Pros: Variety of degree choices and online learning environment.
Cons: Hard sell and VERY expensive.
A friend of mine got his Bachelor's Degree from American Intercontinental University Online and told me about it. He raved about the quality of his education, how informative and educational the classes were, and how happy he was he had done it.
I have my Associate's Degree, but I have long wanted to go back and finish my Bachelor's. My promotional opportunities will broaden quite extensively once I have that little piece of paper, and since I am frankly tired of working in Human Services I thought I would go into a different field. Off to the website I went to check it out.
AIU Online Website
This is one of the most difficult websites I have ever tried to navigate. It is very hard to find what you are looking for and there is no general "search" box. You have to go from page to page trying to find what you want, and even when I finally gave up and went to the "Help" center I couldn't figure it out. This all should have been my first clue, but I am apparently a slow learner! The catalog descriptions of classes and degree options seemed worthwhile, though. I decided on a Business Degree with accounting as the main focus and filled out the online web application.
Within five minutes of me hitting the submit button my phone rang with an AIU Online representative. She was personable and seemed motivated to help me start my online education. Too motivated, in retrospect but I was so excited at the prospect of actually finishing my degree that I let my guard down. She answered some basic questions, told me to read some things, and set a phone interview time for me the next day to go over what I had read and any additional questions I might have.
The next day she called at the designated time, and we went into further depth of what would be required for me to enrol in this university. She gave me assignments to complete and a deadline; an entrance essay and financial aid forms mostly.
After that, my telephone rang more than 20 times a day from various representatives of this school. It started very quickly driving me crazy. I am a busy person with a full time job outside the home and a full time job inside the home. Spending half my day on the telephone answering the same questions over and over again simply is not in my realm of things I want to do. I told them to back off and I would get back to them when I was ready. They ignored me and continued to call.
I started to let the answering machine pick up. They left message after message, on my work phone, my cell phone, and my home phone. Even after I told them to not call me at work. I told them I wished to correspond via email; they ignored my request. Finally, when I realized the expense was simply too great and this was not a good time in my life to do this, I told them I would have to wait until my life settled down.
The phone calls increased in number! My original representative vanished off the face of the earth and I was assigned a new one who wanted to go over the whole thing again. I told her I simply did NOT want to do this now and she kept pushing. I finally asked her, "Why the hard sell?". This put her into a diatribe of how it wasn't a hard sell, it was just concern over my education, and she got paid whether I signed up or not. I told her that was good, to cancel my application, and stop calling me.
Even after that I got several more calls from "upper level" representatives who simply could not take no for an answer.
It took almost three weeks to get them to leave me alone.
First they have you answer questions about why you want to go to school; this is their entrance "essay". It is completed online. When you go the website, a list of things you need to do will pop up. They have you fill out numerous financial aid forms. This school was going to cost me about $30,000 to complete my degree.
That give you a very short turn around to start your classes. Each class runs for six weeks; it is a very short time frame to enable a degree to be completed in 13 months. Very appealing for a busy person who works full time and just wants to get it done.
I was sent to do online orientation and told very sternly that if I did not complete it on a certain day the world would collapse. I tried diligently to complete it, but they had not even given me access to it on the day they said it had to be done. I tried for three hours to follow the representative's instructions and finally gave up. When I called her and said it would not let me in, she gave excuses about the website being updated. Why on earth would they update the website at the exact time they are telling you to complete the orientation or else?? Another clue.
Online Learning Environment
This was what appealed to me. I live 45 miles from the nearest college, and an online educational experience would allow me to schedule my time the way I wanted to. AIU Online allows you to work on your classwork 24 hours a day. There are no classes you have to attend at a certain time; as long as the work is completed by the due date there are no problems.
I received my first book for my first class, and it seemed to be high quality and contained fascinating information. They also send you software to upgrade your system to what is needed to have a successful experience in the online school. I have regrets that I had to withdraw before I could complete the first class as it was very interesting.
The best part of the online environment is the cyber library; very helpful and about the only thing well designed on the entire site.
Online education is not just a free ride. There are challenging assignments to complete and it is mandatory to participate in the message boards. Each post requires references to support your position, so it takes time. I believe that AIU Online is fully able to provide a quality online education based on the course materials and course work I did experience before withdrawing.
My Final Thoughts
I would not recommend this school to my worst enemy, educational value considered. The representatives basically engage in harassment and push hard. I fully believe they work on commission no matter what they say. Otherwise, there is no reason for them to be so aggressive.
My long-term plans still include completing my Bachelor Degree, but I will not be attending AIU Online. Higher education should be a rewarding experience, not a whole new level of stress. These people's aggressive tactics are simply unexcusable. I wish I could tell you what the final educational outcome would be, but unfortunately I will never finish my degree at AIU Online.
They are still sending me emails saying how much they miss me and want me back. They want the money in my opinion, nothing else.