Does an Online Degree Measure Up?

Ask Dr. Lomax: It can be a viable option for those needing a nontraditional route to an education.

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As with every important decision, you need to be a careful consumer of online educational opportunities. Here are some tips:

* Give preference to online courses that are part of a program leading to a degree — two-year, four-year, master’s or doctoral — with more job and career potential, rather than those that are narrowly targeted at a particular kind of job.

* Check out the online offerings of nonprofit colleges and community colleges; they’re likely to be less expensive than for-profit institutions.

* Don’t borrow more than you can afford to pay back if you get the kind of job for which you’re preparing. Remember that the money you borrow for any kind of education has to be paid back whether or not you finish and whether or not you find a job.

* Scrutinize placement promises very carefully. Ask for evidence of claims that an online-education company has really found jobs for its graduates. 

Michael Lomax is president and CEO of United Negro College Fund. He is a contributing editor for The Root.

If you have any questions about the college experience, whether you are a student or a parent, please send them to Dr. Lomax at

The Root aims to foster and advance conversations about issues relevant to the black Diaspora by presenting a variety of opinions from all perspectives, whether or not those opinions are shared by our editorial staff.

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