What is the difference between a high school diploma and a college degree? According to the U.S. Department of Labor Statistics, a college graduate earns – on average – at least $21,000 more per year. That is a pretty clear case for a college education, however from many students’ vantage point, the big questions that still needs to be answered is “How do I pay for that education?”
California colleges and universities are also grappling with this issue. All across the US, administrators and academics are attempting to find a formula that will deliver a quality education while controlling every escalating costs. The weak economy and large cutbacks in government support have motivated many colleges to answer the challenge of high tuition fees and costs by offering numerous online courses. This enables them to lower expenses ranging from a more economical use of faculty to cuts in the need for actual classroom space.
However, educators who are rooted in tradition are skeptical about the effectiveness of distance learning and online courses. They insist the rigor of face-to-face instruction and exchange between student and teacher is essential to real learning. They question if students that take most of their coursework online can be trusted to resist the temptations to seek outside help in testing situations. But in spite of these critics, the fact remains that online courses have established a successful presence at the vast majority of colleges and universities, and education experts expect the number to continue to increase. And advances in technology and communications have had a positive impact on online courses, making them far more rigorous.
In a recent poll by the Pew Research Center, about 39% of the students surveyed who graduated from college in the past decade had taken at least one online class. According to data from the poll, a majority of surveyed college presidents believe this trend will continue to accelerate because the various online education models all save money for the schools and provide flexibility for students.
J. LeBlanc, the president of Southern New Hampshire University, has been vocal in supporting the development of more on programs. Dr. LeBlanc believes that future online programs will allow students to finish their work at their own pace and complete a proctored examination of their completed assignments. The advantage to the school would be drastically reduced costs, as the school would not need to pay for day-to-day instruction. According to Dr. LeBlanc, the advantage to students would be that they would only need to pay for the cost of course credits rather than a predetermined assessment for the semester’s tuition.
Over seventy per cent of colleges now offer web-based classes with online courses available in almost ninety percent of four-year public colleges and 60% of four-year private schools, according to the Pew survey. Those figures are expected to continue to grow according to a College Board study, which also indicated that over 90 per cent of high school students believe that secondary education is not enough to adequately prepare them for the work force.
But these same students continue to express concern about how they and their families will meet the rising costs of a college education. An online degree program can provide an affordable option — without sacrificing quality. The potential reduction in college costs that goes along with the acceleration of online coursework extends educational opportunity to a wider, more diverse group of students — and that’s good news.