Dear Liz: I wanted to comment on something in a question you recently answered. The person was concerned about her $40,000 debt for her two-year paralegal studies degree at a for-profit online university. In your response you very correctly cautioned her about the problems that for-profit institutions have been creating for students and the fact that they are being looked into by the Government Accountability Office.
This is great information, but some readers may assume all universities that offer online programs are for-profit and inherently suspect. Many not-for-profit institutions offer very high-quality programs, many of which are online or hybrid. I work for a well-respected, nonprofit university that offers many programs online. I am sure that I speak for many who work hard to offer quality programs online: We deserve to not be lumped together with for-profit schools that do not have the students’ best interests at heart.
Answer: Your point is well taken. Online degrees aren’t inherently worthless when they’re offered by well-respected, accredited institutions. But anyone considering a degree from a for-profit college, either online or off, should investigate the school carefully.
If it is, the next step is to determine whether its programs are the best fit for your needs or if you could get your education for less from a nonprofit vocational school or community college. Many times, you can.
Finally, double-check any school’s claims about the availability and pay of the job for which you’re training. The U.S. Department of Labor site at http://www.dol.gov has statistics showing projected job growth and pay for a long list of positions. It’s worth doing the research before you commit.