Over the last few years, online colleges have not only grown in popularity but also in competition. This increase has caused many traditional universities to offer at least some online classes, and others to create online-only programs to cater to the online student population and stay up to par with other universities. With so many online colleges offering excellent degree programs, affordable tuition rates and convenient scheduling, competition is expected to rise and more online institutions will be created. While having more educational options is good, some students will have trouble deciding on a school to attend. To assist students in this important decision, organizations have developed online college rankings that evaluate schools on different factors and display the results for the public to see.
Online colleges do not typically have campuses that you can visit and all correspondence with representatives and advisors takes place online or over the phone. This can make it even harder to know if you are choosing the right school. But, that’s where online college rankings are particularly helpful. The data used to determine college rankings covers a wide variety of factors that affect a student’s overall experience. From acceptance rate, financial aid programs, graduation rate, retention rate to student-teacher ratio, this criterion is evaluated and compared between schools to determine each ranking. Rankings give you the chance to interpret the data and numbers as you see fit. Some students may find faculty-student ratios more important than financial aid and vice versa. Some students may see rankings as a reflection of an institution’s academic reputation and quality, while others see it as just a set of numbers. Either way, rankings are intended to be an objective view of online colleges, and a means for making your decision more clear and methodical.
Unfortunately, not all online college rankings can be trusted because of a lack of transparency in how they got their results. Many online rankings are completely fabricated and set up to promote diploma mills. Only look at ranking sites that give an explanation of the organization’s methodology, how they gathered data, who they are and why they conducted the study. The reputable college ranking site, Online Education Database (OEDb), is completely transparent about their methodology and gives in-depth descriptions on how they reviewed 1,041 programs from 88 accredited online colleges in their 2009 rankings. Their rankings are based solely on accredited colleges, which makes each degree listed a valid degree and one that is accepted by employers.