Kenmare ND - Upside Down Under

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Upside Down Under

By Marvin Baker, a new weekly column in The Kenmare News


Beware the online university. . .

Posted 5/05/15 (Tue)

With high school graduations coming up and some people undecided on where they’re going for their higher education, I thought I’d do some research, talk to experts and write an article about these online universities that keep popping up.

You see ads a lot regarding them. Some are non profits and others are for profit, but they all seem to have one thing in common, recruiting including military members.

In fact, Central Michigan University, you know, home of the Chippewas, an Indian mascot that isn’t hostile and abusive, has a presence on Minot Air Force Base.

I took the liberty of reaching out to CMU. I told them I’m a news reporter and want to give high school seniors some advice on college.

No response, not a word, nothing. They didn’t return my email. Next try, call. When I phoned who I thought was public affairs, got who I think is a recruiter telling me how much I need CMU.

That seemed to be a red flag but I kept going and tried contacting several other “prominent” online universities including the University of Phoenix.

Same thing. I got a recruiter who wouldn’t let it go. It got to a point in which I had to threaten to contact the North Dakota Attorney General’s Office to get him off my back.

In recent years, as I was contemplating retiring from the National Guard, thought maybe I should pursue a master’s degree in organic agriculture or sustainable ag systems or something like that.

I found Green Mountain College in Vermont as one of the few, if not the only, that offers a master’s degree completely online.

The University of Montana has a great program, but you must study in residence there.

I contacted Green Mountain College and talked to a lady named Tara Salt. She was the one who provided details on this program. I decided not to do it and told her so in a subsequent phone call.

I’m still getting emails from her, telling how much I need this degree from Green Mountain College.

I also sent an email to Dale Wetzel, the public affairs guy at the North Dakota Department of Public Instruction.

He’s usually pretty good about getting back to me and I told him in an email that if he didn’t have knowledge of this, point me in the right direction.

It’s been more than three weeks and no response. So, graduates, I guess it's e caveat emptor as far as DPI is concerned.

This tells me that online universities are not a good option. Sure, you study on your time, but these places of business should have someone to answer honest and pertinent questions.

Well, OK! If people don’t want to talk about it, there must be something on the Internet.

Boom! I found a boat load of information that I have since sifted through but some of my questions remain unanswered.

Here’s what I found out in a nutshell; advantages of online universities include working on your schedule, so if you want to study at 3 o’clock in the morning, that’s up to you. Many times the programs are excelerated so you can earn your degree in much less time than it would take at a bona fide university, you usually get one on one time with your professor, not face to face, one on one, meaning emails, and with online programs, you study one thing at a time, you study it well and then you move on.

Here’s the disadvantages; because most people can’t finish an excelerated program in the perceived amount of time, you get extended and end up spending more money than planned, there’s lack of accredidation, in other words, is a degree from Green Mountain College worth the paper it’s printed on? There’s an intense requirement for self discipline. How many of us actually have that?

The Army has a program in which you can get retirement points by taking online courses. I like to think I was a pretty disciplined Soldier but in a lot of cases, I procrastinated and often had to cram to complete the courses and get my credit.

So are online universities any good for anyone? I really don’t know and have to speculate. Is this one of those it’s too good to be true kind of things?

If there is anyone out there who has experience with online universities, good or bad, please contact me at 701-385-4275 or email at ( I’d like to tell your story for the benefit of those considering it.