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Are correspondence schools good?

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Research the school on the Internet. Check to see if the school is accredited by a recognized agency. Colleges and universities accredited by legitimate agencies generally undergo a rigorous review of the quality of their educational programs. If a school has been accredited by a nationally recognized accrediting agency, it's probably legitimate.

Many diploma mills claim to be "accredited," but the accreditation is from a bogus, but official-sounding, agency they invented.You can use the Internet to check if a school is accredited by a legitimate organization at a new database of accredited academic institutions, posted by the U.S. Department of Education at www.ope.ed.gov/accreditation. (There are a few legitimate institutions that have not pursued accreditation.)

To find out if an accrediting agency is legitimate, check the list of recognized national and regional accrediting agencies maintained by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation at www.chea.org.

Look at the school's website. Although it is prudent to check out the school on the Internet, it's not always easy to pick out a diploma mill based on a quick scan of its site. Some diploma mills have slick websites, and a "dot-edu" Web address doesn't guarantee legitimacy. Nevertheless, the website can be a source of information. Indeed, federal officials say it's probably a diploma mill if:
  • tuition is charged on a per-degree basis, rather than per credit, course, or semester
  • there are few or unspecified degree requirements, or none at all
  • the emphasis is on degrees for work or life experience, and
  • the school is relatively new, or has recently changed its name.
Check other resources. There is no comprehensive list of diploma mills on the Web because new phony credentialing sources arise all the time.However, the Oregon Student Assistance Commission's Office of Degree Authorization maintains a list of organizations it has identified as diploma mills at www.osac.state.or.us/oda. Another way to check up on a school is to call the registrar of a local college or university and ask if it would accept transfer credits from the school you are researching.
From other contributors:
They vary all over the place! Check to make sure they are accredited in your State / Province if you want to use them for high school or university credit. E.g. I have taken courses in Power Engineering through the Southern Alberta Institute of Technology: www.sait.ab.ca/ This school is highly regarding in the Power Engineering community and are equivalent to some community college programs. Other correspondence courses are more aimed at working professionals and will give Continuing Education Units suitable for submitting to your licensing body. e.g. I have also taken a course in Corrosion through ASM ( www.asminternational.org ) which is aimed at people who are already working and need a bit of information in one particular subject.
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