I don't necessarily agree with "bigger programs have far more networking opportunities". I see students from "big" universities, such as the University of Cincinnati, U of M-Flint, and Frontier, begging for preceptors. Contrary to popular belief, most schools both brick and mortar as well as online are requiring students to find their own clinicals and preceptors. My advice to you to is to go with the school that works best for you. Start networking within your current facility where you work to find preceptors. I attend Walden U and have already set up my preceptors,clinicals and have a position within my facility when I graduate next year.
Although there are some job opportunities that will look at where you went to school, more will look at your past nursing experiences and how you conduct yourself on an interview. When I obtained my ADN degree from a community college here in Detroit, Michigan, people told me that I would not get hired because of the schools reputation, however, I applied and was offered a position in the ICU at the University of Michigan Hospital, even before I passed my boards. Also, the school I went to never came up during the interview, go figure. We all know U of M is a nationally recognized school and health system. So my advice to you is do what is best for you, stop asking for peoples opinion, cause they will sure give it to you, many times negative if you didn't go the exact same route they did. My experience with Walden has been positive, it is a very challenging program thus far. In addition, all of the instructors have their doctorate degrees and all teach at other well know Universities,imagine that an online program having instructors that also work at reputable brick and mortar schools and online programs. I guess they will come back and say that the instructor teaches differently and offers the students less of an education at Walden then they do at the other universities. Again, do whats best for you and stay strong in your choice, I did and it has paid off.