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Educational Consumer Tips

How to Check Out Online Schools

Author: Better Business Bureau
Category: Education

Getting an education has never been easier thanks to the proliferation of online trade schools, colleges and universities. Not all schools are created equal, however. Here’s how to tell the difference:

Website. Online schools should have websites that supply information similar to those of traditional schools, including accreditation, program requirement and admission standards. Look for a physical address (often just an administrative building) where students can send mail or visit.

Accreditation. Ask the school to provide proof of accreditation that you can verify with the U.S. Department of Education and through the Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs. Keep in mind that some majors and programs – health care, music and business, for example –  need to be accredited by their own academic and professional agencies.

Enrollment processes. Is admission 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.

Credibility. Diploma mills sometimes 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.

Financial aid. Legitimate schools will provide information on federal financial aid. Consider it a red flag if they don’t.