Unless your degree is from an accredited online college, your qualification may not be worth much when applying for jobs. Employers are picky when screening job candidates. You risk not even being called for an interview if you come from an unaccredited college.
Thankfully, there are many affordable accredited online degree programs you can choose to achieve academic success. However, it is vital to be selective when choosing an online school.
This article shares eleven secrets to apply when selecting an accredited online college.
But before we proceed, what is an accredited online college, and why is choosing one so critical?
In simple words, accreditation is the process that educational institutions demonstrate to accrediting agencies that they meet the required operational and service standards.
Accrediting agencies are government and private sector organizations that have been reviewed and recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) or the United States Department of Education (USDE).
It is helpful to note that accreditation is voluntary. And that is why you should avoid online colleges or degree programs that have refrained from or even denied accreditation.
Apart from having met the required standards, further benefits of accreditation are as follows:
- Invokes access to federal and state funding
- Students in accredited college degree programs are eligible for federal student aid
- It makes transferring credits a breeze
- Boosts public and private sector trust and confidence
- Most careers that require licensure insist that graduates come from accredited universities or programs.
Related Article: What To Consider Before Enrolling In Online Colleges
Now that you know more about accreditation, let us dive into your guide to choosing an accredited online school:
Secret #1: Your Major
Find and decide on your major before deciding on which online college to choose.
Ideally, the programs and classes are entirely online as some degree programs are hybrid, i.e., in-person classwork plus online learning. In case you are unable to travel, make sure to choose a program that is entirely online.
Both new and much older colleges and universities offer online degree programs. You can evaluate reputation by looking at their relationships with industry players, professional institutions, and alumni.
These criteria will provide many clues on how valuable their degrees are in the real world.
Secret #3: Transfer Credits
One of the many ways to reduce your overall education cost is enrolling in courses that provide a direct route to graduation. Hence, prioritize colleges that accept credits from other accredited online colleges.
Transferable credits for general education and foundation courses to your degree can lead to a much-reduced student debt burden.
Secret #4: Financial Strength of School
The state of the economy and other enrollment issues has impacted a lot of schools in the country. Most colleges will be reluctant to share up-to-date financial data. You may want to ask around and look at their ties with institutions, partners, and the infrastructure they have.
Secret #5: Is There Any Hidden Cost?
Some programs may charge additional fees later for course materials, textbooks, examination proctoring, lab usage, online delivery fees, and even time extensions.
Reputable programs will typically spell out all costs upfront so that you can plan your finances and time. Consider this if your main goal is to complete courses at your own pace. Remember this, especially if you are a working adult or a busy mom.
It does not hurt to ask if there would be other costs.
Secret #6: Understand The Value Of Your Degree To Future Employers
Too many students take on unnecessary credits that may not significantly add value to the degree earned. Hence, it is advisable only to take courses that are relevant to your post-graduation and employment goals.
It is always a good idea to review a degree plan from college before you enroll.
Secret #7: Staying Relevant And Up To Date
Technology on just about everything is changing rapidly. Out-of-date books, references, course materials, and even courseware can put you back a few steps in the workplace.
A look at the textbooks and courseware providers can convince you of the newness of what you will be learning.
Secret #8: Student Support
Professional copywriters usually write the program’s sales pitch. Do not fall for that!
Instead, dig deeper, check out how extensive the academic support services and support team are, and check if they are available to online students like you.
Access to student advisors, mentors, and tutoring options can keep you on a safe track to graduating on-time.
Online learning can pose technical issues sometimes, even for geeky people. Ensuring the online college has various ways to solve technical problems, like phone, chat, or email support will give you peace of mind.
Secret #9: On-Time Graduation Rate
The bottom line is simple. Every extra year you spend on your college degree means added cost and potentially added debt.
Each added year can mean spending anything from $15,000 to $23,000 extra.
Every reduced year also means reduced costs and debt. Online education can provide you that saving. See if your program allows you to move at your pace and schedule. Be prepared to put in the work too 😉.
Secret #10: Overall Cost
Online degree programs can vary a lot in overall costs. Many accredited online colleges offer high-quality, affordable, and flexible schedules with which you can earn that prestigious degree of your dreams.
A program does not become affordable just because you can borrow. If you are taking a loan to finance your degree, you will pay your student loan debt later. High student loans can set you back a lot from your future income and impact your life moving forward.
Hence, focus on reducing your tuition costs. Measure affordability by your current and future financial commitments.
You want to take advantage of any available scholarship, tuition discounts, any other way the college can help you financially.
Related Article: Online Colleges With Financial Aid For Students – Use This Guide And Checklist
Secret #11: Student Reviews
Current and former students can often give you great insights into the program you plan to enroll. It is always good practice to search online or meet in-person students and alumni to know their likes and dislikes about the program.
Former students can shed light on post-graduation employment opportunities and the program’s pros and cons in the real world.
Online degree programs can offer you the opportunity to be correctly qualified for the career of your choice. All this can happen at a fraction of the price of a traditional in-person college.
Hence, use the above list and ask the right questions when deciding on the best accredited online college that meets your goals.