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5 questions to ask when choosing an online degree

Equip yourself with the right tools to evaluate program quality

By Tyler Hansen

Here’s an obvious bit of information: Earning a college degree online takes a lot of hard work. Do you know what else requires an ample amount of your time? Researching which university to apply to and which degree program to enroll in.

All good research begins by asking the right questions. And at Oregon State University Ecampus, our experienced staff can help you pinpoint a program that matches your interests and can take your career to the next level.

We asked several members of the Oregon State Ecampus executive team to share important questions prospective students should ask when researching online degree programs. Here are five things they say you should keep top of mind.

1. Does the program offer the skills you seek, and is it offered in a format that works well for you?

Whether you want to move up at your current workplace or change industries, you likely have a sense of which skills you need to acquire in order to make the desired transition a reality. As you’re evaluating programs, look for expected student learning outcomes and program curriculum to better understand what you’ll gain from the experience.

Equally important is selecting a program that is delivered in a way that fits within your life’s demands. Most working professionals cannot realistically make it to a physical campus for scheduled class meetings. That makes the flexibility of a 100% online program appealing.

Hybrid programs are another engaging and flexible way to pursue a degree. At Oregon State, the hybrid experience blends high-quality online coursework with regularly scheduled face-to-face class meetings.

2. What is actual and total cost of attendance?

Pursuing a degree online requires a significant financial investment, and it’s important to dig into the costs of your program before enrolling. You can find a base tuition cost pretty easily, but be sure to ask an enrollment services specialist if there are any additional fees you might pay on top of tuition.

Once you have the information you need, delve into helpful tips on applying for financial aid in order to make your learning experience more affordable. You can also use a tuition calculator to estimate costs.

3. How will your previously earned credits transfer from other institutions?

A variety of factors determine how much of your previous college coursework can be applied toward a degree program at a new school. At Oregon State, we accept up to 135 lower-division transfer credits toward a baccalaureate degree. All transfer credit work must be completed at an accredited institution.

Your transferable credits may apply to your Oregon State curriculum and will be determined once you’re admitted. For more information, you can contact OSU’s Office of Admissions at 1-800-291-4192 or

4. What student services will you have access to while learning online?

You’ll likely discover that institutions are eager to help you submit an application, enroll in a degree program and prepare for your first day of classes. But how will they support you in Years 2 and 3 and beyond in your academic journey?

Exploring which resources are available specifically to online students will give you an understanding of how committed the university is to your individual success. Students who learn online with OSU Ecampus, for example, have access to countless resources, from success coaching and library services to free online tutoring and career guidance.

These are all vital components that will make your online learning experience memorable and rewarding.

5. How do other people regard the institution including accreditation, student testimonials and rankings?

What is institutional accreditation? Here’s the short version: It’s super important. The long version: It’s the highest form of accreditation in the U.S., and it means universities like Oregon State have been thoroughly evaluated by experts to ensure that students receive high-quality learning experiences.

National rankings based largely on faculty credentials and student engagement can be a valuable tool to gauge which schools offer the best learning environments online.

But nothing is as valuable as the been-there-done-that observations of a degree program’s students and graduates. Seek out their firsthand accounts and testimonials to get the truest sense of what it’s like to be a student in the program.

For more information on why learning online with Oregon State Ecampus is the best fit for you, contact our enrollment services team and get started today.

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