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Considering Out-of-State Online Courses

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Notice to Massachusetts Residents Considering Enrolling in Online Courses Offered by Out-of-State Colleges and Universities

There are many advantages to taking courses on-line and countless institutions and courses from which to choose.  While college level programs and degrees are typically reviewed and approved by the Massachusetts Board of Higher Education, those offered completely online by out-of-state institutions are not reviewed or approved by the Board of Higher Education, nor by any other Massachusetts agency.  Students are highly encouraged to be cautious when enrolling in these programs, as they will need to handle disputes or misunderstandings directly with the institution.  Given the potential risk, students should consider the questions below as they research online programs offered by out-of-state institutions:

  1. Is the institution recognized by a regional or national accreditation body recognized by the U.S. Secretary of Education? (Check here
  2. How long will it take to complete the program?
  3. How will credits from the program transfer to another institution? How will credits I may have earned elsewhere transfer into the program?
  4. How will the institution handle any complaints I may have?
  5. Are employment statistics available for graduates from the program?
  6. If the course or programs usually leads to professional licensure, will it meet the requirements for licensure in the Commonwealth?
  7. How often will the professor teaching the course be accessible to me? Will I be required to communicate primarily asynchronously (at a time of my choosing) or synchronously (at a scheduled time)?
  8. What are the total costs of the program or course of study?  Will I be eligible for financial aid?
  9. What will happen if the institution does not fully deliver the courses or program for which I am enrolled?  What is its policy to compensate me for the education I do not receive?
  10. How financially stable is the institution? One way to know this for independent institutions is to learn its financial responsibility index score from the U.S. Department of Education. A score of 1.5 or above is considered financially stable. Public institutions are presumed to be sufficiently financially stable.
  11. Does the institution adhere to the Interregional Guidelines for the Evaluation of Distance Education?

These and other questions can be found at

Before You Enroll Checklist - Massachusetts Attorney General's Office
Choosing an Online Program - OnlineCollege.org
Are You Ready to be an Online Student? - OnlineCollege.org
FAQs about Accreditation - U.S. Department of Education