Opinions about a New Online College with State Approval, but no Accreditation [yet].

Discussion in 'Business and MBA degrees' started by rodmc, Nov 11, 2012.

  1. rodmc

    rodmc Active Member

    I wanted to reach out and ask the community about their thoughts concerning a new State approved online College, and how to best market its programs to new students. I will also add that our company also owns and operates a Regionally (North Central Association CASI) accredited online high school; so we are a legitimate organization, and we understand both the process and value of accreditation. The organization has been offering online educational services since 2005. We are not new to online learning, just new in the college marketplace.

    The new College offers rigorous programs taught by highly qualified instructors/subject matter experts from RA accredited colleges. We recruited our instructors from U of Phoenix, Kaplan, Capella, Walden, etc. We operate to the same level as other RA/nationally accredited colleges, but the College is new and in a 2-year waiting period before we can apply for accreditation.

    The College offers high quality programs in business and technology. We cannot begin to measure performance without student data and feedback, which takes time. We are approved by the State of Minnesota, Office of Higher Education, which was not an easy task. The State of MN has very high standards for post-secondary education. We will be applying for accreditation immediately upon reaching our imposed two year waiting period. All CHEA USDOE accrediting agencies have the 2-year waiting period.

    With all that being said, I'd love some thoughts and feedback on the best way to attract new students to the College. Our tuition costs are very low at this time, compared to other US colleges. Unfortunately, with all of the diploma mills out there, without USDOE recognized accreditation, a college is dubbed to be unaccredited, and it would seem that is basically the same as being a "diploma mill". How do we build our reputation of quality, until we receive candidacy status with a USDOE recognized accrediting agency? In Minnesota, State approval is worth something, but the College is serving the entire nation. What would be the best way for the College to distinguish itself as a legitimate player in the post-secondary market; until we finalize accreditation, which will not be for another 36-months?

    Thank you for your advice.
  2. siersema

    siersema Active Member

    As a potential student I would look at a few things. Since I would be helping you along as the business is established I would expect very competitive tuition. Beyond that it would be great if transferring credits would be possible even prior to bing accredited. If you could setup private agreements with NA or RA colleges this would help build some confidence that the students can still get an accredited degree if you fail or just take a long time to get accredited. Even if it was just one accredited school that could help boost confidence. If you were a brick an d mortar school I would also suggest working with local companies so that they recognize your school is legitimate for tuition reimbursement and hiring. I'm not sure if that would work as well with an online school. Getting your courses evaluated by ACE might also be helpful if it is faster. Is your school focused on any specialty? If so, does that area have industry certifications the students can take or credentials the school could apply for?

    I was interested in an unaccredited program at one time. EC-Council, an IT security training and certification company. After years they haven't achieved accreditation, but what really pushed me away was that they were no where close to price competitive compared to low cost NA or RA programs. What helped them in my eyes was that the parent company is known in the industry and the students achieved some recognized certifications along the way.
  3. Ian Anderson

    Ian Anderson Active Member

    I agree with what siersema said.

    What technology areas are you considering.

  4. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    It looks like Siersema covered everything I can think of.

    ACE may be a good interim option, although your institutional effectiveness people would have to add that to their list of things to do, and I expect that list is already pretty long, so of those options that's my least favorite. Rather than that I'd focus on setting up articulation agreements with other institutions. Even though you're as yet unaccredited, there's no reason other institutions can't accept your credit in transfer or accept your degrees as sufficient qualifying for further study. I would talk to directors of admissions, since they're the ones at schools who have the most direct incentive to expand their pipeline, and thus the most reason to overlook your accreditation situation.

    Also, I share Ian's question what areas you focus on because I like the idea of mapping your business and IT curricula to recognizable certifications. That way you can focus your marketing on that for the time being, and the organizations behind those certifications are often interested in working with schools -- CIW and Phoenix recently announced a deal, for example.

    It's too bad AALE isn't still recognized, they used to have a "pre-accreditation" status that would have well suited an institution in your situation.

    Good luck,

  5. managerial0550

    managerial0550 New Member

    Keep the cost low per credit/class for the student. This will help!

    Make sure on the admin side of the house..that you are paying close attention to the work and classroom settings. Make sure the experience for the student is always top notch. Address concerns/problems head on..word of mouth is going to be your best source

    Best of luck
  6. rodmc

    rodmc Active Member

    Thank you for the great feedback. We are exclusively an online College, offering courses to students all over the US. We will have State approval from the Minnesota Office of Higher Education. Standards here in Minnesota are fairly rigorous. The attorneys that run the Department will not allow you to operate here in MN, without meeting all of the tough State requirements. We will be offering Associate of Arts (A.A.) Degrees in General Studies and the Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S) with Specializations in Business, Technology, and Digital Arts. We are also going to offer a BS in Business Administration, Management and an MBA program starting in April 2013.
    Our undergraduate tuition is $ 50 per credit, and $ 100 for graduate level credits. Our MBA program will cost approximately $ 3,600. We also finance in house with low monthly payment plans. We have recruited some exceptional online instructors and subject matter experts from Capella, Walden, etc. Lots of experience both with teaching and real-world business experience. We are starting out by trying to operate at the RA/DETC quality standard, so we hope that we will not have to change too much, as we embark in the accreditation process. This will give us two years of operations basis, until we are eligible to make application for accreditation. Waiting two years is tough, but very necessary. We realize that.

    Quality is critical to our College and we have a team of administrators and educators who really love their work. Students come first. We are also planning on granting 25-50 full scholarships each year. Giving back is important to us. We will be meeting with some local State community colleges after January 1st, to determine what partnerships might be available. Our goal is to offer quality online educational services that will prepare students for advancing in the marketplace.

    Even though we are State approved, we really want to find a way to avoid the stigma that is associated with being an “unaccredited College”. It seems that almost every unaccredited College, State approved or otherwise, is always classified a diploma mill. Something we want to avoid at all costs. We will accept transfer credits from any RA or DETC institutions, but we will not issue any life experience credit at this point. Students will need to transfer in or earn their credits.

    Any feedback or advice is always appreciated. We are launching soon and we hope to attack some students into our College. We need to start establishing a track record as a legitimate College we progress toward accreditation in 2015. We hope to develop a good reputation and deliver high quality online college courses. We will soon be launching a new website with course offerings, etc. I will post the URL soon, if that would be helpful.

    Thank you in advance for the input. I am new to degree info and I look forward to collaboration with respected members of the forum. Working together we can make education great!
  7. Ted Heiks

    Ted Heiks Moderator and Distinguished Senior Member

    Dear me!!!
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 30, 2012
  8. DailyNews

    DailyNews New Member

    I definitely applaud you for what you are trying to do.
    Could you tell us what the name of your school is??

  9. sheeps55

    sheeps55 New Member

    Bringing in some big-name professors should help make your school more attractive. Not just an assortment of average/unknown profs from those universities you mentioned, but rather educators that are known as experts their fields and win public awards or are called upon by the media to discuss current events related to their fields.
  10. rodmc

    rodmc Active Member

    After a many months long application and review process for State approval, Excel College is pleased to announce that we have received State approval to begin operations as a Minnesota State Registered, Degree Granting College. Our degree granting authority comes from the State of Minnesota, Office of Higher Education. Excel College is an online college that offers degrees in Business, Technology and General Studies (associate, bachelor, MBA. We have an aggressive plan for making application for accreditation with DETC within 24-months, which is the required waiting period before a new college can apply for accreditation.

    Our main desire is to offer extremely affordable online college degrees, thus allowing anyone the opportunity to earn a recognized college degree (associate, bachelor, and MBA) online. We have hired some very well-seasoned instructors (PhD, subject matter experts) and have assembled an amazing team of administrators to support our students.

    Thanks to those on this forum who have taken the time to respond to my questions concerning a new State approved online College.

    More to come once we near our official launch date.

    Excel College
    Excel College
  11. rodmc

    rodmc Active Member

    The Name of the College is Excel College. Excel College. We are not official State approved to operate as a College.
  12. ryoder

    ryoder New Member

    That last comment has some grammatical errors.
    I would not spend any time going to a college that is not accredited. Of course some people might, but since there are about 1 million other options, why bother?
  13. rodmc

    rodmc Active Member

    Excel College is now an official State approved and State authorized college. Yes, there are a million other online college options, so why bother? We are very affordable and have assembled a great team of subject matter experts to develop and teach a robust curriculum. Our tuition rates are among the lowest in the nation. We have also submitted an aggressive accreditation plan to the State. Our State requires that we become accredited by an agency recognized by the US Dept. of Education. Why bother? In 5-years, we plan to offer the nation’s lowest tuition rates on accredited associate, bachelor and master degrees online. Yes, why bother. We plan to help students to earn an affordable degree and avoid paying exorbitant tuition rates with high interest rates. We hope to see all of our students’ graduate debt free and hit the ground running. So why bother. We bother because we care about giving hope to others who need it. Many people have the dream of earning a college degree. We are not attempting to become another Harvard University. We do plan to an affordable online college degree option for the many people who are otherwise under-served. Since our State requires that we obtain USDOE recognized accreditation, we are fully vested in our mission of quality. We are not like some of these other online schools that never plan to become recognized by CHEA. We bother because our mission is to help those in need discover a pathway to success. That is why we bother.
  14. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    Gosh, an associate degree that cannot transfer to a bachelor's program. What could possibly go wrong there?

    There seems to be a paucity of academic accomplishment among the faculty. Not one of them holds a doctorate, nor do any of the Board of Directors. Not to be a snob or anything, but none of them? I would expect that, as a minimum, the people running the place would have advanced education.

    I like that it isn't overly ambitious, and that they're in Minnesota. (Walden, then Capella, found that path fruitful.) But I think they need people educated in the field of education. Perhaps someone who holds a Ph.D. in that subject, or even someone who specialized not only in education, but nontraditional higher education. If only someone like that existed.....

    Seriously, if they want to be considered legitimate, they'll need staff and faculty with doctoral degrees. Everyone around them--state agencies, accreditors, participants at colloquia, etc.--will.
  15. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    If it's true that regulators and others will expect those running the place to hold a doctoral degree, that's only because most people don't understand what a doctoral degree really represents. It has little to do with whether someone knows what they're talking about and nothing at all to do with whether they can teach. It simply means they've conducted research in some extremely specified section of whatever discipline interested them.

    Personally, I would call this close to irrelevant for teaching undergraduates, especially at the Associate degree level.
  16. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    That simply isn't true. (It might help one's perspective to do one or two of them to see.) Doctoral education is a lot more than the research itself. It is about mastering the academic discipline, understanding the major arguments and issues, knowing the process of creating knowledge, and a whole lot more. To have no one on the faculty or staff who has risen to either the top of his/her discipline or who has risen to the top of the process (such as earning the Ed.D.), that relegates this thing to trade school status.

    It's about both conquering the discipline and the process. They have no one who's done either, much less both.
    An individual instructor, sure. But not a department. Someone needs to know where the discipline's boundaries are. And it isn't these people.

    As for what "regulators and others" actually think, we'll see. They haven't even been approved by Minnesota, much less sniffed at an accreditation application. (They're probably just fine for DETC, though, so that's good enough, right?)

    The only people who say such things about doctoral education are those who haven't done one. This doesn't make them automatically wrong, of course. But the lack of perspective produced by this void matters.

    BTW, love the url. I'm going to go to the website and check it out. What a smart idea!

    Wait a minute, I just did. The url is the smallest part of what's cool about this. It's truly inspirational for doing a bit of right-sized self-promotion. I love it! I took the quiz several times without improving my score.... :smile:
    Last edited by a moderator: Mar 24, 2013
  17. SteveFoerster

    SteveFoerster Resident Gadfly Staff Member

    They sort of are that, though. They only offer Associate degrees in general studies and in the applied fields of business, IT, and graphics. That technically may not be vocational, but in reality it's not far off. There's no reason that such a school can't be led by people with Master's degrees so long as those people have academic administration experience.

    Besides, if doctorates are so important for those teaching at the undergraduate level, then why do schools, even regionally accredited one, let TAs teach those sections?

    I think he said in one post that they are approved, and in the follow up post said "not" when he meant "now". Hopefully he'll clarify. (Not that state approval means much when it comes to recognition, I'll agree.)

    Not the only people, I know a few folks with doctorates who agree with my position on this. And I'm not trying to say I know everything, but having been in higher ed for ten years, I do think my opinion is sufficiently well informed not to be dismissed out of hand. Either way, I wasn't trying to say doctorates have no value, which would be ridiculous. I just mean that for something on this level, I don't see a need other than window dressing.

    I appreciate that! Something tells me your score was 100% from the start, though. :smile:
  18. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member

    NB: Steve is very knowledgeable about higher education, and I was just being snippy. But having done this for awhile, and having earned a Ph.D., I have a different perspective regarding the value of the Ph.D. to running a school and/or academic department. For any single person, no big deal. But a college without anyone with a doctorate?
  19. Rich Douglas

    Rich Douglas Well-Known Member


    Someone needs to have command of each discipline and someone needs to have command of what it takes to run a tertiary, degree-granting institution.

    We all know that there are instructors without doctorates who can be amazing and those with doctorates who can be stultifying. I'm not talking about classroom performance anyway. I'm talking about managing content and direction (by being at the top of each respective academic discipline) and managing delivery (with people who are credentialed professionally in academia). Both of these point to holders of the Ph.D. (and equivalent).
  20. rodmc

    rodmc Active Member

    We have several new staff members that have joined the team, all holding doctoral degrees. In addition, the College President also holds a doctoral degree. We are launching a Bachelor and Master degree program in the months to come. In addition to the College, we also operate a Regionally Accredited (North Central Association CASI) online high school. For the past 10-years, we have been serving middle and high school students online, with accredited diploma options. With that said, we have a decade of online teaching experience. We will be able to serve students from middle school through a Masters level. Why have our students chosen our school? Because we put them first. We are not all about the money. We are about serving the best interest of our students first and foremost. It's a new idea in online education. We started the college because our graduates asked us for continuing online options. Pick us a part all you want. See where we are in the next couple of years. The plan is to offer a DETC accredited bachelor degree for under 10K; and a master degree for under 5K. Has anyone else on this forum successfully started a college? People deserve affordable online options. Thank you all for your feedback.

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