The predatory practices of private colleges in collusion with banks offering high interest loans, often require cosigners, and leave students with debts that can never be repaid. See Private Predatory Colleges in Dissident Voice. Online education can be a minefield and so many online education sites are only interested in pitching their products, acquiring and selling customer emails, and raking in affiliate referral fees.
Recent drastic increases in tuition have put higher education out of the reach of most Americans (See NY Times: Regents Raise College Tuition in California by 32 Percent). University of California tuition was $200/a quarter for baby boomers, now at well over 10 times that figure, public higher education has become nearly as inaccessible as private universities. The online option does exist, but must be taken only after some serious research.
Online education has a wonderful potential but is fraught with dangers and pitfalls. (Wikipedia's overview of electronic learning is quite useful, though not particularly well polished.) It is very easy to acquire a degree for less than $1,000 that has little or no practical value. It is also perfectly possible to spend tens of thousands of dollars on a degree that is similarly worthless. One can also spend over $50,000 and years of hard work on a degree that is generally recognized. However, there are ways to achieve a valuable and accredited degree for a fairly reasonable price, though this requires a good deal of research.
Well, we have done the research and it is the purpose of this page to help potential online students find a good online educational option while avoiding scams, price gouging, and dreadful disappointment.
There exist a number of online institutions which promise an "accredited" degree based on "life experience" with no class attendance, no textbooks, no work, and a few hundred dollars.
Firstly, it is easy for any institution to acquire and claim accreditation. A number of accrediting bodies have been formed expressly for the purpose of accrediting degree mills. It is therefore critically important to understand what accreditation means. Please see our discussion page on accredited degrees and accreditation.
It is not our purpose here to disparage degree mills. It is perfectly possible that a need for a degree may exist (career advancement, pay rise, etc.) that can be satisfied by a degree from a degree mill. Such a degree is certainly the least expensive of all academic options and if serves the immediate purpose, perhaps it is the best alternative. The downsides are that the granting institution may not stay in business for very long and thus "lifetime transcripts and verification" can just be empty promises. There is also the very real possibility that the institution may be publicly discredited at some point leaving its allumni exposed and embarrassed. Some degree mills are:
These vary widely in both reputation and price but most require a great deal of time and coursework as well as tests and papers. Prices can be excessive. It is by no means clear that the education acquired through mainstream, established institutions is necessarily superior; one need only consider some of the graduates of established, and even ivy-league universities to come to that conclusion. There is also the ineluctable fact that propaganda, orientation, and indoctrination will be practiced on some conscious or unconscious level whose marks and effect are as much an integral part of established education as are competence and erudition. To determine if a degree is Regionally Accredited (the accreditation that counts) see the discussion of Accredited Degrees and Degree Granting Institutions. A database of online institutions is also available, but care must be taken.
Though we hope to expand this list as alternatives emerge, there is only one institution we would recommend to students intent on a regionally accredited degree and who want to avoid the excessive fees charged by many of them -- while avoiding pointless, irrelevant, and extraneous coursework.
With a $10 million grant from the U.S. Department of Education together with other grant and foundation support, WGU offers regionally accredited (the mainstream recognized accreditation) through online, competency-based degree and licensure programs. WGU is specifically tailored to teachers, a field in which alternative accreditation bodies are not generally recognized. Unlike many institutions, WGU ostensibly strives to achieve a level of competence in its graduates, and is not simply intent upon having them jump through exigent and generally irrelevant hoops. Cost is about $3,000 per six month block. Financial aid is available.
See Online Degrees for material on other institutions
Abacus-es has been providing educational resources for many years (see About Us), including courses for homeschoolers at Excellence in Education, the definitive homeschool resource center in Monrovia, California.