Commercials, internet ads, and billboards constantly remind the public of various online schools. Each school, as any university, has pros and cons that should be considered before making the choice to become a student. Western Governors University, University of Phoenix, Purdue University, ITT Technical Institute, and Atlantic International University are all names in online education that are frequently heard. Use the following information to make an informed decision about these popular schools.
Western Governors University
Western Governors University, or WGU, is quite different from most universities. It takes a different approach by offering competency based courses. Students at WGU have a set list of courses that they must take in order to graduate and there are no electives. Students use learning resources such as textbooks, study guides, and practice tests to master concepts. There are no set classes and students are able to use prior knowledge to quickly pass some courses. Students write essays and perform other activities in order to pass classes. Students must provide work on the level of a grade B in order to pass assignments. If the work is not on that level, students must revise the work until it is up to standard.
All classes at WGU are on a pass/fail basis. The pass/fail system listed on the transcript could prove to be difficult to explain to graduate schools. Since WGU’s system is so different, there are very few courses that will transfer into the school and students who have already completed an associate’s degree may be disappointed at the lack of transfer credits.
The positive aspect of WGU’s competency based programs is that students can accelerate their study, tuition is based on the cost of the semester and not the number of classes that are completed, and students who learn better on their own may appreciate this environment. WGU offers degrees in education, information technology, business, and health care. WGU is nationally and regionally accredited and their education program is one of the few online that has the coveted NCATE accreditation.
University of Phoenix
The University of Phoenix is one of the most recognizable names in online education. The University of Phoenix has various program accreditations and is regionally accredited. The classes offered at this school are in a traditional format, making it possible to transfer classes from previous coursework. The University of Phoenix also accepts CLEP tests, like many schools, so that students have the opportunity to test out of courses.
This school offers classes in an online format as well as through various local campuses throughout the country. Their distance education program has its own software so that students can access their courses through one portal. It is a for-profit school and more expensive than many schools with most bachelors degree level courses costing $550 per credit (meaning $1650 for a three credit hour class in many cases). The school offers all levels of degrees and various majors including psychology, business, education, human services, and technology.
Purdue University is a regionally accredited school offering various programs. The school offers a regionally accredited online high school program which is not found in may online schools. Purdue offers many majors that are too numerous to list. Purdue also offers a rare online law school which is based in California. Potential law students will need to check with their individual states to ensure that the school carries merit where they want to practice law.
Tuition for online undergraduate programs is $371 per quarter credit hour. Purdue uses quarter credit hours which differs from the semester credit hours that most schools offer because quarter hours are based on three academic sessions per year (not including summer), instead of two academic sessions per year like semesters. Quarter hours often carry less weight in the grading system and may be hard to transfer to a semester style school.
Purdue also differs from other schools as it offers a five week introductory period. During the five weeks, new students can work in their chosen classes and not pay tuition. If they decide that Purdue is not for them, they can leave with paying nothing more than the application fee. If they decide to stay, they will pay the tuition and finish the classes they already have been in for five weeks. This is a great way for students who are on the fence about online education to decide if it is right for them.
ITT Technical Institute
ITT Technical Institute obviously focuses on education in the technical field. This school does have various accreditations but it is not accredited by a regional accreditation agency, which may be problematic if a student wants to transfer schools or go on to graduate school. They offer a range of technical degrees as well as degrees in business and criminal justice.
Like many schools that offer online courses, ITT Technical Institute uses a structure consisting of textbooks, PowerPoint presentations, online assessments, discussions, and assignments. Each course has an instructor who assigns work and answers questions. ITT Technical Institute has admissions standards that are higher than many online schools that should be carefully reviewed before applying.
It is possible to transfer courses to ITT Technical Institute, but in addition to the lack of regional accreditation, this school is comprised of quarter credit hours which may also make it more difficult to transfer out. The tuition rate is not easily accessible on the school’s web site and may not be listed at all. Tuition is determined by the program and location.
Atlantic International University
Atlantic International University has no accreditation by the U.S. Department of Education. This is important to remember because this may cause a graduate to not be able to be certified in many fields, go onto graduate school, or even use the degree for college experience for many jobs. This school has programs of all degree levels in just about everything. Without accreditation, though, many of these programs will not be an asset.
Tuition is really low and students are charged by the entire degree or put on a monthly payment plan. In fact, one can fill out an application and on the application fill in a credit card number and pay the entire tuition. This may be a red flag. One should think very carefully before filling out an application to this school.
Knowledge truly is power when choosing an online school. Use this information to make an informed decision.