Category Archives: Frequently Asked Questions

Do the Cheapest Accredited Online Colleges Provide a Good Education?

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Tuition dollars are increasingly a determining factor in where college students study. The U.S. News reports that tuition has risen by 179 percent at private and 296 percent at public, in-state institutions since 1995. Time Magazine shows that the published sticker prices reached all-time highs of $24,610 at public and $45,370 at private colleges in 2016. Since shrinking financial budgets don’t mix well with schools’ mushrooming costs of attendance, students are looking to cut expenses by learning online. Ranked online bachelor’s programs have a mean price of $286 per credit. Virtual college courses can also cost much less by slashing campus fees, housing, meal plans, parking, and transportation. Some learners may worry that the cheapest accredited online colleges won’t provide a good education, so let’s relieve this fear.

How Cheap Online Colleges Compare

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Cheap online colleges certainly won’t have the prestige of Ivy League schools like Dartmouth, but they can still deliver great degrees if they’re regionally accredited. Regional accreditation from one of six CHEA-recognized agencies certifies that the online school meets the quality standards stipulated by the U.S. Department of Education. However, nationally accredited online colleges are less desirable because they often won’t qualify for federal financial aid, credit transfer, or certification exams. For-profit online colleges also receive a bad reputation for putting investors before students and hiring less experienced instructors to execute predetermined lesson plans. According to the NCES, for-profit schools have a low graduation rate of 23 percent. Regionally accredited online colleges operating on a nonprofit model generally provide the best education cheap.

Examples of Accredited, Affordable Online Schools

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We don’t believe in sacrificing quality for affordability, so let’s review some of the cheapest accredited online colleges providing good education for cost-conscious learners. Each of the following tuition rates was recorded based on 2016-17 averages from the NCES database. Our favorite online schools where well-respected degrees cost less dough are:

Brigham Young University-Idaho – Opened in Rexburg by the LDS Church in 1888, Brigham Young University-Idaho is ranked the West’s 13th best college by the U.S. News and America’s 34th best online college on Niche. For $3,920 yearly, online BYU students could pursue 19 degrees, including the B.S. Software Engineering, A.A.S. Family History Research, and B.S. Healthcare Administration.

Alcorn State University – Enrolling 3,720 as a public, land-grant HBCU in Mississippi’s Claiborne County, Alcorn State University is ranked the South’s 95th best college by the U.S. News with America’s 200th best professors on Niche. For $5,269 annually, Alcorn students choose from good online degrees from the M.S. Workforce Education Leadership to the Master of Business Administration.

West Texas A&M University – Located in the Amarillo Metro since 1910 with a $138 million budget to educate 9,901, West Texas A&M University is ranked the West’s 81st best school by the U.S. News and America’s 232nd top public university on Niche. For $7,699 per year, online WTAMU students pursue 13 fully online degrees like the RN-BSN and Criminal Justice B.S.

Financial Aid for Cheaper Online Study

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America’s cheapest, accredited online colleges can become even more inexpensive when you pursue financial aid. Before the FAFSA deadline of June 30th, apply for federal funds like the Pell Grant, Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant, or William D. Ford Direct Loan. Search your state’s education department for programs, such as the Michigan Educational Opportunity Grant and Georgia HOPE Scholarship. Some online schools, including SUNY Empire State College, let students receive Federal Work-Study jobs off-campus. Plus, here are a few scholarships reserved for students studying online.

SR Education Group Scholarship for Women – Worth $5,000, the SR Education Group Scholarship for Women is granted annually to female undergrads and post-grads who are attending nonprofit online colleges for a degree or certificate. Online applications must be submitted by September 30th with 500-word essays to two open-ended prompts.

Jane Ireland Student Fund Scholarship – Ranked #1 by the USNWR, the Penn State World Campus created the Jane Ireland Student Fund Scholarship to support online undergrads who’ve completed 24+ credits of their bachelor’s or associate degree. Those with an overall GPA above 3.2 and unmet financial need can apply until September 22nd. Online College Scholarship – Called the “Diploma Mill Police,” offers the $1,000 Online College Scholarship twice yearly to enrich financial aid for students at distance schools in the USA. Before October 15th or March 15th, applicants with a minimum 3.0 GPA can submit their 500-word goals essay and FAFSA form.

Shopping Checklist for Good Online Colleges

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High prices don’t guarantee high quality, while cheap tuition won’t mean cheap quality. Begin your online college search by eliminating unaccredited diploma mills that don’t have legitimate approval from regional agencies. Narrow down online schools offering your chosen major with ample technical and advising support. Inquire about financial aid packages that will lower published tuition rates. Scrutinize online student reviews for insider’s information about their experience. Consider online degree rankings to ascertain which schools are the best of the best. Ask important admission questions about the program length, college history, graduate employment, credit transfer, and course platform. Putting in research time will boost your chance of getting great online education cheap.

Related Links

The Top 15 Accredited Online Colleges Without An Application Fee

What Are The Cheapest And Easiest Accredited Online College Programs For Graduate Degrees?

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Heated competition for career promotions is making many working professionals hit the Web to find some of the easiest and cheapest accredited online colleges for graduate degrees. Finishing a graduate program helps you upgrade outdated skills, get employer recognition, find teaching opportunities, and maximize your earning power. On average, master’s graduates are saddled with $37,000 in graduate school debt though. Avoiding high-priced options while saving money by living at home, skipping campus commutes, and continuing to work full-time is essential for strong ROI. If you’re planning to study beyond your baccalaureate, here are six affordable, accredited graduate schools where online tuition is less than $5,000 each year.

1. Western New Mexico University

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Established in 1893 by Colonel John W. Fleming, Western New Mexico University is a public, co-educational regional institution that won the Quality New Mexico Zia Award for delivering high-quality education to 3,500 Mustangs in Silver City and online. College Value Online ranked Western New Mexico fifth nationally with average yearly graduate tuition at $3,026. WNMU Online offers 200+ courses via Canvas with an 18:1 student-faculty ratio. Five easy master’s programs, including a Master of Arts in Educational Leadership, Master of Arts in Interdisciplinary Studies, and Master of Business Administration, are available online.

Learn more about the Cheapest and Easiest Accredited Online College Programs for Graduate Degrees at Western New Mexico University here.

2. Fort Hays State University

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Affiliated with noted alumni like Kathryn McCarthy, Les Miller, and Nola Ochs, Fort Hays State University is Kansas’ third-largest public, co-educational regional institution budgeting $155.5 million to serve 14,210 Tigers in the Smoky Hills region and online. Named America’s 48th best online school by Niche, FHSU is recognized by the U.S. News for the 77th best graduate teaching programs online. The Virtual College charges average yearly graduate tuition of $3,398 for cheap Blackboard courses. Post-grads select from 19 online degrees, including a Master of Arts in Public History, Master of Science in School Psychology, and Master of Science in Health and Human Performance.

Learn more about the Cheapest and Easiest Accredited Online College Programs for Graduate Degrees at Fort Hays State University here.

3. Chadron State College

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Led by President Richard R. Rhine, Chadron State College is a public, co-educational NSCS constituent founded in 1911 on the Nebraska Panhandle that’s now retaining 67 percent of its 3,000 Eagles in Chadron and online. Graded B+ for diversity as America’s 98th best online college on Niche, CSC is ranked the 11th best for vets university in Military Times. On Blackboard, the Online Learning Division charges post-grads $3,600 yearly on average. Easy, eight-week courses lead to 17 online degrees, including a Master of Organizational Management in Natural Resources, Master of Education in Reading Specialist PK-12, and Master of Arts in Mental Health Counseling.

Learn more about the Cheapest and Easiest Accredited Online College Programs for Graduate Degrees at Chadron State College here.

4. Texas A&M University-Commerce

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Located on Gee Lake in East Texas just an hour’s drive from Dallas with a 1,800-acre farm, Texas A&M University-Commerce is a public, co-educational research institution led by President Ray Keck with 603 academic staff and 12,385 Lions. Declared America’s 107th best college with free applications on Niche, TAMUC was ranked fifth for its Online MBA by the U.S. News. With average yearly tuition at $3,630, the eCollege offers 22 graduate programs 100 percent online. Logging into the myLeo portal is essay for online degrees like the Master of Science in Finance, Master of Science in Applied Criminology, and Doctor of Education in Educational Administration.

Learn more about the Cheapest and Easiest Accredited Online College Programs for Graduate Degrees at Texas A&M University – Commerce here.

5. Cameron University

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Passing its 100th anniversary, Cameron University is a public, co-educational member of the Lone Star Conference that’s carrying a $16.1 million endowment to educate 5,589 Aggies under President John M. McArthur’s leadership in Lawton, Oklahoma, and online. Applauded for the 145th best online MBA by the U.S. News, Cameron has the state’s third lowest median student loan debt with average post-grad tuition at $4,296 yearly. Cameron’s five easy online master’s, including the Master of Science in Organizational Leadership, Master of Business Administration in Economics, and Master of Education in Special Education, are available everywhere except California, Florida, or Massachusetts on Blackboard.

Learn more about the Cheapest and Easiest Accredited Online College Programs for Graduate Degrees at Cameron University here.

6. Arkansas State University

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Following the motto “Educate, Enhance, Enrich,” Arkansas State University is a flagship public, co-educational research institution opened by Pastor Robert W. Glover in 1909 that’s now endowed for $54.2 million to serve 21,976 Red Wolves in Jonesboro and online. Deemed America’s 54th most conservative college on Niche, A-State is congratulated for the 10th best online MBA by the U.S. News. Using the SREB Electronic Campus platform, A-State Online bills $4,626 for average graduate tuition yearly. Students can easily access 16 online graduate degrees, including the M.S. in Sport Administration, Master of Public Administration, and Ed.S. in Educational Leadership.

Learn more about the Cheapest and Easiest Accredited Online College Programs for Graduate Degrees at Arkansas State University here.

Haven’t found what you’re looking for? The NCES College Navigator is an excellent online tool for post-graduates to conduct advanced searches for degree specifics while limiting annual tuition to the maximum $5,000, $10,000, or $15,000 marks. When shopping for inexpensive online graduate degrees, be cautious about scams that seem too good from diploma mills by checking for regional or national accreditations. Some more of the easiest, cheapest accredited online graduate degrees are found at New Mexico Highlands University, University of Texas Permian Basin, Wayne State College, Amberton University, Southern Arkansas University, and Henderson State University.

Related Link

The Top 20 Easy Accredited Online PhD Programs

Where Can I Find The Easiest Accredited Online College Program?

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Searching out the easiest, accredited online college program sounds like a simple enough task, given the vast information resources available on the Internet. But that’s the challenge isn’t it? How do you know where to start or what to look for? What are the parameters you should set for the search? What’s most important to you as you search? And what should you filter out? Easy can mean many things. For most students, it’s about quick acceptance into a college program. Or it might mean finding schools that offer a fast track to a degree. But no matter what institution you choose, you need to maintain a balance between cost and academics. And above all, make sure the school is accredited.

An ideal choice for some students are “open enrollment” schools that offer open admissions. These schools accept any applicant who holds a high school diploma or GED, regardless of past grades. Open admissions colleges mean that students no longer have to stress over that burning question of “What if I don’t get in?” The admission process is unselective and non-competitive. However: Understand that most colleges with Open Admission policies are community colleges or colleges which grant Associate degrees.

The easiest schools to get into quite often are the best places to get an education. By that we mean even universities and vocational schools that accept students with 2.0-GPAs (or lower) can still produce graduates able to compete with high academic achievers in the workforce.

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The Search

There are hundreds, maybe thousands, of sponsored websites that purport to guide high school students to the college that will most appropriately match up with their career aspirations. Watch out for those: While they aren’t necessarily deceptive, they are sponsored for a reason, and that is to drive prospective students to a particular school or program. A good place to start any research effort is the college navigator, a service of the National Center for Educational Statistics. Most researchers begin with NCES. Putting aside schools with open enrollment policies, some high school advisors will talk about applying to a “safety” school as a backup to your top pick. You can start your search to find that easy-to-get-into school by going to U.S.News and World Report rankings. Once you’re on that page set up your own search parameters after clicking on the word “acceptance.” If you don’t feel like making the search yourself for schools with the highest acceptance rates, U.S. News does the work for you here. Consider colleges out of your area, or even outside the country. Many schools in the USA actively seek to diversify their student populations with people from various geographical areas. That’s why out-of-state schools are sometimes easy universities to get into for students who may not necessarily have the best academic records but who are willing to move somewhere new. Meanwhile, if you opt to go outside the USA, some schools are not just easy to get into, but free. Find out more from Consumer Reports. One caveat: make sure at least some classes in your major are taught in English. Look for test-optional schools. Not all colleges use standardized tests in deciding whether to admit a new student. Some schools don’t even require students to submit test scores with their application. In fact, according to , more than 900 4-year colleges have . For more advanced degrees, our site, The Top 20 Easy Accredited Online PhD Programs will lead you in the right direction as you continue your education.

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Other Research Tools

You’ll also want that easy-to-get-into school to be affordable. Look for options that have excellent reputations, good graduation rates, are well-established, have a quality faculty, ease of use, and offer flexibility.

Here are some trusted sites to visit:
Peterson’s College Search
College Raptor
College Stats
College Affordability Guide

Are There Easy, Accredited Online College Programs Where I Can Get My PhD?

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Waving a wand to make PhD magically appear after your name isn’t possible; however, online universities are making it easier to finish doctoral courses in a busy work schedule. Online PhD programs welcome advanced scholars into virtual classrooms to discuss their topics of expertise and share their individual research findings. A Doctor of Philosophy is the highest possible degree awarded in non-medical and law fields after extensive research in a dissertation phase. Each year, the United States grants around 52,750 PhDs to high-achieving experts who’ve satisfied the degree’s extensive commitment. As a payoff, graduates with PhD degrees reap an average lifetime earnings total of $3.25 million. If you’re on the PhD hunt, here are six easy, accredited online college programs delivering legitimate doctorates.

Regent University

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Originally called the Christian Broadcasting Network University in 1977, Regent University has expanded into a private, nonprofit doctoral-granting institution with SACS accreditation that’s educating over 3,900 post-grads online with brief residencies in Virginia Beach. Ranked America’s 66th “Best Online College” on Niche, Regent is recognized by the U.S. News for the 56th best online graduate education. Christian scholars easily access 20 PhD program options online, such as the PhD in Communication, PhD in Counseling & Psychological Studies, and PhD in Adult Education. Charging $650 per hour, the doctorates range from 51 to 60 credits with virtual mentoring throughout the dissertation research.

Learn more about Accredited Online PhD Programs at Regent University here.

Walden University

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Educating over 48,900 working professionals from 155 countries, Walden University is a private, HLC-accredited for-profit corporation managed by Laureate Education Inc. that’s located in Minneapolis-St. Paul for predominantly online education. Deemed America’s 73rd “Best Online College” on Niche, Walden was ranked the 19th best U.S. college for adult learners by the Washington Monthly. Advanced students can research topics they’re passionate about with ease in 27 doctoral programs, including the PhD in Criminal Justice, PhD in Nursing, and PhD in Developmental Psychology. Currently charging $585 per quarter hour, the programs allow 55 transfer credits in the accelerated “Fast Track.”

Learn more about Accredited Online PhD Programs at Walden University here.

Liberty University

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Belonging to the Center for Research Libraries (CRL), Liberty University is a private, nonprofit evangelical Christian institution with a $1.05 billion endowment, 12,500 online post-grad students, and R3 research status in Lynchburg, Virginia, and beyond. Applauded as America’s 12th “Best Online College” on Niche, Liberty houses the 174th best online graduate education according to the U.S. News. The SACS-accredited university awards 25 different doctorates like the PhD in Counselor Education, PhD in Theology & Apologetics, and PhD in Worship Studies online for $595 per credit. Through Blackboard, Liberty Flames can make their 45-70 credit degree easier with life experience credits.

Learn more about Accredited Online PhD Programs at Liberty University here.

Hampton University

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Headquartered in Virginia’s Hampton Roads Metro along the Chesapeake Bay, Hampton University is a private, historically black doctoral-level MEAC institution that’s accredited by the SACS to educate over 4,600 Pirates on a $263.2 million endowment. Ranked America’s 8th “Best HBCU” on Niche, Hampton is deemed the 18th best college and 13th most veteran-friendly university in the South by the U.S. News. Offering professional life experience credits, HamptonU Online has four accelerated PhD options. Advanced scholars could easily finish the PhD in Business Administration, PhD in Educational Management, or PhD in Nursing online in as few as 36 months.

Learn more about Accredited Online PhD Programs at Hampton University here.

Nova Southeastern University

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Regionally accredited by the SACS, Nova Southeastern University is a private, nonprofit RU/H doctoral-granting institution led by President George L. Hanbury II to educate nearly 20,100 post-grad Sharks online from its headquarters in Fort Lauderdale. Picked as America’s 91st “Most Diverse College” on Niche, NSU is acclaimed for the 84th best online graduate education by the U.S. News. Online courses are easily accessed 24/7 for 11 doctorates, including the PhD in Health Sciences, PhD in Conflict Analysis & Resolution, and Post-Professional PhD in Occupational Therapy. Doctoral candidates pay $895 per credit to study via Blackboard and attend The Summer Institute.
Learn more about Accredited Online PhD Programs at Nova Southeastern University here.

Keiser University

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Generating an economic impact of $3 billion yearly, Keiser University is a private, nonprofit SACS-accredited Level VI institution sold to Everglades College Inc. in 2010 that boasts 67,000 alumni from its 18 Florida campuses and Fort Lauderdale Online Division. Declared America’s 30th “Best Online College” on Niche, Keiser was placed 11th nationally by the Online Education Database (OEDb). Conveniently in English or Spanish, Keiser Seahawks select from 11 easy online PhD programs, including the PhD in Curriculum and Instruction, PhD in Business Administration, and PhD in General Psychology. Logging into Blackboard for doctoral courses coasting $2,097 each leads to dissertation research.
Learn more about Accredited Online PhD Programs at Keiser University here.

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Careful investigation is needed when searching for online colleges offering easy PhD programs. Search results can turn up diploma mills where gimmicks are used to sell PhD scams that won’t be respected. Therefore, always check the U.S. Department of Education accreditation database to ensure high-quality doctoral training. We also suggest looking for good job placement, low student-faculty ratio, tuition aid, dissertation support, and high-tech peer interaction along with ease of completion. Some honorable mentions to our above accredited online PhD programs include Northcentral University, Concordia University, East Carolina University, Troy University, Capella University, and University of Florida.

Related Links

The Top 20 Easy Accredited Online PhD Programs

How Do I Find Accredited Online Colleges With No Application Fee and Low Tuition?

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Accredited online colleges are highly convenient for busy non-traditional students to access lectures, assignments, and discussions anytime 24/7 from home or on-the-go. Online degrees are typically less expensive than their campus-based counterparts because paying for dorm housing, meal plans, transportation, and perhaps childcare isn’t necessary. Getting the best bang for your buck is still imperative to maximize your financial resources though. The College Board reports that U.S. undergraduate programs had an average yearly tuition of $9,650 at public and $33,480 at private nonprofit colleges in 2016. College graduates finish their diploma with a mean loan debt burden of $30,100. Reduce the sticker price for your online college experience with these helpful tactics.

Check Accreditation Status Online

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Searches for online colleges should always begin with verification of accreditation. This is a third-party certification process conducted on higher learning institutions to determine their credibility and competency for collegiate teaching. Regional accreditation from one of six agencies recognized by the CHEA is preferred for credit transfer, financial aid, and corporate reimbursement. National accreditation is also accepted for practical, career-oriented online training that doesn’t lead to licensure. The U.S. Department of Education offers a user-friendly accreditation database for searching by college or accrediting agency. All legitimate online colleges will be listed, which means you can avoid diploma mills where tuition leaves you with a degree dud.

Finding Free Online College Applications

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Applying to college can be a surprisingly costly endeavor for online students. Applications can range from $20 to $90 each, so waiving this expense can broaden your prospective college pool. Niche publishes an exhaustive ranking of the “Best Colleges with No Application Fee in America” each year. Many schools from this list, such as Case Western Reserve and Trinity University, have online programs. Take notice that many universities set the application fee at $0 for Internet-savvy students who file online applications. If a prospective school still charges, financially needy students can file the NACAC request for an application fee waiver.

Hunting for Low-Cost Online Bargains

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Landing a low tuition price isn’t about winning the lottery; it’s all about doing your homework. The Internet gives us plentiful resources for searching up-to-date tuition prices. For example, the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) runs the College Navigator database to keep colleges transparent. Within the advanced search feature, you can insert your desired degree or major, check the box for distance education, and select the maximum tuition rate for your state. The College Choice website is another good college search option that allows you to easily find online schools where tuition is less than $10,000. Compare your results to the U.S. News online rankings to find top-performing colleges for cheap.

Building a Satisfying Financial Aid Package

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Even low tuition can be too difficult for some online scholars to afford. Therefore, it’s important to harvest several financial aid opportunities for covering your online degree. Accredited colleges will qualify for federal aid like the Pell and FSEOG Grants, so file the FAFSA form before June 30th. Look into state-based programs, such as the Minnesota Achieve Scholarship or Georgia HOPE Grant. Across the United States, private scholarships award over $7.4 billion annually for campus and online students. Online schools generally don’t accept Federal Work-Study (FWS) due to distance, but institutional awards are available. Reach out to your college financial aid office to calculate even cheaper tuition.

Now that we’ve covered the ways to find accredited online colleges with no application fee and low tuition, let’s apply them for some great examples. Brescia University is a Kentucky-based school with SACS accreditation that’s accepting free applicants for 14 online programs with affordable tuition at $425 per credit. As an HLC-accredited system in West Virginia, American Public University has a free application for 200+ online programs starting at only $270 per credit. Point Park University is a Philadelphia college accredited by the MSCHE with no application fee that awards 20 online degrees for $412 per credit.

Related Links:

Accredited Online Degree Programs – The Advantages

Why Are Colleges Dropping (Or Entirely Eliminating) Application Fees?
How Does Accreditation Affect Financial Aid?

Why Are Colleges Dropping (or Entirely Eliminating) Application Fees?


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For decades, part of the college application process has been paying a non-refundable fee. The fee is designed to cover the costs of processing and reviewing candidates’ application materials. According to the U.S. News, the average application fee is $41. Yet application fees can range from $20 up to $90 at prestigious universities like Stanford. College-bound hopefuls can spend hundreds to thousands in application fees applying to multiple schools where acceptance isn’t guaranteed. As worries over America’s $1.3 trillion student loan debt mount, more colleges are making changes for a fee-free application policy. In this article, we’ll review why post-secondary schools are dropping or entirely eliminating application fees and how you can benefit.

Expanding Equal Access to College Admission

Cutting application fees is a significant loss of revenue, but many university officials across the United States view the policy shift as a favorable investment. Reducing or eliminating these fees can help expand the number of qualified students applying. That’s because a significant number of high-achieving high school seniors from poor families have been discouraged by fees. One survey from the Low Income Housing Authority found that up to 25 percent of low-income students didn’t apply for higher education despite good grades. Dropping the application fee helps eradicate monetary barriers and prioritize equality in college admission. Schools who forgo fees can attract more low-income, first-generation, and immigrant students who will benefit from financial aid and contribute to the academic community.

Excellent Colleges Removing the Application Fee

Several institutions have made national news by saving students the added stress of application fees. In 2014, the University of Maine at Farmington became the system’s first campus to completely eradicate its $40 fee. Reed College, a selective liberal arts school, joined the movement by cutting its $50 application fee. Since the 2013 decision, Reed announced that received applications have increased by a whopping 40 percent. In September 2016, Bowdoin College followed the pattern by automatically eliminating application fees for students applying for need-based aid. Mayor Bill de Blasio also abolished the $65 CUNY application fee for New York City students receiving reduce-priced lunch. Other top-notch colleges without an undergrad application fee include:

• Carleton College: Northfield, MN
• Colby College: Waterville, ME
• Grinnell College: Grinnell, IA
• Smith College: Northampton, MA
• Tulane University: New Orleans, LA
• Case Western Reserve University: Cleveland, OH
• Trinity University: San Antonio, TX
• Illinois Wesleyan University: Bloomington, IL
• Marquette University: Milwaukee, WI
• Augustana University: Sioux Falls, SD
• Florida Institute of Technology: Melbourne, FL

Other Ways to Apply to College for Free

Are your prospective school favorites still charging an application fee? Don’t sweat it because there are potential loopholes. Web-savvy students who apply online rather than by mail can eliminate incurred fees at schools like Millikin University. Having connections could help cut fees. For instance, Western New England University gives free applications to parents and grandparents of alumni. Another option is to physically travel to the college’s campus. At McDaniel College, official campus visits leave attendees with the prize of a free application. Financially needy students can also file waiver requests through the National Association of College Admission Counseling (NACAC). If you’ve already taken the SAT exam with a fee waiver, you automatically qualify!

Everyone knows that college tuition comes with a hefty price tag. According to the College Board, the average published undergraduate tuition is $9,650 at public and $33,480 at private four-year institutions annually. Tuition rose approximately 2.4 percent from 2015 to 2016. But costs can begin accruing well before students reach the college classroom. Application fees are cumbersome expenses that are commonly charged to each potential new freshman or transfer. Fortunately, desire to improve equal access for students from diverse, low-income backgrounds is giving colleges momentum to make applications more affordable.

Related Link

The Top 15 Accredited Online Colleges Without An Application Fee

How Does Accreditation Affect Financial Aid?


Higher education costs money that most students don’t have out-of-pocket. In the United States, the average undergraduate tuition charges $21,003 per year. Prices rise even higher at private, nonprofit universities where the average annual bill is $35,987. That’s why 85 percent of full-time students at four-year colleges rely on financial aid. The U.S. Department of Education offers federal assistance programs that awarded over $185 billion in 2013 alone. Financial aid is a valuable lifeboat for many college students to afford sailing towards their post-secondary dreams. Accreditation is one of the stipulations that affects your ability to claim funds though. Let’s review everything you should know about how accreditation affects financial aid.

Basics of Accreditation

Accreditation is a rigorous appraisal process initiated by colleges voluntarily to judge the overall educational quality provided to students. Two types of accreditation affect financial aid: regional and national. Regional accreditation is extended to two-year and four-year traditional or online institutions based on their geographic location. National accreditation is granted primarily to career-oriented vocational and trade schools across the U.S. Under Title IV of the Higher Education Act, the government requires colleges to be regionally or nationally accredited for funding. Attending an unaccredited college will automatically make you ineligible. Acceptable accrediting agencies include the:

• Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE)
• Higher Learning Commission of the North Central Association (HLC-NCA)
• New England Associations of Schools and Colleges (NEASC)
• Southern Association of Colleges and Schools Commission on Colleges (SACSCOC)
• Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC)
• Accrediting Council for Independent Colleges and Schools (ACICS)
• Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC)
• Association for Biblical Higher Education (ABHE)
• Transnational Association of Christian Colleges and Schools (TRACS)

Federal Financial Aid Conditions

College students seeking assistance must submit the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) before the Web deadline on June 30th. Information provided on this form will be used to calculate your basic eligibility for federal financial aid. You must demonstrate unmet financial need, which is calculated based on your expected family contribution (EFC). Selecting an unaccredited college is a surefire way to be rejected. Federal conditions require obtaining a college or career school education from an institution backed by accreditation. Other important requirements are:

• Being a U.S. citizen or eligible resident
• Possessing a Social Security number
• Enrolling in a degree or certificate program
• Taking college classes at least half-time
• Sustaining satisfactory academic progress
• Registering with Selective Service (males only)
• Having a high school diploma or GED
• Not being in loan default or incarcerated

Types of Aid Requiring Accreditation

Each type of Title IV federal student aid requires accreditation for eligibility. Federal grant programs offer free monetary help without creating debt. The Federal Pell Grant is perhaps the largest, awarding aid to 8.8 million students. Pell Grants can provide up to $5,815 each year for undergraduate and post-baccalaureate teacher credential students. The Federal Supplemental Educational Opportunity Grant (FSEOG) offers up to $4,000 yearly for students with significant unmet need. Aspiring educators planning to teach high-need subjects in low-income schools could earn the TEACH Grant for $4,000. The Iraq and Afghanistan Service Grant is also awarded for $5,419 to students under 24 whose guardian died in the Armed Forces.

Borrowing low-interest loans for federal financial aid is possible for students at accredited U.S. colleges. The William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan program is the largest lender with three borrowing categories. First, Direct Subsidized loans are given to undergrads for $3,500 to $5,500 to cover financial need. Direct Subsidized loans may provide up to $20,500 for any students, undergraduate or graduate, enrolled half-time. Direct PLUS loans have no upward limit for students’ parents or independent graduate students. The Federal Perkins Loan program is a school-based alternative for exceptional needy learners. Remember that loans must be repaid starting six months after graduation. America’s student loan debt surpasses $1.2 trillion.

How to Check for Accreditation

Your school’s accreditation status not only affects federal loans and grants, but it can also disqualify you for certain private scholarships. During your college search, play it safe by double checking accreditation. The U.S. Department of Education maintains a convenient accreditation database to find accurate, up-to-date approval facts. Simply type in the college’s name or search across your state of residence. Note that state universities and private nonprofits are the most desirable because they’re regionally accredited. Title IV financial aid is available to lower your costs, and credits transfer to protect your degree investment.

How to Know If an Online Program Is Offered by a Reputable School


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The market for online college courses has grown to the point where students have more choices than ever. For the most part, this is great news for degree-seekers looking to find a convenient online program that’s on par with a traditional campus education. However, not all institutions may be as reputable as they seem. The online education marketplace is rife with “diploma mills” that misrepresent their accreditations and academic standards. To avoid investing in a trivial degree from a poor institution, students should do a bit of homework before enrolling in any classes.

Early Clues

Right off the bat, there are some easy ways to tell if the program you’re interested in is legit. If the university has a traditional campus and offers an established “brand” of education, then you can trust its online degrees. For example, most state schools and renown private institutions like Northwestern or the University of Southern California all offer reputable online programs. Lesser-known schools and for-profit colleges may require a little more investigation. Red flags include strong marketing tactics, easy course loads and offers that seem too good to be true. The best way to verify such schools is to research their accreditations.

Accreditation is Key

By getting accredited, colleges and universities can say they offer reputable degrees and a quality education. Accreditation is a voluntary process that should be handled by a legitimate outside authority that evaluates quality. Unfortunately, bogus schools manage to find weak accreditation bodies that will put their stamp of approval on almost anything. These groups could have misleading names that sound more authoritative than they really are.

The best way to find out if an accreditation body is legitimate is to see if it’s featured on the Council of Higher Education’s list of Recognized Accrediting Organizations. Any program that has been accredited by one of the six recognized regional bodies will be in good standing. Colleges can also get national accreditation from faith-based or career-related organizations; however, the council recognizes less than a dozen of these bodies. Prospective students should beware of schools that boast of “international” accreditation, which is often an indication of a sham. The council does not recognize international accrediting bodies.

In addition, there are many recognized programmatic organizations that provide accreditation for individual programs. Students should check their specific program to see if it has been accredited by a recognized association.

Most colleges will list their accreditations online. If you can’t find a list, call the school and ask for its credentials.

The Importance of Attending a Reputable School

Enrolling in higher education is a major investment. Not only will you be paying tuition, you’ll be investing a lot of time and effort toward graduating. A student’s worse nightmare is to receive a diploma that isn’t taken seriously. Sadly, many online college graduates have gone through this scenario. A degree from an unaccredited school won’t do much for a resume or during a job interview.

Non-reputable institutions pose other problems as well. Tuition costs could be hazy and most colleges won’t take transfer credits from schools that aren’t regionally accredited. In addition, your state education agency may not offer financial aid if you attend an unaccredited school.

There are plenty of excellent online programs available from both non- and for-profit institutions. With a little bit of research, you’ll be able to weed out the bad schools and save yourself from potential heartache.

Online Graduates vs. Traditional Graduates: Do Employers Really See Them Equally?

In the past decade, online education has become common place in higher education. More and more students are flocking to online education because of the flexibility that most online programs provide. And while online degrees and certifications have become more accepted in general by society, there is still a question as to whether employers equate online degrees with degrees from traditional, brick and mortar institutions.

Online programs can provide an excellent return on investment if a student chooses wisely. While employers view online graduates favorably, students should recognize that this favorable view is subject to the program being accredited and associated with a traditional institution. Students should be prepared to do their research before selecting an online program.

Employer Perception

According to a 2010 study conducted by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), more than half of the employers responding indicated that they did not care whether a graduate’s degree came from a traditional, brick and mortar institution or an online program. The study revealed that employers were more concerned with the quality of the education and the reputation of the degree conferring institution. Employers are examining the institution that graduates are coming from. If an online institution is considered on par with the educational quality of a traditional institution, then employers deem it irrelevant whether a graduate earned his or her degree online or in a traditional setting.

The study did uncover two concerns of employers. One concern is that there seems to be a rush towards going online. Students need to remember that faculty is the most valuable asset of an institution. Students need to research the quality of the online faculty and their reputation in their field of study.

The second concern is that employers do have a preference towards online programs attached to a physical campus. The SHRM study found that only 42 percent of the employers smiled favorably on online degrees conferred by institutions strictly online; no physical campus. By contrast, 91 percent of the employers were favorable towards online degrees from traditional institutions.

Favorable Shift Towards Online Programs

Another piece information the 2010 SHRM study revealed was the shift in attitude towards online degrees. 87 percent of the employers surveyed concurred that in the past 5 years the view towards online degrees has become more favorable. Further, 79 percent of the employers have hired at least one online graduate.

Part of the shift is bring attributed to the increase in highly regarded traditional institutions, such as Ivy League schools, offering online programs. At first faculty members were leery of their respective schools adding online curriculums. However once implemented, they discovered that online programs allowed them to spend more time with students through online forums.

Importance of Accreditation

Accredited institutions have met all the necessary requirements that attest to their academic excellence. Colleges and universities are judged on their faculty, curriculum, and facilities. Accreditation determines whether an institution is credible or deemed a reputable school. When students are researching and selecting online programs, they must choose an accredited institution if they want future employers to view their degree as acceptable.

Desirable Characteristics of Online Graduates

Students who obtain their degrees online are pretty much the same as traditional degree students. Just like their traditional degree counterparts, online students need to attend lectures, complete homework, papers and other assignments, and participate in class discussions. However, there is one remarkable difference between the two types of students. And it is this difference that draws employers to online students.

Online students face the challenge of lack of accountability when it comes to showing up to their classes. This challenge threatens an online student’s ability to complete their program. Yet, it is this exact challenge that draws employers. Online graduates are viewed as overcoming this challenge and therefore, are seen as possessing amazing time management skills, initiative, motivation, and a high level of self-discipline.

Even further, employers view online graduates as being very knowledgeable and comfortable with technology. A trait that is sought by almost every industry these days. Employers also perceive online graduates as being self-starters and better at prioritizing. In addition, the graduates are also seen as thinking outside of the box when problem solving.

What is Online College Accreditation?

accreditationwhatAccreditation is an important topic for prospective college students. Attending a college that is poorly accredited may be a good bargain while you are in school, but upon graduation you will soon discover that a degree from an unaccredited or under accredited school may be a huge disadvantage in your search for a job.

Institutional Accreditation

One way for a college to gain accreditation is institutionally, meaning the entire college has a general accreditation. To gain an institutional accreditation, a college or university needs to demonstrate that they have information resources, such as libraries, available to their student body. They also need to prove to the accrediting body that they have significant student resources, such as enough faculty and staff, and have a track record of graduating students that have success in their field of study.

Program Specific Accreditation

Another way to gain accreditation is for a program to obtain accreditation itself, called programmatic accreditation. With a program specific accreditation, just a certain program will be accredited under the institution. A college may have an institutional accreditation and a program specific accreditation at the same time. Additionally, a college may be institutionally accredited but may not have the most advantageous program accreditation for your specific major, so it is important to research specific accreditation of your program when looking for an online college to attend. It is also possible for a college program to become nationally accredited by an professional group that also has also offers memberships for practicing professionals in that field. This is not always possible, but it is advantageous to you to research if your specific program has any of these affiliations or accreditations. Common programs for accreditation are law, nursing, education and engineering.

Regional Accreditation

The main accrediting body in the US, the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA), has six regional bodies that each accredit the colleges in their geographic location. It is uncommon for online schools to have regional accreditation, but an online institution can gain regional accreditation if that college has a physical location in one of the six regions in addition to their online degree seeking program.

Specific Online College Accreditation

The Distance Education and Training Counsel (DETC) is the sect of CHEA that is responsible for accrediting online universities. The DETC ensures that online and distance programs have content that is at the same level as their brick and mortar counterparts. Due to the rigorous nature of this accreditation, online schools that have this accreditation have a high percentage of graduates.

Accreditation offers many possibilities to you, the prospective student. Federal grants are only available to students at accredited colleges, as are other benefits such as subsidized student loans and GI Bill benefits. In addition to the financial benefits, attending an accredited school makes transfer between universities much quicker and smoother than transferring from a non-accredited institution. In order to demonstrate to future employers and other universities should you pursue additional studies, do your research to ensure that your online college or program is accredited.