Picking the right college has always been a carefully made decision based on a number of factors: learning opportunities, facilities, location and, of course, money. Another criterion: a school’s reputation. But some may assume that last factor doesn’t matter with an online degree program, thinking I’ll pick the cheapest option because all online degrees are the same.
But according to people who are looking to hire you, this isn’t the case: In our survey, 63% of respondents said that where someone received their education was important or very important to them in their assessment of a candidate. Hiring managers and recruiters will be aware of the perception of your school, which means where you go could really make a difference in their eyes.
So what makes for a credible online degree program? Here’s what to watch for, and what ASU Online does to stand out.
The hallmark of a reputable online degree program is accreditation, which indicates that an institution of higher education meets acceptable levels of quality. In the United States, colleges are accredited by one of 19 recognized institutional accrediting organizations, and programs are accredited by one of approximately 60 recognized organizations. The Council for Higher Education Accreditation and the U.S. Department of Education (USDE) recognize reputable accrediting organizations.
Arizona State University is accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (HLC) to offer all online degree programs through ASU Online. Formed in 1895, the HLC is considered one of the most prestigious regional accrediting agencies. Plus, ASU has individual programs with specialized accreditation.
Not only does accreditation signify a university’s legitimacy, it also impacts a school’s professional licensure and ability to give and receive financial aid. According to the USDE, “In order for students to receive federal student aid from the U.S. Department of Education for postsecondary study, the institution must be accredited by a ‘nationally recognized’ accrediting agency.”
2. Access to a campus
A brick-and-mortar campus indicates the university you’re attending online is a reputable, long-running institution with a presence in the community, and likely has online programs that match the quality of in-person education. This is especially true of ASU; we work to make our online offerings as similar to our in-person degree programs as possible. ASU Online’s students are taught by on-campus staff, and they have access to resources that connect them with students and professors, such as community forums to discuss coursework, a help center with a live chat feature, electronic journals, online library access and research databases.
ASU also leverages technology in its online classes to create meaningful learning experiences. Some professors use Yellowdig, a software platform that leverages the sharing of academic ideas and knowledge on a private network. Others use PlayPosit, which gives professors the ability to turn video content into an interactive experience. Bottom line, a university with a brick-and-mortar campus knows how to create effective learning environments.
A campus also means that online students, if willing and able access additional resources that the school offers and have a chance to network with other students more easily.
3. Nonprofit status
For-profit universities aren’t inherently below quality, but prospective students need to be aware that for-profit schools operate differently than their nonprofit counterparts.
For-profit schools often have very high acceptance rates, which may indicate low standard, and thus, a lower quality of education. For-profit schools also often lead to fewer job opportunities and leave graduates with more debt: Research has shown that attending for-profit colleges causes students to take on more debt and to default at higher rates, on average, compared with similarly selective public institutions in their communities.
4. Admission requirements
Online colleges that have high acceptance rates and request little to no information during the application process probably don’t offer the highest level of college education. When looking for the right online degree, take note of what’s required to be accepted to the program. A reputable online program will ask for information such as your official transcripts, high school diploma or GED, set a minimum GPA requirement and request letters of recommendation.
ASU Online’s credentials
ASU Online offers accredited programs, is a not-for-profit school and is committed to making online classes as valuable as in-person offerings. What also makes ASU Online’s experience stand out is the more than 300 available programs, and the number of programs in sought-after fields, such as nursing and engineering.