Are Online Degrees Accredited?
According to the Better Business Bureau, many fraudulent schools (better known as diploma mills) are profiting on the popularity of distance learning and are attracting students into their “degree programs”, often with the promises of a quick diploma. Marketing representativess take advantage of students lack of knowledge about college accreditation, and use the terms“fully accredited” , “nationally accredited”, or “accredited worldwide” to assure the student of the program's legitimacy. The key to finding a quality program is accreditation, the most widely known and accepted being regional accreditation. Today, there are hundreds of reputable colleges and universities, including well known traditional campuses, offering full online degree programs.
Can I Get Financial Aid for an Online Degree?
If taking distance or online classes as part of a program at a traditional, regionally accredited institution, you will be assisted by the Federal and state financial aid received for the full program. If it's an online only program offered by a traditional institution, you may be eligible for federal assistance.
Until recently, the U.S. Department of Education, through the Distance Education Demonstration Program, was testing funding for distance education among carefully selected participating institutions. To prevent abuse and fraud in student aid programs, the Department initiated the 50 percent rule, which required colleges to provide at least half of their courses on campus instead of online to receive Federal financial aid.
However, according to a recently passed Congressional Bill, the 50 percent rule has been eliminated, and colleges and universities no longer need to follow this guideline to receive financial aid. They can continue to increase their offering of online programs, and when enrolled in a regionally accredited program you will be eligible for aid from all Federal Title IV programs (including the Federal Pell Grant, the Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG), and the Federal Stafford Loan Program.)
Selecting an Online Degree Program
1. What is the college or university's program accreditation? In general, it is important to make sure the college is accredited by an established and accepted accrediting body, as well as any specialized accreditations. To learn more about accreditation and why it's important.
2. What are the admission and registration requirements? These may include age, academic qualifactions or prerequisites, required testing, transfer of credit and other academic policies.
3. How new is the college's online program? Look for a program that has a proven success rate, satisfied current students or alumni, or a history of providing quality programs for the adult learner.
4. What are the qualifications of the faculty and what type of academic support is available? Do most of the faculty hold advanced degrees from a variety of schools, or did they obtain their credentials from the school itself? Is advising and tutoring provided?
5. Look at the faculty-student ratio, and how the faculty and student interactions take place. Is the program self-paced or on a fixed schedule? Look for a smaller class size, as courses with a smaller number of students can help you receive more personal attention from the instructor if needed. It is also important to know the school's total student enrollment, as a large student enrollment is an indicator of a strong program with many graduates. Ask the college how many students have successfully graduated from the program and if they can provide information about job placement rates.
6. What are the school's tuition and fees, including payment schedule? What is the reimbursement policy upon withdrawal? What kind of financial aid, financing, or grants and scholarships are available?
7. Does the college or university provide good customer service? Make sure the school is highly customer service oriented and will provide a personal academic advisor to assist with any questions and help facilitate your course of study from matriculation to graduation
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