How Do I Know if an Online College is Reputable?

While you might love the idea of attending an online college and saving some time and money, you need to look at the reputation of that school before you enroll. Many reputable public and private colleges now offer online classes that require the same amount of work as their on-campus classes, but you’ll find a wide range of both for-profit and nonprofit schools operating online today. Doing a few key things can help you learn more about a school’s reputation and whether it’s the right choice for you.

Look at its National and Global Ranking

There are several publications that rank colleges, including Princeton Review, Washington Monthly, U.S. News & World Report and ARWU. Those publications look at factors like the number of students who graduate on time, the cost of graduating from that college, the educational background of instructors and the job placement rate among graduates. Some also take into account factors like the amount of financial aid awarded to students and the amount of debt students have when they leave the school. Colleges on these lists, and especially those that rank high, have the best reputations.

Check with the United States Department of Education

You should never enroll in a college without first verifying that it has regional accreditation. The Higher Learning Commission is one of the main organizations in the country responsible for accreditation, and it has regional departments across the nation that also grant accreditation. This means that the college or university passed a stringent background check and meets all the requirements for accreditation. Regional accreditation also means that the college can offer degree programs and accept financial aid from the federal government. You can check with the U.S. Department of Education to view all the accreditation types that a college has and whether any of the accreditation is pending or in trouble.

Read Online Reviews

If you really want to get a feel for a college’s reputation, look at what alumni say online. Google Local often contains a number of school reviews, but you’ll also find reviews on other sites like the Better Business Bureau website. You can also enter the name of the school in your favorite search engine with the words “review” or “rating” to find other reviews online. The way alumni felt about their experiences there will help you decide if it’s the best school for you.

Research the College Closely

Never enroll in an online college without doing a lot of research first. Joe Ducey and Courtney Holmes recommend searching for news stories related to both the college itself and any parent company that might own the school. Many online colleges are part of a chain that a parent company owns and operates. You might find few stories about the school itself but negative reviews and stories about that head company. Stories about lawsuits, students graduating with a lot of debt and colleges losing their accreditation may encourage you to enroll in a different school.

One of the most important factors in choosing where to go to school is the reputation of that school, especially when looking at online colleges. To learn more about the reputation of an online college, you should read online reviews, check for accreditation information from the U.S. Department of Education, look at its rankings and research carefully.

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