Although an online associate degree program is not for everyone, experts say there are advantages to taking this road to school.
According to Megan Foster, an admissions counselor at Pennsylvania State University—World Campus, many prospective students want a degree but are concerned if they will have time for a bachelor’s degree.
“They’ll start with an associate’s degree to obtain that certificate faster to assist them earn a promotion, and then they might consider a bachelor’s degree later,” Foster adds.
While some online associate degree programs are offered by colleges such as Penn State and Kaplan University, a for-profit institution, receiving an online degree through a community college is another possibility.
According to a 2015 survey by the Instructional Technology Council, which is affiliated with the American Association of Community Colleges, the number of students enrolled in online classes at community colleges increased by 4.7 percent in the 2014-2015 school year – the same rate as the previous year.
Prospective associate degree students should ask themselves or school officials these questions – or discover the answers online – once they have determined whether online learning is good for them.
1. Will credits transfer smoothly from and to the online program?
According to Betty Vandenbosch, president of Kaplan University, “many people who pursue associate degrees are returning to school to continue earning credits and finish an education they started in the past.”
“Many colleges have relatively open rules,” Vandenbosch adds, “but you want to make sure that the credits they say they’ll offer you are actually given to you.”
Jeff Bauer, who obtained his associate degree online through Penn State—World Campus in 2014, urges students to carefully review credit transfer restrictions before enrolling.
“Try to find a method to use those credits so you don’t rack up more debt or spend more time in school than necessary,” advises the 32-year-old Minnesota native.
Prospective students should also keep in mind that even if they aren’t certain of their future educational intentions, they should check to see if credits from an online associate degree program can effortlessly transfer to a bachelor’s degree program, whether online or in person.
2. Should you attend a community college or a university for an online associate’s degree program?
Because many types of universities offer associate degree programs, experts advise students to conduct preliminary research to find the best fit.
While the distinctions vary, community schools are normally a less expensive choice but do not have the same level of brand recognition and reputation as a well-known institution. Nonetheless, each has advantages.
According to Penn State’s Foster, this decision may come down to what specific programs students are searching for and where those programs are provided.