Choosing the wrong school can be hazardous to your bank account, your goals and even your current job.
On October 10, 2004, Sixty Minutes (a CBS-TV news program) featured a segment about a “university” that claimed to offer degrees through online courses. Many students believed they were signing up for a legitimate program. After all, the page looked fine and the school claimed to be accredited.
Accordingly, students forked over hundreds, even thousands of dollars, only to learn that these “degrees” would do them more harm than good. When prospective employers saw the university’s name on resumes, they were turned off. “We won’t hire someone who wants to go there,” they would say. And one woman’s employer fired her on the spot after she began referring to herself as “Dr X,” honestly believing she had earned a Ph.D.
Students who signed up for these universities weren’t stupid. They had heard about programs that gave credit for life experience. They were told to write a paper that would serve as the basis for evaluating their experience. Sadly, many toiled over this paper, believing they would be evaluated before entering a degree program. The school’s former employees reported that nobody actually read those papers. Only a few clerical employees served as the school’s “staff.” Their main job was to process checks.
The problem is: Prospective students usually realize they need to choose an accredited university. But what does “accredited” mean? Your university may have found a way to buy accreditation just as students find a way to buy degrees.
Anyway, accreditation is not enough. You need to learn how this university will be regarded among various audiences: other universities, employers, and the general public. You also need to assess whether this university really will offer the best path to reach your own goals.
Adults struggling to choose MBA (and other) programs wisely can download a guide: Back to School for Your New Career.