What You Should Know About This Degree
One of the most important things to consider when attending an online program is whether the institution is authorized to grant degrees to students in the state where you reside. You can check with the National Council of State Authorization of Reciprocity Agreements for more information about authorizations for distance education providers, or talk to a program advisor about restrictions.
Also, be sure to look at the school’s tuition rates, particularly for community colleges, which often charge lower tuition for local students versus out-of-state students. This difference in tuition may apply to online programs as well.
Accreditation and articulation agreements are two other areas of consideration for students earning associate degrees, particularly those intending to transfer credits, or pursue a bachelor’s degree. Attending a regionally accredited college ensures the most flexibility and transferability for your credits, as regionally accredited schools are more widely recognized than nationally accredited schools.
Transferring credits and degrees among schools that have articulation agreements with each other makes the process even easier. An articulation agreement is a formal partnership between colleges that guarantees credit transfers, and may offer other advantages, like waiving coursework. Researching the schools that have articulation agreements with each other may help you narrow your list of schools to which you will apply.
Here are some questions to ask when researching Online Associate Degrees programs:
- Does the school offer accelerated associate-to-bachelor’s tracks? At schools that offer both two-year and four-year degrees, you may be able to begin working on a bachelor’s degree while earning your associate degree. If you are planning on obtaining a bachelor’s degree, pursuing an accelerated course of study can save you time and money.
- What support does the school offer online students? Online students need the same kind of academic and career support that on-campus students require. Be sure to explore what kind of access online students have to advisors, tutoring services, libraries, technical support, and career services, to ensure you will have the resources you need to be successful.
When researching programs, you should also look at their admissions procedures and deadlines. Submitting your application materials well ahead of deadlines will help your admissions process go smoothly.
Also consider how you will finance your associate degree. Talk to a financial aid counselor about your options for student loans, scholarships, and grants. If you are currently employed, find out if your employer offers any kind of tuition assistance.