A Little Basic Info
(Maybe you can skip the first two paragraphs)
A college is a school that offers less degrees and courses than a university. And a university often contains many colleges, such as a college of law, a college of medicine, a college of journalism, etc. Universities are larger, though this doesn’t mean that a University is better than a college. Both offer bachelor degrees. A university will offer Master’s degrees, and a college might. A university will offer at least some PhDs and a few colleges do. A community college usually offers only a 2 year Associate’s degree and is usually easier in the classes than a regular college or university.
One advantage of a community college is that they tend to give you more courses of the subject you’re interested in, and less courses of the stuff you don’t care about. On the other hand, future employers usually respect degrees from regular colleges and universities more. From this point on, when I use the word ‘college’, I’ll mean any of these three kinds of schools.
I have looked at an extraordinarily large number of universities/colleges that offer online classes and degrees. My personal experience tells me that there are two kinds of colleges. There are those whose main interest is giving you an education and making money is secondary for them, and there are those whose main interest is making money and giving you a good education is second. (even though some of these probably offer good education also). One good way to tell the difference online is that in general, a school interested more in education will NOT have commercial advertisements on their website. The money-minded schools very often will. Also, most any ‘education school’ will have a website ending with .edu, and ‘money schools’ will have websites ending with either .com or .edu. And if you Google online colleges or universities, you’ll probably get the money-minded schools. To find the education schools, you pretty much have to know who you’re searching for. Education schools don’t really advertise for students. If the school has a website that looks like it’s trying to convince you to go there, they are probably money first, education second. Or if you get information in the mail about a college that you didn’t ask for, they are almost certainly a money-first school. It might pay you to be careful of this kind of school.
Look for websites that have no commercial advertising on their home page (or any page). Education-minded schools may “advertise” their athletic department, or “advertise” upcoming plays in their Performing Arts department, but they’re obviously not ads for money-making. I propose that you look only at schools that have .edu at the end of their website name, but this isn’t a guarantee, because some ‘commercial outfits’ use .com or edu.
Believe it or not, the money-making schools tend to be quite a bit more expensive than most education-first schools. In my experience, money schools are costing maybe $300 per credit hour and up, and state universities and other education schools start as low as $100 per credit hour. Some community colleges are as low as $40 per credit hour. I would choose an education school in every case, not only because of price, but because of their apparent education first focus. One advantage to the money-based schools is that they are easier to work with and get into. - maybe because they WANT you, and education schools seem to be willing to let you come to them.
One thing that I’d like to possibly establish in your thinking right away, is that any state university is legitimate and good enough for you and me. Schools with names like University of Michigan, University of California, Colorado State, Arizona State, etc.-these are state schools and good bets. If you feel you need high end schools like Harvard or Columbia, you already know it, and you wouldn’t have read this far. :)
Most state universities, colleges and many, many community colleges seem to have online classes if not whole degrees. I myself took classes from the University of Illinois, and I liked the experience. I also took classes from Joliet Junior College (much like a community college) and I liked it a lot also. Some colleges charge more tuition for students who live out of that state, but some charge the same no matter where you live as long as you are taking all online (internet) courses.-which makes sense to me.
Here would be three very good places to start:
University of Illinois, Springfield www.uis.edu They charge around $150 per credit hour, if you qualify for E-tuition, which you probably do.
Joliet Junior College in Illinois www.jjc.edu They charge around $75 per credit hour.
Southeast Community College in Nebraska www.southeast.edu They charge around $40-$50 per credit hour.
These three schools are education of first importance, money of second importance schools.
There are hundreds and hundreds more schools out there, probably none less expensive than that last one, but some going up to maybe $1500 per credit hour or more. I believe that even Harvard and the like have online courses now, if not whole degrees, and these schools will cost you.
Remember the schools that seem to be money first, education second? Ironically, you can count on them to start at $300-$400 per credit hour. Quite often these money-first schools will not announce their tuition fees on their website, but will make you contact them first before you can find out how much they charge. Education-first schools will almost always announce their tuition on their website.
Boring paragraph-- there is something called ‘accreditation’ which means that certain government agencies have taken a look at all the schools and have graded them as ‘this school offers satisfactory education, this one does not’. If you have an education from one who doesn’t have good accreditation, you may get nailed if a prospective employer happens to look at what school you got your education from and thinks “Hmm, this school is a little questionable, maybe I’ll pass this applicant up”. Also, some colleges won’t accept courses that you took at another college if this other college doesn’t have satisfactory accreditation. Look on a college’s website for what their accreditation is. The best accreditation is from one of these agencies listed at the end of this paragraph. All the state universities, famous colleges, etc. are accredited by one or more of these very legitimate agencies. Questionable schools probably won’t be. Unfortunately, the law is such that ANYONE can make up their own accreditation agency and then say “We are accredited by the Blah & Blah Accreditation Agency”. And many schools do just that, it appears. Now there ARE some specialized accreditation agencies that are legitimate other than these following, but if the school that you’re looking at is not accredited by one of these following, go with care.
-Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Higher Education
-Middle States Commission on Secondary Schools
-New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Commission on Institutions of Higher Education
-New England Association of Schools and Colleges, Commission on Technical and Career Institutions
-North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, The Higher Learning Commission
-North Central Association Commission on Accreditation and School Improvement, Board of Trustees
-Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
-Southern Association of Colleges and Schools, Commission on Colleges
-Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Accrediting Commission for Community and Junior Colleges
-Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Accrediting Commission for Schools
-Western Association of Schools and Colleges, Accrediting Commission for Senior Colleges and Universities