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15 Questions To Ask Before Enrolling In An Online University

Doing your homework before you enroll can make your educational experience more valuable, saving you disappointment and dollars.

December 22, 2011  |  by - Also by this author

6. Are There Additional Fees?

At most schools, there will be additional fees above tuition. Books are covered by tuition at some schools. At others you have to buy them separately. Either way, you will pay for them. Whatever you think books will cost, double it and you'll be in the ballpark. Some schools also charge lab fees, application fees, transfer credit fees, and even diploma fees. Ask about these fees before you sign up.

7. How Will I Pay for This?

Some of you have tuition reimbursement programs at your agency. Consider yourselves blessed. Others will have to float loans from the government. Either way, make sure that your school is eligible for Federal Student Aid under Title IV. If it isn't, then beware. That means the feds don't trust it enough to grant loans to its students.

8. Who Will Be Teaching Me?

One of the great things about the criminal justice and security faculty at online schools is they tend to be former law enforcement professionals, including prosecutors, cops, and judges. The bad thing is that sometimes these folks aren't great teachers. You want to know who will be teaching you, but you also want to know what kind of teacher training they have received. You also want to know if the faculty is full-time or part-time, according to Jim Lee, associate professor of criminal justice at Troy University. "I believe you see more dedication to student achievement from full-time faculty," Lee explains.

9. Are the Class Hours Flexible?

Your schedule is complicated. If you work a special unit like homicide or SWAT, you could be called to work at any time of day. That's why so many officers like the idea of online education. They can complete their course work at any time during the week. But that's not true at all online schools. Make sure that your classes won't meet at a specific time each week. Most have a requirement that you participate in discussion sections say four times a week. You want one that doesn't care if you login at 1 a.m. Sunday or 6 p.m. Tuesday, just as long as you login.

10. Can I Get Credit for My Professional Training?

The short answer is-probably. Most online universities grant limited elective credit for your academy training or special training such as SWAT school. But check before you enroll. Note: They will charge you a fee to process these credits. So ask about that, too.

Comments (2)

Displaying 1 - 2 of 2

Steve Rothstein @ 12/30/2011 6:00 PM

Recognizing the limitations of this type of article, most officers need a better explanation of accreditation than was given.

And one question that was forgotten but is very important:

Will my department recognize the degree? If your agency pays education incentives, ask your HR department if this degree will qualify. If it is a properly accredited degree, it usually will, but make sure.

A minor question that can be considered is if the school also offers brick and mortar classes or if it is just online. I like Midwestern State University because it offers an online Criminal Justice degree but it is also a regular Texas public university with a real campus in Wichita Falls.

BJW @ 12/30/2011 7:09 PM

The point about accreditation is misleading and hypocritical.

First, it leads the reader to believe that "nationally accredited" and "diploma mill" mean the same thing. NOT TRUE. National accreditation is quite real and nationally accredited degrees are accepted by many agencies and companies including federal government and military. The wrinkle is that many if not most regionally accredited (RA) schools do not accept nationally accredited (NA) units or degrees. Which is their privilege, even though short-sighted.

Short version - if you ever want to teach at a RA school, or if your department specifically states they only recognize RA schools - then go to a RA school. Otherwise, nationally accredited schools ARE accredited, provided the accreditation board is recognized by the Dept. of Education.

The hypocrisy? While the article beats up NA schools and mistakenly lumps them as "diploma mills," POLICE magazine certainly has no problem in taking advertising money from NA schools - in fact, the issue in which this story appears has several, one of them immediately following the story!

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