Give Online Education Programs the Third Degree

June 28, 2012

Better Business Bureau is warning prospective students to be wary of certain online schools and education opportunities.

With nearly 6.5 million people involved in sort 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.

"The popularity of distance degrees and similar programs has led to more diploma mills, unaccredited universities and shady institutions that take advantage of unassuming students," said Vee Daniel CEO of Upstate BBB.

Get schooled in accreditation. Degrees from accredited universities are more likely to be recognized by employers and other higher education institutions. Before applying, understand accreditation information provided by the U.S. Department of Education and research accreditation claims through the Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs.

Take note of enrollment processes. Is admission granted based on test scores, entry exams and additional background information or by simply paying tuition? Degree fees are typically based on credit loads; be cautious of schools that accept all students or charge a flat degree fee.

Be wary of an easy "A." Beware: 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' BBB Business Reviews, which include ratings, complaint histories and contact details.