The major benefit of many online associates degrees is that they offer students an excellent value on the cost of classes, all while reducing the need to commute or take time away from work to attend lectures. Another added advantage of these programs is that they’re dramatically less expensive than the cost of two years at a traditional, four-year university.
With that said, one of the main concerns that students have about online associate’s degrees is that they simply won’t be able to transfer their credit into a four-year institution after graduation. This could be problematic, since it would mean starting over and spending a great deal of money retaking courses. It almost never happens, however, as long as students follow a few simple rules when choosing an online degree program.
1. The Program Should be Regionally Accredited
An online associate’s degree is a great way to save money, but students need to make sure that they’re choosing a program with full, regional accreditation in order to truly save money and enjoy transferability of their credits. There are major, regional accrediting bodies for every major region of the United States, and these bodies are recognized by the U.S. Department of Education as being the authority on a school’s academic rigor, value to students, and compliance with broad educational standards. These degrees are also eligible for financial aid funds, including Stafford Loans, Perkins Loans, Pell Grants, and state-funded opportunities. Unaccredited programs, however, are not.
2. Choose an A.S. or A.A. Over an A.A.S. Degree
Typically, two-year degrees come in three forms. The first two are very similar to what would be offered at a four-year school. The Associate of Arts and Associate of Science degrees feature a core, liberal arts curriculum that sits alongside specific courses in the student’s chosen major. An Associate of Applied Science degree, or A.A.S., is slightly different. These programs cut out many of the liberal arts courses and require students to take a larger number of specialized, major-specific classes in their place.
While an A.A.S. degree sounds like a better value for entering into the workforce, and it truly can be, this degree does present problems when transferring credits. In many cases, less than half of the degree’s credits will transfer to a four-year school. This is because many of the specialized classes count as 300-level or 400-level classes at a university, and most schools simply will not recognize them.
3. Get Good Grades in Order to Transfer Classes
Most universities will only accept transfer credits from an A.A. or A.S. degree program if the student earned a “C” or better. Any grades below this threshold will cause the university to reject the class, and the student will have to retake it if they wish to earn credit in the new program.
4. Choose a “Completion” Degree Program
Many universities work alongside regional and online community colleges to create “completion” degrees for students who have already graded with an A.A. or A.S. in their field. Completion programs require only two more years of study and, thanks to specific agreements between the schools, students automatically have all first-year and second-year classes waived simply because they graduated with a two-year degree. This is an excellent way to get a great value, and it’s a great way to enjoy peace of mind during the transfer process.
Transferring Between Two-Year and Four-Year Programs is Easy
Though transferring courses and degrees might seem complex at the outset, the truth is that this process has gotten easier in recent years. Whether the program was completed online or offline, universities will work with students to recognize their degree, transfer courses, and save them thousands of dollars as they work toward a bachelor’s degree. This is just as true for online associates degrees as it is for their more traditional, offline counterparts.