Research Options Using The Best Information Available
Improving your career options by going back for your master’s degree online is a great idea. But researching online degree options is time-consuming and tricky. If you are thinking about researching your options, our website is here to help.
One of the most popular master’s degrees is the Master of Business Administration, or MBA. According to Payscale, four out of five MBA graduates interviewed are very satisfied with their jobs and their salaries are high — topping out at $99,562 for women, and $123,188 for men. And if you are mid-career, an online MBA is your best option, so you can work while you earn your degree. This blog is a critical read before you search online degrees.
Here’s some background. High growth in the total number of online degree programs is fueled by student demand. Many universities work directly with marketing companies to help them fill their online classes with qualified students. Some of these marketing companies own online education directory websites. These websites offer online program rankings, advice about how to select the right online degree program, and even offer some online program details. These are designed, in theory, to help students as they search for their best online program.
But, it’s important to note that marketing companies with online education directories make their money by:
- Selling your contact information given in exchange for online degree details to online programs
- Using the personal / demographic information you provide to develop marketing strategies
- Selling advertising space on their websites to universities with online programs
So, online education directories have established themselves as significant lead generators and brand builders for colleges and universities with online programs. They serve their customer, the university, well.
What about prospective students?
The directories do an amazing job for their university partners. But as I illustrate below, the receivers of these marketing messages, you – the prospective student, do not equally benefit.
In fact, the completeness, quality, and accuracy of information about online degree programs on these websites is concerning. In a recent review of online education directories, I found the following key issues:
- Specific program information, like cost per credit, is outdated (2014 is listed as the most recent year a thorough web search was conducted for pricing information on several sites)
- Most of the university data on enrollment, costs, and other descriptive characteristics of universities are taken from a widely available, public source published by the U.S. government, the National Center for Education Statistics. The data are designed and collected to allow federal regulatory oversight of these institutions, not to help prospective students.
- On some sites, prospective students must provide their personal contact information to receive any online program details. And, they must agree to be contacted by the institutions.
- On other sites, the website only offers a link to the program website. So, interested students must go get the details of the program from the website on their own.
- Directories that offer a database of online programs with ‘search’ capability do not have the universe of online programs available. This greatly undercuts the value of this information for interested students. For example, Peterson’s Online Graduate database contains only 333 online MBA programs. U.S. News & World Report’s Best Online MBA database contains only 255 programs. And several other directories have only a few dozen programs, at best, in their databases. This is well-short of the over 470 online MBA programs known to exist in the market today.
Most importantly, how does this slew of dated and inaccurate information help prospective student’s find the best programs? It doesn’t.
When I Search Online Degrees, Is What I’m Seeing Accurate?
For example, the chart above demonstrates how one online education directory (or OEDs as they are referred to in the industry) potentially leads the prospective online student astray. In the chart, blue bars show the cost per credit for seven universities’ online MBA programs. These costs were published on the website of a major online education directory in early April, 2017. These data are found on the website by using a search tool to identify online MBAs priced at $300 per credit or below. The orange bars represent the most recent data found on the program websites of these universities for the 2016-2017 school year.
- The discrepancies in the information both sources provide is clear. The data for five out of seven programs is incorrect (likely out-dated) on the major publisher’s website. Two of the five programs have grossly incorrect data on cost per credit (University of Minnesota Twin Cities and Ohio University are listed at $1 per credit).
- Cost per credit is a fairly good indicator of the overall tuition, which is why this variable is included in the search tools. However, in the case of University of Illinois’ online MBA program, this is not a good proxy for total tuition. The program requires 72 total credits, which is twice as many as the typical 36 credits in most online MBA programs.
- Six out of seven data points from this OED offer out-dated, incorrect, or misleading information.
An Even Closer Look at the Implications
Let’s take an even closer look at the implications. Stay with the seven online MBA programs listed above and see what their total tuition is when measured recently and reported accurately (extracted from onlinedegreedatabase.com):
Now, let’s go back to helping interested students find low cost online MBA programs. Let’s see where the true top seven least expensive online programs are. This time, we use a database with up-to-date details that includes the universe of online MBA programs:
As you can see, Missouri State University-Springfield and Fitchburg State University also make this second list. But there are an additional five online MBA programs with very low tuition in this list. These were completely missed by the major publisher of university rankings. If interested students are looking for this information, the data offered by the Online Degree Database are much more complete and accurate.
In a previous post, I analyzed the information provided by a different online education directory for low cost, online Master of Accounting degrees. The results of the analysis were similar. If prospective students only shopped the programs ranked by the online education directory, some very good programs would be missed entirely.
Time For The Next Level Of Online Program Data, Designed with the Student in Mind
It is time for you to get to the next level by earning your online master’s degree. It’s also time for the tools and resources to find the best online degree program to get to the next level. Gathering accurate, timely, relevant, details from online degree program websites takes weeks of time. As our analyses here indicate, don’t count on online education directories to do this work for you. This is why the Online Degree Database exists.
To help you get there, our database contains the most up-to-date details of online degree programs for the most popular online degrees in the market. Let us do the heavy-lifting on web-surfing university program websites and organizing this information into meaningful data for you! Onlinedegreedatabase.com is the only website of its kind, developed for you, our prospective student customer!
Universities, work with the Online Degree Database directly to access unique and relevant intelligence about the online degree market. Contact Michelle at email@example.com for more information.
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