Going back to school is a big decision. It's worth taking time to learn more about different degree programs and different online colleges. Listed below are some important, must-ask questions that you need to explore for each school you are considering. Your time and money are important. Find a school that respects your decision process and pursuit of information. Stay open minded. Realize that any number of schools may be suitable for your needs--whether your top priority is flexibility, cost, convenience, academic rigor, student support, or something else.
- What type of institutional accreditation do you hold?
TIP: The licensing boards that regulate certain professions, such as nursing or law, often require student to graduate from degree programs that hold specialized accreditation, such as the National League for Nursing for nursing or the American Bar Association for law, so it is important for you to know what is required to be a licensed practitioner in your field.
- What kind of financial aid assistance do you offer to qualified students? Are you eligible to administer federal aid or state aid? Do you offer any institutional scholarships or grants?
- What are the procedures and deadlines for submitting applications for each available financial aid program?
- What is the school's loan default rate (the percentage of students who attended the school, took out federal student loans and failed to repay their loans on time)?
- Do you have a preferred list of lenders that you work with? If so, how were these lenders chosen?
TIP: If you are thinking of applying for financial aid, you will need to apply for FAFSA (Free Application for Federal Student Aid) soon after January 1. By submitting the FAFSA your eligibility for federal aid will be reviewed by the U.S. Department of Education. You can complete the FAFSA even if you haven't decided on a school or a degree program yet.
Tuition and Fees
- How much is tuition? If the figure is given in a "cost per credit" format, how many credits are required in order to graduate?
- What, if anything, is included in my tuition? Books? Software?
- Do you charge additional tuition or fees for out-of-state students?
- Are there any additional fees like a technology fee or library fee that I need to know about?
- What methods of payment do you accept for tuition?
- Do you offer payment plans? How do they work?
- What kind of academic services, such as academic advising, tutoring, or career services are available to me?
- What percentage of graduates find jobs in their field of study?
- Do instructors have experience teaching online?
- What kind of response time can I expect if I have a question or problem? 24 hours? One business day?
- What methods of contact can I use to get in touch with my professor? E-mail, fax, phone, instant messenger, etc.?
Program of Interest
- How often and by what means is the program reviewed for the quality and real-world applicability of its curriculum?
- What is the average length of time it takes for a student to complete this program?
- Approximately how much time, per week, will I need to devote to one class?