An Online High School Diploma may be your ticket for graduating high school as well as your springboard to a first-rate education. Having a high school diploma has significant advantages over passing the GED, or the General Education Development test, which is supposed to certify academic skills at the high school level, but sets the bar much lower than a good high school education.
Many reasons exist why people are discouraged or prevented from completing high school in the traditional way. It’s important to realize, however, that adults with a high school diploma or GED earn an average of $11,000 per year more than adults who haven’t finished high school (US Census Bureau). Furthermore, those with diplomas make considerably more than those with GEDs. For more about the advantages of a diploma over a GED, see our article “High School Diplomas versus the GED.”
The variety and availability of online high school diploma programs can be both liberating and frustrating. Diplomas from quality online high schools are academically equivalent to those earned in the traditional high school setting, and should be recognized as such by potential employers and colleges and universities. However, searching for an online high school diploma program without knowing certain facts and pitfalls can waste time, money, and energy.
In determining the quality of a potential online high school program, accreditation and state approval are of prime importance. Programs accredited through agencies recognized by the USDE (U.S. Department of Education) are your safest bet in terms of legitimacy. These are usually regional or national accrediting agencies.
Regional accreditation is the most accepted in terms of transferring coursework or pursuing a college degree. If a school isn’t up front about their accreditation status or the accrediting agency isn’t recognized by the USDE, you may want to look elsewhere. Legitimate online high school programs must also be state-approved. This means they must be approved in the state from which the diploma will be issued, regardless of the state in which the student resides.
In determining the value of an online high school program, you will want to consider the following: rate of successful program completion, ease of communication with the school and with teachers, flexibility and delivery of classes, counseling and tutoring services, individualized programming, availability of specialization (engineering, religion, arts, etc.), dual credit offerings, and extracurricular activities or clubs.
The cost for an online high school education ranges anywhere from $0 – $10,000+ per year. This depends on the type of high school and whether government funding is available. All schools should provide an itemized list of costs and should explain how tuition is charged (by credits, by class, by semester, etc.).
Four Basic Types of Online High School Diploma Programs
There are four types of online high school diploma programs: private, public, charter, and college/university sponsored. Many parents of homeschool students turn to programs offered by private, accredited high schools for curriculum and assistance. Each program type has its place; it’s up to you to figure out which is right for you.
Public & Charter Online High School Diplomas:
Public and charter school programs are government funded, are offered by particular states or districts, and are free to resident minors. They are usually accredited regionally and are state-approved. Online public schools have rigid guidelines, have limited course selections, and often cater only to certain resident populations. Charter schools offer more flexibility with either specialized or individualized programming, but they run the risk of losing funding and are viewed as less stable. They are also often not available to students outside of certain districts.
Each state’s department of education maintains a list of funded online programs, including charter schools. Because these programs are based on each state’s approved curriculum and are restricted to certain populations based on residency and age, it is meaningless to rank these programs.
Private Online High School Diplomas:
Private online high schools vary greatly in terms of quality, recognition, and cost. This avenue demands the most research (which we’ve greatly assisted in) but also offers some top-notch education programs at great values. Private online high schools are usually offered nation-wide and have limited government oversight. They offer great programs in terms of catering to the needs of individual students, offering specialized interest programming, and meeting a variety of learning styles.
Homeschool graduates most often use private online high schools for the curriculum, even though they may receive their diplomas through their resident states. Many of these private schools have programs that cater specifically to the needs of homeschool students. The drawback of private schools: They can be very costly. Furthermore, even the most exciting programs need to be properly accredited for a valuable education.
College & University Sponsored Online High School Diplomas
University sponsored online high school diploma programs offer many programming advantages and often have regional accreditation. Most university sponsored programs offer a high quality education, flexibility, and advanced and dual credit programs. However, these programs often have more selective admission standards, have less interaction with instructors or services, and can be expensive.
University sponsored programs tend to work best for students who can monitor their own progress and work independently. Motivated students may have the opportunity to complete a full year of college courses by the time they graduate from high school. This can be a significant value for students planning to pursue college degrees. For the purpose of classifying high school diploma programs, programs offered by colleges and universities are usually not public, even if the institution is a public college or university.
The Best Online High School Diploma Programs
The following private and university-affiliated high school diploma programs have all received regional accreditation, except for the two that are independent school districts in the state of Texas. To find more about accreditation, click here.
The listed schools were evaluated based on their programming, academic oversight (accreditation status at publication time), state approval, performance, inclusivity, personal attention, and cost. Refer to the cost table provided to identify tuition ranges.
Advantages School International was ranked at #22
Advantages offers over 400 courses, including advanced placement, honors, and world languages courses. Advantages School specializes in working with international students, including expat citizens and students residing or travelling outside of the USA.
Licensed teachers and advisors support students in obtaining their educational goals. Students can pursue a general studies or a college prep high school diploma. ASI administers the following programs in addition to the online high school diploma program: independent supplementary courses, credit recovery, adult learners, and summer school. Tuition is calculated on a yearly basis and includes unlimited enrollment in courses.
Accreditation: North Central Association of Colleges and Schools, Council on Accreditation and School Improvement (NCA CASI).