Learn to Earn Checklist: Are You Ready for an Online Bachelor
Getting a bachelor's or master's degree may seem an
insurmountable obstacle when you're working a 40-hour week. But
many Americans who have work, family and financial obligations
that keep them from quitting their jobs to attend a traditional
college or university full time have succeeded in finding a new
way to meet their education goals and advance their careers.
Called distance learning, it's an approach that's taking the
country -- and especially the Internet -- by storm. Dozens of
accredited colleges and universities now offer online bachelor
degree programs that require students to spend little or no time
on campus. In most cases, you can learn to earn from the comfort
of your own home.
The nation's largest accredited private university, the
University of Phoenix, is a good example of the trend toward
distance learning. It offers online bachelor degree programs in
business, technology, health care, education, and social and
behavioural science. At the beginning of 2002, the last year for
which figures are available on the Department of Education
website, the University of Phoenix had more than 107,000
students enrolled in programs offered in classrooms and via the
Internet through the school's online campus.
While getting a degree from an accredited online university like
the University of Phoenix can substantially boost your lifetime
earning profile, online learning isn't for everyone. Online
learners do best when they're highly motivated, are able to
learn outside a traditional classroom environment, and have good
computer skills and their own home computer.
If you fit this profile, here's a basic checklist you'll need to
review before choosing an online degree program:
* Do you meet the academic requirements?
Like a traditional brick-and-mortar college, online universities
have admission requirements that may vary according to your
course of study. Certificate and online bachelor degree programs
will require a high school diploma or GED certificate. Entrance
requirements for graduate degrees will vary with the online
degree program. At the University of Phoenix, for example, most
graduate degree programs require a minimum of three years of
related work experience and a bachelor's degree with a 2.5 GPA
* Is the online university accredited?
Accreditation is a process that colleges and universities submit
to voluntarily in order to receive their credentials. Although
there are no national accrediting standards, not just any
accreditation will do. The U.S. Department of Education or the
Commission on Recognition of Postsecondary Accreditation
recognizes six regional and about 80 professional accrediting
associations in the United States. The University of Phoenix,
for example, is accredited by the Commission on Institutions of
Higher Education of the North Central Association of Colleges
* Have you put your own goals first?
Take some time to research your options from the point of view
of your own goals. To determine which school best fits your
academic profile and educational goals, first list your
criteria. Then, evaluate online degree programs based on their
accreditation, features, and expenses. Once you have chosen
several schools to explore further, visit their websites for
more information. All online universities provide free, detailed
information about their degree programs and free online access
to enrollment counsellors. Ask school officials questions about
such things as enrollment numbers, graduation rate, faculty
qualifications, and any confusing details about the application
process or academic policies.
* Can you afford it?
If you're considering an online bachelor degree, make sure you
can afford the costs for tuition, books (if any), and other
admin or online fees. Remember, too, that you may not have to
cover the entire cost of your online education alone. At the
University of Phoenix, 59% of the University's students receive
all or part of their tuition from their employer. Even if your
employer won't spring for the cost of making you a better
employee through continuing education, there are still other
financial options available, including federal grant and loan
programs with low interest rates.
Distance learning, especially in the form of an online
university, is a great way to advance your career through an
online bachelor degree or even a graduate degree in your chosen
field. Following these guidelines will help make your search for
the right online degree a pleasant and fruitful one.