Education Law

The Fundamentals of Online College - and Other - Degrees

The ability to get a college degree online, also called distance learning, can be a great advantage for busy, working students who don't have time to sit in a classroom during regularly scheduled hours. More and more colleges and universities offer online degrees, but not all distance learning institutions are legitimate.

Accreditation May Be a Scam

Some institutions of higher learning purchase respectability from accreditation mills, phony organizations that vouch for and issue certificates for accreditation that are actually meaningless. If you enroll in one of these online schools, you'll receive a degree after paying your tuition and earning credits. However, the degree may not be worth anything. Other reputable schools probably won't recognize your credits if you decide to transfer, and future employers might not acknowledge your degree from such an institution.

Who Accredits Institutions?

Legitimate accreditation comes from organizations approved by either the U.S. Department of Education or the Council of Higher Education Accreditation. These organizations review a school's programs to judge the quality of the education offered. Certain standards apply, and it's a complex, ongoing process. Some schools might lose accreditation as others gain it, so the list of approved, accredited schools can change periodically.

Online Degrees Are Equal to On-Campus Degrees

The value of your online degree is the same as if you attended classes on campus, assuming the school is properly accredited. It depends on the school itself. A degree from an Ivy League school is more impressive than a degree from your county college, whether you study at the school itself or from the privacy of your own home. Online degrees and credits are equal to those earned by attending classes in a brick-and-mortar building, although it's possible that a future employer might have a personal prejudice against online studies.

How Can You Be Sure?

If you have doubts about a school you're considering, call them and ask what organization accredited their institution. You can then check to find out if the organization is recognized by the Department of Education or the Council of Higher Education Accreditation. If you've already enrolled, and if your school is not legitimately accredited, you might find that the classes are a breeze and very little is required of you. Legitimate online classes offered by recognized schools require the same level of work and study as campus classes. If nothing much is being asked of you in exchange for credits or a degree, you may have fallen victim to a school that's purchased its accreditation from a mill.

An Education Lawyer Can Help

The law surrounding online degrees is complicated. Plus, the facts of each case are unique. This article provides a brief, general introduction to the topic. For more detailed, specific information, please contact an education lawyer.

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