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“Accredited” Online Colleges

The popularity of for-profit schools is difficult to dispute — they enroll more students than the University of California system and the Ivy League combined — but their glory days may be over, according to a Wall Street Journal article. Enrollment rates have plummeted at Corinthian Colleges, Kaplan Higher Education, and Capella Education Inc. These schools will have to renegotiate their business model to appeal to new waves of prospective students, but there are certain aspects that individuals should consider before they decide to enroll in a for-profit school.

Students must ensure that they select a school that is accredited by a legitimate accreditation body. These organizations determine whether a school meets certain standards in terms of the quality. A degree from an unaccredited institution, either a for-profit or not-for-profit school, will not be recognized by employers. Credits attained from unaccredited universities may not be transferrable to other institutions, so students who plan on pursuing further education should make sure that they enroll in accredited universities.

Students in certain fields should also determine whether their program has been accredited by a specialized, professional, or programmatic accreditation body. This type of accreditation is designed for specific departments, programs, schools, or colleges within an educational institution. Programs in fields such as law, engineering, nursing, and psychology are eligible for accreditation by specialized accreditation organizations. For instance, The Association to Advance Collegiate Schools of Business (AACSB) accredits business schools that pass a rigorous set of requirements. However, the AACSB only accredits not-for-profit schools, which means that for-profit schools are not eligible for this form of accreditation. Students should be wary of unaccredited programs at for-profit institutions, such the ones noted on the infographic below.

All prospective students should make certain that they are not duped by diploma mills, which are higher education institutions that operate without the supervision of a state or professional agency, awarding diplomas that are either fraudulent or worthless. Diploma mills, also known as degree mills, generally offer students degrees for a fee without requiring them to complete any substantial coursework. They may even grant degrees for “work or life experience,” but a degree from institutions like these will not translate to greater employment opportunities. Students can protect themselves against diploma mills by conducting research to determine whether the learning institution is legitimate.

Aside from questions regarding the legitimacy of for-profit schools, prospective students should also note that private, for-profit schools spend less than public colleges do on instruction — up to two-thirds less. Students at for-profit schools are also less likely to graduate than students traditional institutions. On average, for-profit students take out three times as many loans as their non-profit counterparts. This is likely attributed to the aggressive recruiting techniques that some for-profit institutions have adopted, although many are reforming their ways amid criticism regarding high student loan default rates. As of 2008, default rates stood at 11.6%, twice as much as the default rate of graduates from public colleges.

While there are risks associated with attending an unaccredited for-profit school, there are plenty of accredited for-profit educational institutions that offer advantages. For instance, for-profits can offer class timings that are flexible and convenient for students who work part-time or full-time. Furthermore, employers are looking more favorably upon accredited online colleges. In fact, as more traditional brick-and-mortar universities roll out online degree programs of their own, they add legitimacy to this mode of learning. According to a survey conducted by the online institution Excelsior College and Zogby International, 83% of executives said that an online degree is as credible as one earned through a traditional campus-based program. Employers weigh factors such as the accreditation of the college or university, the quality of its graduates, and the reputation of the institution in determining the legitimacy of an online degree.

Accredited Online Colleges
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May 11th, 2012 written by Staff Writers

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