If you haven’t noticed, the online education sector is growing rapidly. This isn’t 2005. The stigma or skepticism attached to anything “online,” be it dating, working, banking, paying bills, or even schooling, are gone.
There are definitely things to consider when choosing an online institution; you want one that fits your value system; one that is worth the time, energy and money; and one that delivers more than a piece of paper. So when one asks “Are online degrees a good value?” we really need to answer that question with more questions.
Is the College Accredited?
Accreditation is the first criteria when weighing if a particular online program suits you. Regional accreditation is the highest form of accreditation in the U.S. There are six regional accrediting bodies, such as the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, and so on. Even though they are independent, they recognize each other’s standards, so a college degree earned in one region is recognized as legitimate in another.
If you’re looking at a school that isn’t accredited, move on. Unaccredited schools may not be eligible for federal financial aid, and credit hours earned in one may not transfer to another school. Plus, your degree may be considered worthless to potential employers. That’s because the regional accrediting bodies are the ones who determine whether a college or university meets standards for things like curricular rigor and fairness, faculty credentials, and financial stability – you know, the things that make a college degree worth more than the paper it’s printed on.
Do They Have the Degree You Are Seeking?
This may seem like a no-brainer, but seriously, do consider this. If you are looking to break into the Information Technology field, also known as IT, and the online program you are checking out doesn’t have the specific major you need, you may be wasting your time. For instance, Software Engineering is similar to Software Developing, but it is not the same. If your future employer requires the former for advancement in the field, you may find yourself compromising jobs or going back to school to rack up even more student debt.
What Kind of Support Services Are Available?
This is a really important factor when choosing a school, especially as an independent learner. You will need committed, knowledgeable advisors to interact with and guide you though your program. Insist on a school that hires experienced and credentialed faculty. Also quite critical is how well the school prepares you concerning professional development. Do they have any job placement or internship assistance? Determine if this school can help you achieve not just your academic goals, but you career goals as well.
How Does this School Size Up Numerically?
Check all the facts and figures! We’re talking about student loan default rates, completion rates, national rankings, and cost per credit. However, keep in mind, weighing one factor such as college cost does not always give you the best perspective when deciding if a particular online college is valuable. The Return On Investment (ROI) of an institution may be a more helpful a statistic. More importantly, remember to consider all the numbers in your final big picture analysis. Check out whether a school considers previous attained college credits that can be transferred in. That may save you a semester’s tuition cost! Financial aid options need to be weighed in; some colleges offer a combination of loans, grants, and other benefits that greatly reduce your costs.