Online Degree Programs: How to Tell the Good From the Bad
Advances in technology over the past decade have propelled colleges and universities into the realm ofonline education, creating a crowded market for students considering an online degree.
But not all programs are a safe bet.
[Discover why online education may transform higher ed.]
Online colleges have been criticized for putting profits over students; some have even been the subject of lawsuits claiming misrepresentation or fraud. To avoid scams, students need to be savvy consumers and do their research before signing up for an online degree program, experts say.
These indicators that can help students tell a good online program from a bad one.
Accreditation: Like a stamp of approval, accreditation tells students that a school or degree program meets certain academic standards. It also tells employers that graduates of the program are likely to be prepared for the workforce.
"If you really want a credential for a job, the most secure bet is to go to a regionally accredited institution," says Janet Moore, chief knowledge officer at the Sloan Consortium, a research organization specializing in online education.
While most colleges list their accreditation on their websites, students should do their legwork to ensure the school's credentials are legitimate. Some institutions tout phony credentials from accrediting bodiesthat either don't exist or aren't reputable, warns Anne Johnson, director of the advocacy group Campus Progress.
The Accrediting Council for Distance Education, for example, claims to be an "internationally recognized, independent and private education accrediting body," but is not recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation or the Department of Education.
The College Navigator tool on the Department of Education's website allows students to verify the accreditation of any school on their radar, as well as check the vitals of that institution: graduation rates, retention rates, and default rates on student loans.
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