Claiming legitimacy by way of power in numbers falsely validates online universities. It is not ok to do something just because everyone else is doing it. The numbers of online students have increased exponentially over the last few years because they use high pressured salespeople that hound the students into enrolling. This in addition to the grade inflation that takes place at these institutions makes it nearly impossible for a student to fail. A legitimate university would never accept a student that refuses to write an entrance essay or a student that gives them 101 reasons why they cannot go to school. Online universities enroll students that do these types of things every day.
The online universities have accreditation bodies and the US congress over a barrel right now. If the government funds an education for a student, then they cannot admit that the institution is substandard because then they would have to forgive all of the student loans that are outstanding from that institution. Congress is trying to impose a gainful employment stipulation that only applies to online universities. This is because not only are the fees much higher than at traditional campuses, but the quality of the education is not allowing students to land a job that can actually allow them to pay back those student loans. Currently only 10% of college students attend online universities but they make up about 50% of all student loans in default status. More information regarding these stats can be found at PBS.org.
When you combine the above information with the idea that many students that attend online universities are former military personnel as well as those eligible for reimbursement from their employer, the odds of a student without these benefits graduating and being able to pay back their student loans is very low. It is very difficult to challenge the accreditation of these institutions because most of the online universities that are accredited have purchased their accreditation from a legitimate school. Earning a degree from a legitimate school that offers online classes is much different than getting a degree from an online university. Many well known colleges offer classes online and that does not legitimize all online education. While the technology exists, the lack of regulation in the industry has been called into question by students, employers, and the US Department of Education. Again, just because more and more peole are doing it, that does not make it legitimate.