The Real Cost of Online Degree Rankings

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The Real Cost of Online Degree Rankings

There are a lot of online education directory websites (owned by marketing firms) that offer rankings of online programs based on a wide variety of program characteristics. But, is the information they present unbiased, accurate, and based on criteria that are most relevant to you, the student? And, just who benefits from these published rankings?  Presumably, they help you save money on an online degree?

Published rankings, like the “2018 Most Affordable Online Colleges for a Master’s in Accounting”, have been created for the purpose of marketing programs. They shouldn’t be confused with unbiased, accurate, information that will help you make the best decision on what online programs to consider if cost is important to you.

It’s worth a closer look

Let’s take a closer look. The first ten of 24 online Master of Accounting programs ranked by the website referenced above for affordability are shown in the table below. I spent two hours reviewing the actual program websites for these online programs. See my notes on this list in the column called ODD Evaluation of Top Ten. These illustrate some of the problems frequently found with this type of ranking analysis.

search online master of accounting programs

(Sources: https://www.onlineu.org/most-affordable-colleges/accounting-masters-degrees and web searches by OnlineDegreeDatabase.com)

The #1 program in this ranking is offered at National Paralegal College. This institution is accredited by DEAC, a national accrediting body for distance education programs. Online programs offered by institutions with this accreditation may be less appealing than those offered at regionally accredited institutions.  And, in fact, the methodology posted on this website explicitly states that only regionally accredited institutions are included in their rankings analyses. Well…

The tuition published here is ‘Annual Tuition’ which is not Total Tuition. If you are searching for an online Master of Accounting degree and have thought about what you can afford to pay, you are likely thinking in terms of total tuition, not annual tuition. And, many online programs offer students full-time and part-time options. What you pay is determined by how many courses you take each year. So, this makes the annual tuition detail somewhat misleading, and at best, confusing.

Three of the programs listed here aren’t even Master of Accounting degrees. The first, at National Paralegal College, is a Master of Taxation degree, which does not prepare you to sit for the CPA exam. Two others, at Tennessee Wesleyan University and University of North Alabama, are online MBA programs with Accounting concentrations.

Emporia State University’s online Master of Accounting program’s tuition varies by student residency. In-state total tuition is $10,680, but this detail is missing.  Only the out-of-state or one-rate (unified) tuition is apparently referenced above.

The tuition reported for Tennessee Technical University is completely wrong, even if you multiply what they have here by two, to account for the difference between annual and total tuition. However, I must say that finding the correct tuition on this program’s website was very difficult. But after about 20 minutes of searching, I found a statement on the program website that said the tuition for the online program is the same as the tuition for the online MBA at this institution. The actual tuition is higher than what’s posted on this list. Finding costs on online program websites is frequently difficult — check out my blog on this here.

For the record…

Picking one online education directory was necessary to make my point. But frankly, most other online education directories do this too. See U.S. News & World Report Rankings, Poets & Quants, onlinemba.com, etc. The purpose of these rankings is to get the attention of students searching for online degrees. Even I use this approach to drive eyeballs to my website, but my rankings use up-to-date data from my unique database. I don’t generate leads or market specific programs with my ranking reports.

We’re on a mission to help our industry do better. We owe it to you, the student, who is researching online degree options, to provide accurate, unbiased information about online degree programs! And we owe it to some truly great online degree programs that might not get the visibility that other programs do because they don’t have a large advertising budget.

The Online Degree Database Difference

If you used this list to start searching for the right online Master of Accounting program, you might overlook some very good programs that are not included here. This is my biggest concern about published rankings of any kind.

The Online Degree Database painstakingly collects the actual online Master of Accounting tuition data from university program websites. We gather program details for all of the most popular online degrees, including the MBA, MPA, MHA, MSN, MSW, and more.

Here’s what we found when we ranked our online Master of Accounting programs in the Online Degree Database by affordability only, using total program tuition for out-of-state / one-rate (unified) programs:

2018 Most Affordable Online Master of Accounting Programs
(Source: www.onlinedegreedatabase.com, 2018)

The programs in the table above are all from regionally accredited institutions. They are the low cost-subset of 91 total online Master of Accounting programs currently found in the Online Degree Database.  Nine of these programs are 100% online, and the other, Wilmington University, offers a low residency program where 90% of the curriculum is delivered online. Five programs – Boise State University, University of South Dakota, Emporia State University, University of West Florida, and Southern Utah University – are AACSB-accredited. American Public University’s program is accredited by ACBSP and Wilmington University’s program IACBE-accredited.

If you happen to live in Kansas and want to get an online MAcc, then Emporia State University offers your lowest cost option.

Only three programs (Boise State University, Wilmington University, and Emporia State University) from the first list are on the more accurate list from Online Degree Database. Our list includes SEVEN other programs that are actually Master of Accounting programs with lower total tuition than the first list provided.

Search online degrees using the BEST source

We have the best source for searching online degree programs. With our database, you can develop an accurate list of online degree programs using the criteria that are most important to you.  Visit our Available Programs page, and select online degree programs by degree type, tuition range, professional accreditation, GMAT requirement, location, and more. The reports we provide are FREE to you. Generate as many reports as you need. We don’t ask for your contact information because we are not a marketing firm looking to sell leads.

And, one more thing

Once you’ve narrowed down your degree choices using the Online Degree Database, consider hiring an expert to help you make your final decision. Check out the innovative new consulting services offered by Clear Degree. They offer students like you professional, personalized assistance in finding the best degree program at a better price in less time, and can save you thousands of dollars in time and tuition.

Universities, work with the Online Degree Database directly to access unique and relevant intelligence about the online degree market. Contact Michelle at michelle@onlinedegreedatabase.com for more information.

Best Website for Online Degree Research

Best website for Online Degree Research

Online Degree Research Is Challenging

There are many websites that suggest they are the best website for online degree research. But, most of these websites are owned by marketing firms that generate student leads for online programs. So the information they provide is limited only to the programs they support. Let’s look at the consequences for students who use these marketing websites for their online program research.

I’ve been to many online degree “research” websites over the past few years. After I give my contact information in return for minimal online program details, I start getting phone calls and e-mails from recruiters who are interested in telling me more about their online program(s). While this is helpful for learning more about a few programs, it’s not useful if you want to really understand your best options from the universe of online programs available to you.

Here are a few examples of what I’m talking about.  These four websites were the first, second, third, and fourth websites returned (non-paid) from a generic search for “Online MBA”:

http://www.onlinemba.com/ returned seven online MBAs when I searched master’s degrees with Business Administration specialty. I got the university logo, online master’s program name, and a red box with the words “Request Info” to click. That was it.

http://www.usnews.com/education/online-education/mba/rankings returned 282 online MBA programs, ranked according to U.S. News and World Report’s proprietary methodology (and includes 2015-2016 cost per credit and links to program and admissions websites). Everyone’s heard of U.S. News & World Report Rankings, but their rankings methodology is proprietary, so we can’t be sure that they are built on measures that are meaningful to students (and there are a few hundred online MBA programs that somehow didn’t make their list).

http://www.topmanagementdegrees.com/rankings/affordable-online-mba-degree-programs/ provided a Top 50 Online MBA rankings 2018; a tool to search for MBAs requested that I enter my personal information before any details would be provided.

https://www.guidetoonlineschools.com/ provides a limited number of details for only 54 accredited Online MBAs on their website. They say that these programs are a part of over 200 partner colleges with whom they have an advertising relationship. So, at least they qualify their listing with that statement.

I would continue to review the dozen or so more websites out there just like these, but I think you get the point. There has never been a website designed by a marketing firm to generate leads for online programs that gives students the information they really need for online degree research to make the best decision and there never will be. It’s just that simple.

The outcome of this proliferation of marketing websites designed to collect student leads has significant consequences for students, nicely summed up here: They don’t help students find their best fit school. They don’t provide better information to help students consider their options. They don’t promote a thoughtful deliberation process. And the cost of generating these student leads draws money away from Universities that could be used to improve the student experience, the academic programming, or even to reduce tuition or provide academic scholarships.

A Unique, Comprehensive, and Credible Source of Online Degree Details

The Online Degree Database has online program details for over 3,900 online degrees from more than 900 universities, collected from university websites by highly trained education experts. As shown in the table above, we provide students with details for 492 verified online MBA programs in the market today (along with the universe of other popular business sub-discipline degrees). So, other websites that offer seven options, 282 options, Top 50 rankings, or 54 options for online MBAs give researching students only a small fraction of all the possible information they need for online degree research.

Check out our Interactive Search Tool today for the best online degree research outcomes possible. Get your FREE report that lists the programs that meet your most important criteria! Download as many free reports as you wish. Each report provides you with the name of the institution, degree name, and live link to the program website for the online programs that meet the criteria you select. Click on the program website links in the free report to continue your research directly with programs that fit your criteria. It’s easy, it’s free, and it is, simply put, the best website for online degree research.

The Online Degree Database is the only independent and comprehensive source of information about online programs available in the market. We are not a marketing firm and we don’t require you to provide your personal contact information in return for program details. And we gather the details of all the most popular online degree programs in the United States so you can search by the criteria that’s right for you. You can find program details for online degrees in Nursing, Healthcare, Social Work, Education, Information Technology, and Public Administration on our website too.

Once you’ve narrowed down your degree choices using the Online Degree Database, consider hiring an expert to help you make your final decision. Check out the innovative new consulting services offered by Clear Degree. They offer students like you professional, personalized assistance in finding the best degree program at a better price in less time, and can save you thousands of dollars in time and tuition.

Universities, work with the Online Degree Database directly to access unique and relevant intelligence about the online degree market. And consider partnering with us to increase your visibility with students who are researching online programs. Contact Michelle at michelle@onlinedegreedatabase.com for more information.

Research Online Programs to Avoid Buyer’s Remorse

Online degrees help you improve your career options

Research Online Programs to Avoid Buyer’s Remorse

A recently published study (2017) with online students reveals a startling fact: nearly 60% have buyer’s remorse. They say that if they could start over again, they would:

  • contact / research more schools when shopping for the right program (23%)
  • learn more about tuition and fees (17%)
  • learn more about their financial package (16%)

Let’s examine these a little closer…

Research More Schools

This same study indicates that over the past few years, online students look at a surprisingly small number of programs when they shop. Most contact one, two, or three schools only, before making a final choice. These factors may drive this behavior:

  • with nearly 29,000 online programs in the market in 2016 (pulled from IPEDS), prospective students face an overwhelming task if they conduct a comprehensive and thorough search for the best program
  • evaluating the differences in online degree programs is difficult unless you know what questions to ask
  • taking the time, if you are working full-time, to complete this shopping exercise thoroughly is ridiculously difficult
  • online education directories (the marketing ‘tools’ of the trade – see here for more) and paid search google ads for online degree programs quickly take the prospective student off the path and into the weeds. Just try googling “Online MBA” to see what I mean.

These are just a few of the factors that lead prospective students to buyer’s remorse. I’ve written even more about how students are “passive shoppers” here.

Let’s move to costs next.

Understand The Costs

Another area of buyer’s remorse is wishing for a better understanding the overall tuition, fees, & financial package before buying. As with all purchases of intangible products, determining what you want to pay for a university degree is difficult. The challenge lies in trade-offs: we want the best price possible while still meeting our preferences and professional goals (quality). A few examples include:

  • how much more should we pay for earning the degree from a school with a strong reputation?
    • in the virtual sea of rankings on the web, which are the best measures of reputation to use?
  • how to evaluate the ‘quality’ of the faculty and put a dollar value on this?
    • is quality measured by student reviews of teaching or by academic publishing / grant awards?
  • what about the quality of the online experience? Is the program delivered via lecture capture or through more advanced techniques?
  • and, importantly, does the program website clearly lay out all of the costs involved to students? Is there is any type of scholarship or tuition reduction available to prospective students?
    • is there a tuition promise, say if you start in 2017-2018, the total tuition including cost of materials and fees is $XX,XXX?

There are so many differences in how programs deliver and charge for online education that it takes an expert to differentiate the pros and cons. And these differences will, without doubt, affect your perception of the program’s price vs. its quality. Students with buyer’s remorse in this area must experience a price vs. quality gap. Considering the thousands of dollars an online degree costs, you don’t want to experience this gap. So what can you do?

The Online Degree Database™ Difference

So where should a prospective student turn to avoid buyer’s remorse? The number of online students and online degree programs is growing dramatically. Today, the prospective student faces the most challenging market for shopping ever. How can you be SURE that you avoid buyer’s remorse?

This is exactly the reason why we built the Online Degree Database™.  Read through our decision guide to think about what’s most important to you. Check out the questions we’ve developed for you, to ask of online program directors as you shop for the right program. And most importantly, use our available programs search tool. This tool allows you to create a comprehensive and free list of possible program options from an unbiased source of information.

Why are we the best source? We gather the details of all the most popular master’s degree programs in the United States directly from university websites so you can search by the exact criteria that’s right for you.

Let us save you weeks of searching! The Online Degree Database™ is designed to help you make the best decision for one of the biggest investments you’ll ever make. Visit our website today to start your research and get our free reports!

Universities, work with the Online Degree Database directly to access unique and relevant intelligence about the online degree market. Contact Michelle at michelle@onlinedegreedatabase.com for more information.