How to Tell Good Online Programs from Bad

There are thousands of online programs offering degrees at every level and in every imaginable field. As this number keeps growing, it is more important than ever for people to understand that not all degree programs are the same. There are some that provide an accredited, quality education as well as some that are no more than an empty piece of paper. To avoid wasting your money on a worthless degree, here is what you need to know to find a program that will make your time and money investment worthwhile.

School Accreditation

Accreditation is the best way for students to be sure that a particular school or program meets the highest academic standards. There are different types of accreditation, with regional accreditation being the best. When you earn your online degree from a regionally accredited school or program, your education will be recognized by more employers and will enable to you to land better jobs. Check your potential school’s accreditation with the U.S. Department of Education and the Council for Higher Education Accreditation before considering enrollment.

Curriculum and Transferability

If you have previously earned credits from another school, check to see if your prospective school will accept them. In addition, find out whether the credits you earn in the new program are transferable to another college if you decide to switch programs later on. If the credits are not transferable, it may be because other schools do not consider the program to meet their academic standards. You should also take the time to investigate the curriculum of your chosen degree program. Are the courses designed to help fully prepare you for your chosen future career?

Student Support

Just because you are choosing to study online doesn’t mean that you will never need academic assistance. In fact, you may find that you need more assistance as an online student. When comparing programs, check to see what support services are available and at what level. I this information is not readily available on the school web site, or if school representatives seem reluctant to answer your questions, it may be a red flag. Also beware if financial aid counselors or other school personnel seem pushy.


A school’s statistics can tell you a great deal about the quality of the school and its programs. According to the Sloan Consortium, this is one of the best measures of a school’s quality. For instance, low completion rates may be a good indicator that the program does not provide adequate academic support. A high rate of student loan defaults may signal a poor quality of financial aid advising. You may also want to check the statistics regarding the employment of graduates. Low employment rates may indicate a program that has a poor level of career services or an insufficient level of education.

By taking the time to check into the student services, statistics, accreditation, and curriculum of a variety of online schools, you can be sure to choose the highest quality education for your money.