Judging the Reputability of an Online School

Unfortunately, just like in every other business, there are colleges out there that begin with one goal in mind: offer a mediocre education and charge high fees. These "diploma mills" will give you a diploma, for a heavy fee, and confirm your diploma with potential employers. However, the learning you'll receive will be sup-par at best, and you may find that you're horribly unprepared to enter the workforce in your field.

In order to avoid diploma mills, consider this advice from CNNMoney.com:

Experts and program administrators at some of the most well-known and largest online programs say you should check to make sure a school is properly accredited. That means credits can be transferred fairly easily between most major higher-education systems.

One way of double checking a college's claim is by contacting a well-known university in your area to see if they accept credits from the online degree program in question, says Warren Ashley, a distance learning program director at California State University Dominguez Hills in Los Angeles.

Another red flag he warns about is a college offering to trade "life experience" for classroom credits. Although that's a common practice for gaining acceptance into graduate schools, Ashley says such swaps aren't generally counted as substitutes for credits at accredited universities.

"People need to make sure no expensive preconditions exist in the online program they're considering," Ashley added. "Some traditional schools just don't believe in earning a degree completely online. They'll require you to take at least a class or two on campus."

Another good way of deciphering whether or not a school is reputable is simply to enter the name of the school in a search engine and see what other students (current and former) are saying in chat rooms and message boards. In general, if an institution is trying to simply sucker you out of money, people are going to do their best to warn others.

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