What Defines the Best Online Colleges?
Just like with campus-based colleges, the best online colleges offer rigorous coursework. When evaluating an online college, there are a couple of indicators of quality that you should pay attention to. The first is accreditation. Any school that isn’t accredited by either a reputable national or regional accrediting body should be avoided, and you will also want to make sure that your school is not certified by a bogus or phony agency.
Beyond accreditation, you should evaluate the curriculum at each school under consideration. Be sure to look around at a few colleges to get an idea of what to expect from a general curriculum in a particular subject. All schools will have their differences, of course, but you should be wary of any curriculum that looks easy, or one expressly designed to be completed quickly. Strong student support services are important as well: if you can’t reliably gather information about a program of interest, you should not feel comfortable attending that school. Finally, if you have some college experience, you ought to make sure you find a school that will accept an acceptable number of your transfer credits.
Types of Online Colleges Available
- Community colleges: At a community college, you can pursue your associate degree online, either to qualify for introductory positions in your chosen field or as preparation for a four-year program down the line. Tuition at two-year schools is lower than at most colleges, and for students just starting college, it might make sense for you to begin here.
- Professional and career colleges: If you want to attend school and prepare for a specific career, you can develop industry-specific skills in a career college. Whether you’re interested in nursing, secretarial work, or anything else, a professional college can help you take the next step in your career.
- Public colleges: These are the traditional four-year state schools. As a general matter, public colleges are usually cheaper than private schools. Some online schools offer reduced tuition rates to in-state students, while others are able to offer in-state tuition to students throughout the country.
- Private not-for-profit colleges: Many, though not all, of the private schools offering online programs are religious schools. Some of these schools incorporate scripture into their online program, though others do not, and have no religious requirements for distance learners. Private non-profit schools are often more expensive than other four-year options, so be sure to do your research and find a school that fits with your budget.
- Private for-profit colleges: There are a number of reputable private for-profit colleges as well. When researching for-profit schools, it is vital that you research their accreditation and reputation, as there are a number of diploma mills in this category.