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Five Questions to Ask Before Choosing an Online University

News Brief - 1/5/17

Tips from WGU Indiana, Indiana’s Online University

INDIANAPOLIS — With the New Year underway, many Hoosiers are looking to improve their lives through education. Choosing the right school, one that provides a respected, affordable, and flexible education, is an important step in one’s path to get ahead. To help make this decision a bit easier, WGU Indiana Chancellor Allison Barber has a list of five questions to ask to ensure that students choose the right university for their needs.

“WGU Indiana’s competency-based online education model fits the needs of thousands of working Hoosiers,” said Chancellor Allison Barber. “While 4,000 Hoosiers have graduated and 5,000 adults are currently enrolled in WGU Indiana, we still feel it’s critical for each student to research online education options to best meet their own needs.”

1. Is the university regionally accredited? Regional accreditation is the highest form of accreditation. The U.S. Department of Education publishes a list of regional accrediting agencies that are recognized as reliable authorities on the quality of education or training offered by institutions of higher learning. Accreditation ensures that employers and other academic institutions will respect and recognize your degree.

2. How much will it cost? Tuition at online universities varies widely, from approximately the same cost as a public university to more than twice as much. Hoosiers should be sure to understand all of the costs—tuition, books, and fees—before making their decision, along with the possibility of receiving financial aid. If approved and a student decides to receive financial aid, make sure to only borrow what is needed graduate, this will help steer away from incurring unnecessary additional student debt. Another factor in cost consideration should be the length of time it will take to complete your degree—the longer it takes, the more it is likely to cost.

3. How will you learn? Some aspects of the student experience at an online university will be similar to what you would expect in a more traditional environment. Students study, write papers, complete projects, and take tests. Other aspects, such as when and where students study and how they interact with faculty and other students, are quite different. Students may want to consider a competency-based program, which will allow them to study and learn on your own schedule and advance as soon as you demonstrate mastery of the subject matter.

4. What kind of help and support is provided? Online should not mean alone. Support from faculty and administration is key to student success. Be sure that the university provides a high level of faculty support and opportunities to interact with other students.

5. Will your degree prepare you for career advancement or graduate work? Make sure that the degree program you choose offers relevant and up-to-date curriculum to ensure that when you graduate, you will have the real-world skills employers need. Ask for information about alumni placements, employer surveys, and graduate rankings on national test scores.

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