Does anyone take online degrees seriously?

I wasn’t sure whether this was best suited for here or IMHO, but here goes.

followed some links and found myself at NTU and thought their programs looked intriguing. I would love to be able to get a respectable Master’s online, since that would be easiest with my schedule.

They say, “National Technological University is regionally accredited by The Higher Learning Commission and is a member of the North Central Association.” I don’t know if this is worth anything.

Anywho, I’m seriously considering going back to school, since my mechanical engineering knowledge is evaporating from my porous little head.

It depends on whether the school is accredited by a legitimate accreditation body. The reputable ones for the US are:

Middle States Association of Colleges & Schools
New England Association of Schools & Colleges
North Central Association of Colleges & Schools
Northwest Commission on Colleges & Universities
Southern Association of Colleges & Schools
Western Association of Schools & Colleges

I know nothing about NTU; if it doesn’t say they were accredited by the North Central Association of Colleges & Schools, I would be wary.

You can always write the accreditation body for confirmation. Be aware also of diploma-mills with names that sound like real schools. (E.g. Colombia University and and Prince Town College.)

Finally, if you want a high-ranking job in the federal government, a degree scrawled in crayon on newsprint ought to be sufficient.

I’ve got an answer of sorts, but it’s filled with caveats. First caveat: I’m tangentially familiar with accreditation, but I’m no expert. (I evaluate programs for the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology.)

Now, you’re certainly right to be a bit suspicious of claims of accreditation – there’s a bunch of, essentially, fake accreditation agencies that “accredit” rip-off schools to make them seem legit. See this pdf document on diploma mills.

A good way to make sure an accreditation body is legit is to check if it’s recognized by the Council for Higher Education Accreditation (CHEA) or the US Department of Education. A list of recognized accrediting organizations (pdf file) is given on CHEA’s web site. And, surprise! “North Central Association of Colleges and Schools The Higher Learning Commission” is fourth on the list. If you check NCA’s site, you’ll find that NTU has been accredited since 1986. So it appears to me that it’s legit.

However, this statement on NTU’s site causes me a faint sense of worry: “Each participating university offering instruction in engineering subjects has undergraduate programs accredited by the Accreditation Board for Engineering and Technology (ABET) or its national equivalent.” Why is that there? What’s a “participating university”? ABET accredits specific programs at specific institutions, so NTU is essentially saying “some programs at other universities are ABET accredited,” which means… nothing, really, as far as NTU is concerned.

It is important to note that ABET has not accredited any programs at NTU. Nor, in my unofficial opinion, is ABET likely to accredit any online-only programs. However, it’s also important to note that there are very,very few programs at the Master’s level that are accredited by ABET (in fact, if you look at this list, you’ll see that there’s…um…one accredited post-graduate program in ME. Go Navy!), so it’s not like you have a choice between accredited and non-accredited Master’s programs.

Does that help?

The caution is wise but unnecessary. For reasons i don’t quite understand, NCA refers to all of the postsecondary schools it accredits as being accredited by the Higher Learning Commission. NTU has been accredited by the Higher Learning Commission (and by the NCA, technically!) since 1986.

More and more instititions are prpviding distance learning and online degree programs, so their acceptance is increasing. I don’t know how they are regarded in your particular field, Lazlo.

Zut, I saw that too. NTU appears to be formed as an alliance of professors who have appointments at other schools, rather than a going concern with its own faculty. Therefore, that boast about having faculty who teach at ABET-certified programs seems like it’s legitimate marketing. A little confusing, yes, but not necessarily misleading.

Now, if NTU has a bang-up reputation in Lazlo’s field, then he should go for it. Otherwise, I’d be inclined to seek an online program that is directly affiliated with a university with a known reputation.

I’d consider a reputable brick & mortar school that also offers online degrees. I am getting a Master’s at Virginia Tech, and the classes are all available online (although some are also available in classroom versions).

OK; I was wondering if that’s what the deal was, but I couldn’t figure it out from my quick scan of their site. The thing that bothered me about it was that they made that statement on the same page on which they mentioned their legit NCA accreditation. That’s not misleading, no, but… ugh, it just bothers me.

Getting into IMHO territory here, but I agree with you and CookingWithGas. I infer that Lazlo is an ME; I am, also. I’ve never heard of NTU; I have heard of, say, Virginia Tech. I’ll bet nine out of ten MEs would say the same.

Even though we’re talking about postgraduate degrees, I think there’s a perceived quality difference between institutions that have ABET-accredited undergrad degrees (like Virginia Tech) and those that don’t. Just how much that figures into Lazlo’s decision is up to him.

Thanks for the responses!

Well, I have a Bachelor’s in ME from New Mexico State, which is ABET accredited. Unfortunately, I’m not working in the field. My employer would pay for me to get a master’s at University of New Mexico, and that’ll probably be what I do. However, with the schedule I work, it would be difficult. For instance, I just woke up and will be going in to work in about an hour.

That’s a good point, and my employer lists Carnegie Melon’s online program as one they’d pay for. One big problem is that CMU wants their students to go to campus once a month for group projects and meetings.

Finally, one of the main thing that made me seriously wonder about NTU is the fact they have a Semiconductor Engineering program, and that is what my career is in right now.

I don’t know anything about your particular school, but a pretty comprehensive source of information on legitimate distance-education programs, diploma mills, accreditation etc. is John Bear’s web site. He has made a career of the subject and sells several books about it.


I just checked my employer’s tuition reimbursement program. NTU is specifically mentioned as an approved institution. Nice to know I do have that option.

eyewitness, Thanks for the link!

The Union Institute and the University of Phoenix are two “online” institutions that have a fair reputation. A colleague, in fact, just received her Ph.D. from The Union Institute (she was hired ABD). In general, graduate programs like theirs assemble a curriculum that is staffed by faculty from a variety of other institutions–in theory, it wouldn’t be all that different from the cobbled-together approach that most universities take, the biggest difference being that you wouldn’t have a campus to report to regularly. Many “brick and mortar” universities are also offering programs online.