Northcentral University Reviews
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I had been out of school for many years when I decided to pursue my masters. NCU looked good and I went for it. Since completing my MEd there, I have been to three other online grad schools (taking a few courses). Here's what I've discovered NCU is very different from the others. It allowed no interaction with fellow students except a general message board (which was dominated most of the time by a couple of chatty idiots who used it as a platform for self aggrandizement). Many of the mentors were good; a few were terrible. I had one that gave feedback on one paper; for the next one, I changed to do it the way she said. She also marked that wrong. The "set" classes, allowing very little room to choose, are ridiculous. I was in adult ed and had to take a class about administrating at the elementary level. My academic adviser was superior; he went to bat for me on several occasions. The longer I was at NCU, the less I liked it. They continually changed the rules and did not grandfather anyone in. When I started they allowed the student to finish as quickly as he or she could as long as all the work was done. Before I left, that was no longer the case. I am now working on a PhD online. The experience I am having is greatly superior to that at NCU--we have interactive classes where we can work with other students and professor live; we have syllabi that are written by the professors; and we are not hounded by the APA police. I would suggest looking elsewhere for your higher education, although my experience was not horrific. Caveat emptor is my best advice but that goes not only for NCU but for all other online and brick and mortar universities as well.
Just like you, I was interested in reading current and former students' opinions of their experience at NCU. I can tell you that you will hear a TON of negative reviews. Yes, the graduation rate is lower in general for PhD programs than the national standard (37% versus 57% in 2005). But just keep in mind that not everyone is cut out to earn a PhD. It is supposed to be hard! Don't let that deter you from choosing this school. If you are looking for a solid education with amazing support staff and mentors (that is what the professors are called) that provide valuable feedback, then this is the place to go. When I was researching schools to attend (online because it wasn't possible with my schedule to go to a traditional B&M school), what really swayed me was the "no residency" requirement and the one-on-one classroom model. The thing I hated about my MBA was half my grade resulted from group work. The classes at NCU run for either 8 weeks or 12 weeks, and you really have the chance to start exploring and doing research on your chosen dissertation topic early in the process. Your coursework makes up the first two years of your studies, then you take a 12 week comprehensive exam. Once you pass that, you are deemed a doctoral candidate. It is at that point you start your concept paper. The concept paper is a 9 page paper that explores your chosen topic. Once that is accepted, you are able to start on your dissertation. Unlike many other PhD programs where you pretty much have to write your dissertation and then find out if it is accepted or not, if your concept paper doesn't pass then you didn't just waste years of writing. The biggest complaint I hear from other students further in the program is the lack of valuable feedback or mentors that take way too long to comment on work. The school has a 21 day feedback policy once you get into the dissertation phase and a 4 day policy with regular coursework. The program is challenging, especially if you are not good at managing your time. It was suggested to me that hiring an editor as early as the comprehensive exam is smart because they are able to pinpoint issues with your writing and identify grammatical/APA formatting mistakes so you don't have to keep rewriting your work. The mentors are not there to teach you, but more to guide you. In a PhD program, there shouldn't be anything new to teach since you have already gone through at least seven years of college prior to your acceptance into the program. The support staff at the school have been excellent in my opinion, from the initial advisers signing you up for your classes, to financial aid, down to the academic support center they have. If you need help with any of your classes, you can utilize their tutoring services, which they provide twice a week for free. I used it for my Stats course and it helped me tremendously. The books for this program are so much lower than any other school I have gone to, even when compared to my undergraduate degree at a state university. And they reuse some of the books in future classes! Do yourself a favor and disregard the negativity that comes from some of the comments here on this site and others. That's what I did because I read a few reviews that said just what I am saying to you. It doesn't matter what school you go to, online or B&M, you will get people that aren't satisfied with their experience. Just think about it, are you more likely to fill out a survey if you have a negative or positive experience? Most people would say negative. This is why I wrote this response to educate prospective students out there. Don't listen to the noise! If you are looking for a challenge in an independent home environment where the only person that can fail you is you, then consider NCU. The grades I have received are not easy to get so I really feel like I worked for those grades. I am much more satisfied with my education at this school than in either of my Master degree programs or my undergraduate program.
I decided to write this review because I wished I had listened to the complaints I read before enrolling and do not wish this school on my worst enemy. Like others, I surmised that these complainers were biased and were most likely emotional at the time they wrote their complaint. I withdrew from the university in March and decided to take time to cool off before sharing my experiences. I thought I was pretty thorough in my research before deciding to attend the university, reading reviews and complaints, but honestly I don't think anything prepares you for the experience. I left the university with a 3.9 GPA and completed all of my courses leading to the comprehensive exam. For the most part, I did not have any problems during this time except for a couple of bad mentors (but there are a few bad apples at every school). I had some very good mentors who were responsive and appeared to genuinely care about the success of the student (I initiated contact with the mentors and most of them responded positively). It's true that the syllabus and required books were dated, but I disagree that you could not find less expensive books elsewhere (In fairness, around the time I was contemplating withdrawing from the university, the school was in the process of updating the coursework--I had already taken the courses, so I cannot tell you if the content was better or not). I did not experience problems until it was time to take the comprehensive exam. I did not successfully complete the exam at the first attempt and I must say that I was partly responsible as I experienced a technical nightmare on my part. However, I found out later during my retake that the mentor deleted a couple of the required articles to complete the exam, so now I understood why I had some of the difficulty that I had in completing the questions. I don't think the mentor did this maliciously and to make a long story short, I think she was trying to be fair (I know it doesn't make sense, but it would take too long to explain). It was during this time that I began to see some creative calculations with my financial aid. Like other former students, I had trouble with reaching the financial aid department and there were so many different explanations when I did that I decided to keep a paper trail by sending email. I was told that I was short financial aid. There was no way that could be the case. I kept going back and forth with them about their inconsistencies with what was on the Department of Education website versus what they had on record. It did not make sense. I know how to count, I graduate with a BBA and MBA with honors. Something was incredibly wrong. And the kicker was that I was dealing with all of this during my retake of the COMPS exam. Also, during this time my mother in law had a recurring bout with cancer and I was dealing with this crap. I was stressed. I did not feel comfortable with paying anymore money to NCU, I needed to help tend to my mil and I could not concentrate, so I decided to withdraw as I did not have the option to take a leave of absence in the middle of the exam. This where its gets very messed up. I was informed that I owed the school approximately $3500. NCU was already paid for both the COMPS and COMPS retake and the retake should have completed my payment period of three courses; however, that's not how it works. Let me try to explain: NCU defines a school year as 6 earned courses; divided by 2 payment periods of 3 courses each. However, the caveat is that NCU defines an earned courses as meeting the time requirement and passing the course. So, if you fail a course, your payment period is extended by one course, so instead of 3 courses, you now have taken 4 courses (pending you pass the 4th course) to complete a payment period. This is the same with withdrawals. If you withdraw from a course after 7 days, you are on the hook to pay full tuition for the course and you are given an Incomplete as a grade. However if you withdraw from the course after 14 days, then you are given a failing grade for the course. This means that either way, you will owe them money. If you have the incomplete, you owe the tuition for that course (and if you did not complete the payment period of 3 passing courses, you may be on the hook for additional courses) and if you receive a failing grade for withdrawing and you did not satisfactorily complete 3 courses, you are on the hook for the difference. Once you withdraw, NCU is required to submit a form calculating the money they have to return to the Department of Education as a result of your separating from the school. The calculations are based on the percentages of earned courses versus the total number of days required. The total number of days depend on satisfactorily completing the payment period of 3 courses [passing grade and time (8 or 12 weeks each course)]. If the percentages are less than 60%, then you did not "earn" enough courses and so the school has to return money to the Department of Education. If the payment period is constantly expanding due to the withdrawal or failing grade, then the student will never earn enough. NCU returns this amount to the Department of Education and passes the amount to you. For the most part, you have two options: pay the balance they say you owe or do not (and risk damaging your credit, collection calls/emails, etc. and hijacking your transcript). The Department of Education has turned a blind eye because they allow the schools to set the conditions of their withdrawal and refund policies. So whether you withdraw or fail a course, you will end up owing NCU some amount of money. It's almost like you are being penalized for withdrawing or failing a course. I withdrew from NCU with a 3.9 because I experienced a situation that caused concern over how they were handling my financial aid and I felt that I better get out before I end up losing much more money that I have to pay back. They told me I owed around $3,500 and it took me a minute to figure out what was going on. I was then transferred to their collections where one of the clerks appeared to take my questioning personally and told me that they are right and I pretty much need to get with the program. I filed a complaint with the Dept of Education and NCU response to my complaint was pretty basic, they followed proper protocol and pretty much I did not understand the process (despite having proof of the contradictory statements they made in my situation). According to the date/time stamp on the email, almost immediately after NCU's response, the investigator assigned to the case stated they found no violations and closed my case. So for those of you who do not understand why you owe money after withdrawing, this is why. I have decided that I will allow them to send the balance to collections and take a hit on my credit report. The only thing I can surmise is that the investment company or NCU itself has hired lobbyists to lobby legislation in their favor. I was able to access the Department of Education's policies and it does allow for non-traditional institutions to create their own withdrawal and refund policies. Clearly NCU's policies favor their stockholders and board and not the students. So although unethical, it's legal for them to do so. The school does have a low graduation rate and contrary to NCU's belief, it's not because of the rigor of the degree. Although I do not have first hand experiences about the dissertation process, I know of students who have gotten the run-around during the dissertation process and they are 6 - 7 years into the program and are still trying to get their concept paper approved. After the 7th year, those students are dismissed. I've seen where students cannot get into touch with mentors, the subject matter expert disagreement with the Chair, personality conflicts between the Chair and the student. Students have been assigned Chairs who do not specialize in the student's area. Unfair policies such as not being able to take a break between dissertation sequences. The policies are changed at a drop of the hat and previous students are not grandfathered into the former policies. Again, this is so unethical, but NCU has somehow managed to stay in that gray area. I do not doubt there are some students who had great experiences with NCU; however there are too many in the doctoral program who have not. I know of about 5 students who had problems but did not want to spend time complaining because they thought it would be a lost cause or they're embarrassed. A majority of NCU's student population are doctoral students, so one would think that there are more doctoral graduates than the other degrees, but take a look and you would be surprised. Then compare the graduation rate to ivy league schools or even other online schools. Then ask yourself would it be financially prudent to attend NCU? That is the question I wished I had asked before I enrolled. I apologize that my post is so long, but I attempted to give a fair description of my experience at NCU. I cannot recommend that anyone attend this university to pursue a doctorate degree unless you are into giving away money.
It was a shaky start after I completed my oral comps due to a change in my dissertation chair. However, my committee was exceptional and challenged me all the way. The key is communication and team work. The mentors I had were good in giving constructive feedback and in a timely manner for the most part. I did have one mentor who was abroad so we never talked by phone either.
Ask about grad rate and time to grad. I had a poor learning experience. The curriculum was outdated. The texts were old editions. The disertation process changes many times. The class schedule is flexable. Most profs would not talk with me. One said she was busy and could not take a call.
When I started the program I was satisfied with the progress I made. But, further into the program I had difficulty reaching anyone that could make decisions. Advisors were no help and chairs ( education and graduate) will not return my emails. I have requested a review of my mentor's work and no one will return calls or emails. Therefore, I feel obligated to share with others my experience. NCU has been a major letdown. They are threatening to remove me but, no one will speak to me. I have been in the program seven years and the last three have been a struggle. There have been constant change with staff and student are the last to know. After completing all coursework, in the middle of my dissertation they want to drop me with no warning or explanation. Their communication is terrible and extremely frustrating. I would not recommend this University to anyone. The reviews are true.
I have to write this review. I have attended several online universities trying to complete my Specialist Degree in education and I have had several bad experiences. At the other schools I had very little support and I was given a lot of busy work, which made it difficult for me as a working adult and parent. However I took a chance on NCU and I am glad I did. I love love love NCU. I loved the one on one mentor environment. I did not want to post on a discussion board each week. I love the fact that I got real feedback from my professors and they called me back when I called them. NCU is work!! Your degree will not be given to you just because you paid your tuition. You have to be self motivated. You have read and figure some information out on your own. If you are simply looking for someone to hold your hand through your graduate degree then NCU is not right for you. However, if you are a mature student, who wants to earn a degree at your own pace NCU is perfect. I love NCU!!!
Sorry to hear that some have had a bad experience. My experience has been great! I have been looking for something negative to say, since I enrolled at NCU three years ago. I have attended many schools, both public, and private since 1980. No question, this is the best educational experience that I have every undertaken. All of my Mentors have been knowledgeable, and available as expected. My "Advisers" seem to be junior staff members, who are there to work with students through any administrative issues they might encounter. I am on "Adviser" #3, but I rarely need them, and when I have, they have been knowledgeable, and able to assist me in a timely manner, to resolve my issues or concerns. In preparation for Doctoral work, I did not want to work in a traditional classroom setting. In addition, since my work is in eLearning, I wanted to submerse myself in a completely online experience. To date, I cannot report any problems. I have 30+ years in IT, and 25+years in higher education. I strongly recommend NCU!
I was excited about going back to school. I spoke with my advisor/recruiter at length about what I was looking for and was reassured that NCU would be the perfect fit. I have been teaching for 17 years in a public school and wanted to obtain a degree in Special Education but specified I had no intention of ever taking an administrative position. EVERY class I took was geared to being a Director of Special Education. I spoke to my advisor about this numerous times and she reassured me that this would not be a problem. I discussed the matter thru email with the "mentors" and for the most part they could not care less. The assignments were vague and of no value at all. Each mentor graded differently. There were some who were the APA Hitlers and some who were interested in the "meat" of the paper instead. One mentor even told me when I called her about an assignment that she too, felt the assignment was rather pointless and vague. The last mentor was extremely demeaning in her comments and she became the last straw. I finished my last course on March 29th and couldn't be happier (eventhough I have to pay a fee for ending early) I couldn't be happier! I am taking a break and will resume my studies at Grand Canyon University.
To anyone who is thinking of taking a course through NCU, I would very strongly suggest that you reconsider. I have completed a degree and two post graduate masters programs in other more traditional universities. Having had such positive experiences in these programs, I was completely unprepared for the NCU experience. As far as my experience went with NCU, I felt that none of the staff were invested or cared in the slightest whether I advanced my knowledge, or if In fact the whole learning experience was positive. I had terrible experiences with some of the 'teaching' staff and administration constantly changed, making it difficult to know who to go to. I strongly advise to give this place a very clear miss - avoid, at all cost.