appropriate student services-such as career counseling, tutoring and technical support-are in place.”
Unfortunately, just about anyone can open a “university” and claim that it’s fully accredited. Similarly, many accrediting bodies exist. “But not all of them are legitimate,” points out Dixon. The U.S. Department of Education (202-708-7417) will supply you with a list of approved accrediting agencies. If you absolutely want to be sure your school is accredited, follow Diaz’s lead. “Select a distance degree program through a traditional four-year university or professional school,” suggests Dixon.
MIND OVER MONEY
Maybe you already know you have what it takes to earn a distance degree, and want to find out the cost. This price will largely depend on two factors: the type of degree you want and the school you choose to attend. For example, Mayo’s Duke degree, at $82,500, is the most expensive virtual M.B.A. in the country. In contrast, that degree from Andrew Jackson University in Birmingham, Alabama is the cheapest at only $5,000.
If you think any additional degree is beyond your budget, consider that more than 90% of American companies offer tuition reimbursement. A few employers, such as Mayo’s, foot the entire bill. “Never assume your company won’t pay for at least some of your tuition,” says Phillips. “Even if it doesn’t pay for degrees, ask it to pay for the specific courses directly related to your role at work,” she recommends.
Both Rowles-Stokes and Diaz looked to outside sources to fund their schooling. “I was awarded a full scholarship from the National Association of Minorities in Cable that took care of my tuition and books, which amounted to about $10,000,” says Rowles-Stokes. Diaz paid for her own education through loans.
However, tuition may not be the only cost you’ll have to bear. For example, your computer will need to have the specifications laid out by the individual program or school. This may result in you having to purchase more RAM or memory, as well as additional hardware, such as cameras, if videoconferencing will also be utilized.
If you’re wondering whether the costs-financial and emotional-of earning a Web-based degree are really worth it, consider its potential value in the real world, says Mayo. “The company liked the distance format because they didn’t have to wait to see a return on their investment,” says Mayo, who believes the distance program was more intense than its daytime counterpart. “Because I was still working, I could put what I was learning into practical use right away.”
At press time, Rowles-Stokes’ degree hadn’t resulted in more responsibility. However, she feels it will give her an edge in her pursuit of a vice presidency of human resources-either at Rifkin or elsewhere. “I learned the skills I needed to keep in step with the workplace,” says Rowles-Stokes, who used her newly honed technical ability to design her company’s Web page. Her experience has influenced her husband, Guy, to pursue an online
master’s in business administration through JIU and the University of Colorado at Colorado Springs.
Dixon echoes their sentiments. “You can be proud