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Tuesday, March 24, 2009

How to Select Online Colleges and Universities

This may have happened to you. After applying for a job online, the phone rings. Generally this can take 5-10 minutes, sometimes you may still even be on the computer. A voice on the other end of the line representing some online university insists you wanted to go to college. No matter what you try to tell them, they give you another reason to go back to school.

As unemployment rates have continued to soar, many people are actually considering going back to school at and online college or university. This can be beneficial for some people that are looking to change fields or receive a degree while working. But how much does a degree from these universities really help towards furthering knowledge and advancing a career.

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As a former student at a Big Ten University, then going to work at an online university, there are some incredible differences that stood out. The curriculum for an online university was amazing in comparison to those from a renowned state university. This curriculum was amazing in the sense that it was hard to believe that completing the assignments could actually meet the requirements needed to receive a bachelors degree.

The typical assignments or papers at state college were generally several pages and would require typically, 5 or 6 hours work to write. The online "papers" were only three or four paragraphs in length. The assignments were often longer than the homework, and this was in junior and senior level bachelors classes. It was really incredible that these were there standards.

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If the person on the phone that calls from an online university seems annoyingly pushy, that is because the admissions department at pretty much every school is filled with sales people. Like any other sales job, they have quotas for the number of students they should enroll and meeting those numbers means keeping their job. Don't get me wrong, a lot of them are very caring people, I know because I worked with some wonderful ones. But the bottom line is, they want you in school whether it is good for you or not.

In reality, a degree from an online college is better than no degree at all. Provided the university is regionally accredited, at least it meets the same standards as required for state colleges. However, the quality of the education is in actuality much, much lower. That's because these online universities are essentially all owned by vast companies that may up to 40 or 50 colleges. The main concern these companies have are the same as any company on Wall Street, profit margins and the bottom line.

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This, among other reasons, is why the retention rate for these schools is very low. Online educational institutions have essentially no standards for who they accept. Most of the entrance essays provided by students are embarrassing and would have them instantaneously rejected from a respectable school. However they can be accepted time and time again to an online school that will take their money regardless if they realistically have the necessary intelligence or ability to be a successful student.

They do this because these students receive vast amounts of grants and loans from the department of education. This means even if they don't stay in school for more than a week, the school will have made thousands off of them. The student will be put in debt and will be no closer to obtaining a degree to help them find that job that started this whole scenario.

Next time the phone rings after applying for a job, remember some of the realities about online colleges and universities. The degrees they offer may or may not really be beneficial, but students considering them should be determined enough to know they will finish their degree. People should also be conscientious of the difference between getting a quality education and getting a degree to put on a resume.


Johanne said...

" People should also be conscientious of the difference between getting a quality education and getting a degree to put on a resume."

- Good advice.

However, there are online degree programs that offer academically challenging coursework that match the standards of renowned state universities. It really depends on the institution you attend.

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