor reflection on charter that their office has a big "no weapons" sign outside its office and that there is a height stick by the door like a bank.... that says something about how frustrating their customer service can be
NewMildew September 06, 2012 at 03:19 PM
Work on your active reading skills, Concerned Brookfield Citizen...they lose accreditation if they fail to address a customer complaint. Using the powers of deduction, we can assume that though Charter has numerous complaints they addressed all of them. I could be wrong, but that's my conclusion.
Les September 06, 2012 at 05:34 PM
Has anyone else has had a similar problem with Charter: They recently had a great bundle deal for T.V., Cable, and Telephone for $89.97 per month on their website. As a long time customer who is paying more for the same package, I went into the office to sign up for that package but was told the special pricing is only for new customers! What's wrong with this company? How about being fair to long time customers. Now I'm looking for other options. Is this type of policy worthy of a BBB complaint?
QWERTY September 06, 2012 at 06:07 PM
So BBB accreditation means complete and absolute complaint resolution but absolutely nothing in regards to complaint prevention? So Charter can double-talk and deceive millions of subscribers but so long as they "address" only those customers who complain, Charter will have satisfied BBB accreditation? I don't mean to be sour grapes here as I do enjoy using BBB but lets be transparent, BBB accreditation is purchased, not earned.
Christine E. September 06, 2012 at 07:59 PM
Yes, we have spoken to charter 4 times since our contract expired, and we have been given a different price/package every single time we have asked. A couple times was over the phone, and one time was actually at the Charter office in Newtown. It's really unbelievable.
Russ September 06, 2012 at 08:27 PM
My wife and I each called Charter. My wife simply asked what the deal was, and got a terrible deal offered us. I came into it ready for a fight and armed with the necessary data, told the rep to cut the bs and give me a deal or I was switching to satellite/AT&T, and got a reasonable deal that I'm happy with. Just have to play it differently.
Yooper September 07, 2012 at 12:12 AM
It's a basic business model for cable companies since most of them are essentially monopolies. Good pricing is a way to lure new customers. Old customers are stuck with higher rates. If you complain politely but firmly and threaten to drop them you might get a better deal.
Christine E. September 07, 2012 at 12:29 AM
Once your contract expires, they jack up your rate. So, naturally, you call to inquire about packages and deals to keep your rates lower. The problem is, no one will give you the same quote. The people in the office tell you something different than the people on the phone. Then, you go back to the people in the office, and suddenly they have no idea what you're talking about and tell you something completely different than they did 2 days prior. Sadly, we looked into AT&T U-Verse, and they were a billion times worse. They told us we already had service at our house (wrong), and refused to believe us when we said we didn't. Then they told us we had to deactivate an account that didn't actually exist. Then they told us we could only get their TV service if we also got their internet (not true). All that these places do is lie :)
Connecticut Better Business Bureau News September 07, 2012 at 12:27 PM
Consumers' greatest strength when presented with a pricing package you don't like is to shop around and take your business elsewhere. BBB does a great deal in the area of complaint prevention. If you read my comments above you will get a feel for that. You also may check accreditation standards on www.bbb.org to understand their commitment to our Standards for Trust. All companies must treat consumers fairly, and if they don't there are many resources to which you can turn - aside from selecting another provider. Consumers are protected by law by many unfair business practices. BBB accreditation must be earned. No company can pay to protect poor business practices or change its business review. Once again, if you look at the requirements for accreditation and our Standards for Trust, you will be able to educate yourself about the process. The other areas of complaint prevention includes consumer education and we offer rich resources on our website. Regardless of whether a company is accredited or not, consumers can make smart decisions by carefully comparing a company's review on our site, by speaking with friends and relatives, reading fine print for all offers and asking a lot of questions before signing a contract. Best, Howard Schwartz Executive Communications Director.
Concerned Brookfield Citizen September 07, 2012 at 02:37 PM
CBBB, in a normal market, that is fine. Explain how this concept works in a monopolistic environment.
QWERTY September 07, 2012 at 03:25 PM
If you don't like Charter, then use AT&T who pulls the same crap that Charter does! No monopoly and the consumer gets screwed as if it IS a monopoly. It's a great system!
jim laguardia September 07, 2012 at 03:45 PM
some of Monroe still cant get AT&T they are not up on the Guinea area I think
jim laguardia September 07, 2012 at 03:46 PM
sorry should say Guinea Road area yet
dave wilsoon September 07, 2012 at 04:10 PM
BBB is no good to anybody seeking resolution AFTER you've been ripped off- all thay advising and recomending bs I can get online. The truth is they have no enforcement powers and nobody actually earns their way in- they pay BBB for it
NotPAU September 07, 2012 at 04:42 PM
New Mildew: WRONG!!! They don't resolve complaints, they insist you drive to their office during their working hours to discuss the issue. Then they make promises they don't keep. When you contact them again, the process starts over. Eventually you give up, sometimes the problem mysteriously clears, then they reward you by dropping more channels from your programming. The broadband service failed. Charter sent a tech to trace the external wiring to determine whether there was a component failure. Nothing wrong. The tech left, the service failed again. Two weeks later they sent another tech, insisting he needed access to the inside of the house. We took (unpaid) time from work to accommodate their demand. The tech arrived to find an external filter had been improperly installed during the previous visit. Filter changed, signal weak, changed filter, signal improved. No problems inside yet. Service unavailable. Another unpaid time-from-work visit. Another "inside job". Determined modem could not handle most recent line update. Installed new modem. All is well. Modem failed after two days. Called Charter; told to drive to office during working hours with junk China modem to switch for new modem. If they sent it out, it would cost us at least sixty dollars. Picked-up modem, plugged in, service worked. Two months without service. Asked for refund for time down. No. Offered free modem rental. After 3 months, started charging rental fee. THERE WAS NO RESOLUTION!
paul d. September 07, 2012 at 04:54 PM
If BBB were an effective consumer advocate group in any way, COMCAST and other services would be selected by choice by the consumer by now. Fact is, in hilly tree filled neighborhoods, COMCAST is all that is available. We can complain until the cows come home. Our legislature - democrats and republicans alike - have never challenged the cable industry in this state. When I have spoken to Frey about it, he just shrugs and says "wow, that's a shame."
Christine E. September 07, 2012 at 07:11 PM
AT&T U-Verse is available in the hattertown area, Jim. According to them we've had an account for over a year. Unbeknownst to us, of course.
jim laguardia September 07, 2012 at 07:14 PM
I think further up guinea?? I could be wrong
QWERTY September 07, 2012 at 08:04 PM
AT&T sends me U-verse mails monthly yet it isn't available in our area. When I call the AT&T store, the 20-year old sales rep has no idea what I'm talking about because the topic isn't about cell phones.
Jonathan Bulkley September 07, 2012 at 08:16 PM
I'm really surprised to hear these negative reviews of UVerse. I've had UVerse in Trumbull for 3 years now and couldn't be happier. The product itself is night and day compared to Charter (which is one of the worst companies industry-wide per consumer reports - I don't get the impression that anyone here would disagree). I also found the price to be very competitive with no contract. I've never had any issues with their customer service either. Just thought I'd share a positive experience...
Les September 07, 2012 at 08:50 PM
As I wrote in an above post, Charter Communications would not give me, a long time customer, the same special pricing they were offering to new customers only. According to the above comments, others have had a problem with Charter's policy of charging their loyal customers an arm and a leg for the same service they give to new customers at a decent price. This should not be allowed. I did inquire and AT&T U-Verce is not in the Sandy Hook area yet. Are there any other options?
Grumpy Guy September 07, 2012 at 08:58 PM
This is one of the worst run consumer service industries out there.They ALL stink! We used to have DirecTV and their service was generally good because we were in a good location. Then we moved and out new house is in a wooded hilly area. DishNetwork was running a special for new customers. Fast forward 5 months. After 5 months of crap-level reception we called to cancel. I was asked why and I told them. Someone runs some kind of diagnostic and says "hmmm, your signal strength is 55-65%" I said what does that mean? The answer- "we dont normally install service with less than 85% reception". Well gee, thanks a BUNCH. Your installer got a commission and you collected full charges from me for 5 months on sub-standard service? Yeah- GREAT deal for everybody but me and my family. We have ATT now and the TV service is very good.
woti September 07, 2012 at 09:01 PM
Directv is an option if you have a view of the southwest sky. I have had them since the late 90's and have been pretty happy with them. They also have good deals when you first sign up. Plus if you are a football fan if you sign up now they give you the football package (all the games each week) for free.
Yooper September 07, 2012 at 09:13 PM
Mr D. September 07, 2012 at 09:42 PM
I recently dumped Charter in favor of DirecTV and have no regrets. Better deal and better technology. I only kept Charter for broadband as there is no real alternative.
Christine E. September 07, 2012 at 10:20 PM
Jonathan, My problem with U-Verse is that, when we called to inquire about getting service at our house, we were told we already had it. We don't. We have Charter. It was a mistake in their database. Instead of admitting it was a mistake, they argued with us, and told us we were wrong. How could we be wrong? After several unnerving phone calls, they realized there was a mistake. Then we decided to move forward and get their service. We wanted TV service only. We plan on keeping our Broadband with Charter because it's better and more reasonably priced. We know other people who have done this. The representative on the phone said ti wasn't possible, and that we had to purchase BOTH from U-Verse, or we couldn't get their service at all. We finally gave up and are no longer pursuing them.
milfseeker September 07, 2012 at 10:27 PM
BBB is a for profit company plain and simple! Charter is an excelent example of one of the worst customer service companies on earth and yet they still have a A-plus rating. Several months ago while trying to resolve a customer service issue at there office the clerk simply handed me the phone and pointed to the number to call. I wound up speaking to >>>>>>India. The BBB is just like Charter Cable, willing to do anything for anybody........for a price....
taxpayer September 07, 2012 at 11:53 PM
I have used the BBB in the past and had a very good experience. Never had to visit an office, simply provided them with paperwork regarding the issue. Got my money back from a company after discovering many folks did not. I was the only one who used BBB to help resolve my problem. I also use U-verse and have (almost always ) had good customer service. When my contract is up I usually call and get a new deal or they give me a $10 credit each month or something that has always kept my bill lower than the competitors. I have been with AT&T for many, many years. Back when Southern Bell was taken over by Cingular who than merged with AT&T. It is a shame that the companies can not be consistent. I guess it depends on which customer service rep you speak with on any given moment. They really should just have their bottom line pricing, that is open to all customers, so we do not have to play these games.


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