You already know getting a degree in higher education leads to higher salaries, and in today’s job market, a degree can help you land that perfect job, earn a higher salary and act as a symbol of what you’re capable of accomplishing.
But not all degrees are equal. Here are some key questions to ask when you’re researching different institutions.
1.) IS IT ACCREDITED? REGIONALLY OR NATIONALLY?
A university’s accreditation (and the credibility of the accrediting agency) is one of the most important aspects and differentiators of education today. Simply put, to be accredited means that the university has been subject to, and passed, rigorous education standards of excellence.
Regionally accredited schools are predominantly academically oriented institutions (like CU Denver), while Nationally accredited schools are predominantly for-profit, and offer vocational and/or technical programs.
Many regionally accredited schools will not accept transfer credits earned at a nationally accredited school.
CU: CU: Since 1913, the North Central Association of Colleges and Schools (NCA) has accredited all institutions in the CU system.
2.) WHAT'S ITS REPUTATION?
With the influx of traditional and new institutions now offering education online, it's important to research each school’s reputation as well as their history and track record of online education. The education and prestige you receive should be as good or better than that of a traditional on-campus program.
CU: Since its inception back in the early 1900's, the University of Colorado Denver has become the largest research institution in Colorado, attracting more than $375 million in research grants annually, and granting more graduate degrees than any other institution in the stat.
CU Denver has been a pioneer in distance education, since offering its first online course in 1996. With online courses and degrees, the pedagogy of CU Denver faculty has been extended globally, allowing local students as well as international students to partake in the same education.
3.) HOW MUCH WILL IT COST? FINANCIAL ASSISTANCE?
Financial issues can greatly influence your decision about a particular college, but it should not determine whether or not you attend college at all. As you may have already found, each institution has distinct tuition and differing amounts of financial aid and scholarships that they award. It’s also important to find out if the institution charges other supplemental fees.
CU: CU Denver is among the most affordable for both in-state and out of state tuition.
CU Denver offers more than $30 million in financial assistance
- Online undergraduate courses are COF (College Opportunity Fund) eligible
- Online courses at CU Denver are the same tuition as on campus
- If you take all of your courses online, most of the on campus fees are waved
- If you live out-of-state and take all of your courses online, you can qualify for a discounted tuition rate
Worth the Money
4.) ARE COURSES DESIGNED SPECIFICALLY FOR ONLINE? TAUGHT BY KNOWLEDGABLE AND SKILLED PROFESSORS?
Great courses are taught by professors who have the skills, knowledge and experience to create an engaging and enlightening course experience that blends teaching fundamentals with technology and other learning materials. The best online learning programs are designed so that there is open and continuous communication between professor and students as well as amongst students themselves.
If possible, try and read up on the professors’ biographic information or a curriculum vita (academic resume). And for good measure, find out what percentage of faculty is part-time or adjunct, what percentage is full-time, and how many have doctoral degrees. Basically you're looking to find out who’s teaching and how will their knowledge/skills contribute to your goals?
CU: CU Denver courses are designed specifically for online by faculty and expert trainers, ensuring that you get the most out of your online educational experiences.
5.) WHATS THE QUALITY OF THE ONLINE PROGRAM
A successful online program should be equal to, or greater, than any traditional on-campus education experience. Most (if not all) universities collect data on the satisfaction of the students in their classes.
Another way to judge a program’s quality is to find both the retention rate (the percentage of students who return after the first year) as well as the graduation rates (the percentage of students who stay until graduation).
CU: CU Denver's FCQ (student satisfaction with) - 90% give online courses an A or B rating.
Options & Choices
6.) WHAT DEGREES & CERTIFICATES ARE OFFERED? BREADTH OF CHOICES?
To begin, it’s important to know what type of degree you’re planning to obtain. If you're undecided, you'd be smart to select a University that offers a wide array of programs.
CU: CU Denver awards more graduate degrees than any other Colorado institution. And students can choose from 450 online courses and 21 online & hybrid degrees.
Equal = Equal
7.) IS ONLINE AND ON CAMPUS INTERCHANGABLE?
It’s important to find out if the institution separates their on campus program from their online program. Invariably, the credits received and the degree awarded from those institutions is also different. The education you list on your résumé should be just as impressive as an education received at a traditional campus. Credits earned from a non-accredited university typically do not transfer to an accredited institution.
CU: CU Denver offers credits and degrees identical to those earned on campus. These credits are more recognizable in the marketplace, can be combined with those earned previously, and may be transferred to any other accredited institutions.
8.) WHAT'S THE SIZE AND NATURE OF THE INSTITUION? BRICK AND MORTAR OFFICE TO MEET YOUR PROFESSOR
Based on your own comfort level and needs, you should decide if you prefer a fully distance institution or one that allows for both online and on campus learning. You should also decide what your ideal student-teacher ratio would be if you prefer more individualized attention. And lastly, search around for office hours – at some point you may want to speak face-to-face with your professor and won’t be able to.
CU: CU Denver has a 17:1 student/faculty ratio. Just as if you were an on campus student, you can always schedule a time to meet (online or on campus).
9.) AVAILABLE CUSTOMER SERVICE AND TECH SUPPORT?
Distance learning can seem intimidating/stressful if you feel like you’re on your own and there's no one to talk with if you have any questions (content or technical). So, before you enroll in any online course, make sure that reliable support is available — when you need it.
CU: With any technical issue, the CU Online helpdesk provides live support Monday through Friday 7:00 am - 7:00 pm at 1-877-823-3644. And there's also a 24/7 Canvas technical support at 855-631-2250.
For any course questions, you can always make an appointment with your professor, whether on campus or virtually (Connect, Google Hangouts, etc.)