|Review: Stark State is the best kept secret when it comes to online court reporting programs. I did extensive research prior to settling on a school and discovered that Stark State has everything I'm looking for without the cost of most other online court reporting schools. I was looking for a school that was: (1) entirely online; (2) approved by NCRA; (3) reasonably priced; (4) issued a certificate in addition to a degree; and (5) taught StenEd Theory. As some of you may know, there are very few online programs approved by NCRA.
Another distinguishing factor of Stark State is that it offers a variety of degree and certificate options. Since I already have a bachelor's degree, an associates is absolutely useless to me. I was looking for a school that would focus on learning the techniques of machine shorthand. I did not want to spend endless hours taking extra courses in beginning math or English. For those that do want a degree, then by all means go for it. But for many of us who only want to learn machine shorthand, it is difficult to find an online program that allows the option of obtaining a certificate of competency.
Another consideration is the cost of tuition. While doing my research, I discovered that the schools that did not provide any tuition information on their websites had the highest rate of tuition. I had to make a lot of calls to various schools in order to get a straight answer about tuition costs. Not a good sign. Even then, I could tell by the pauses and long "hmmms" that the recruiters did not want to disclose this information if they could help it. Their approach is to try and sell you the program first and then respond to the cost of tuition as, "Oh, all of our students are on financial aid." Or, "We have a payment plan." Yeah, like I really want to rack up an enormous debt, spending half of my career paying back student loans. No thanks. In contrast, Stark State's tuition is extremely reasonable, even for out-of-state students. And the information is readily accessible on their website, which is what I want -- no surprises. And since I don't have to spend more money on extra classes I don't want because I'm working on a certificate, I'm actually saving money. One of my coworkers is attending a notable online program and, at $3,000+ per quarter, she is already in debt by $25,000. Compare that to the cost of obtaining a certificate at Stark State, which I estimate will cost me approximately $4,000 in tuition ALL TOGETHER!!! Once more, when it comes down to it, the only thing that's going to matter in the long run is whether or not you pass the RPR!!! So why spend the extra money if you don't have to?
Finally, Stark State has an excellent program. The instructors are fantastic and give their students challenging material. They are enthusiastic about teaching and give every student the help or assistance needed. They are in the business of producing court reporters, not taking our money by charging and arm and a leg for tuition. I am extremely pleased with the program and cannot speak highly enough of it. In the end, my advice is this: whatever school you decide on, do your research before shelling out the dough.