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online college

Does the High Cost of Education Mean the end of Brick and Mortar Schools?

man-with-laptopWith more people choosing online education, the value of traditional four-year residential college is coming into question. Yes, a true college experience can teach precious life lessons that no website could ever compete with; however, with the accessibility of information online, does it make sense to spend thousands of dollars when online college can provide all the tools to succeed in the business world? In the wise words of Will Hunting, “You wasted $150,000 on an education you coulda got for $1.50 in late fees at the public library.”

Four long and expensive years. Read the rest of this entry »

Wordless Wednesday: Juggling Family and School

working mom

Do Online Colleges make it easier?

Financial Institutions Refuse Loans to Community College Students

According to a recent article in the New York Times, some major financial institutions have been dealing with the credit crunch by refusing student loans to students at community colleges, for-profit online universities, and other schools that are considered less prestigious. In some cases, students at these schools have received student loans, but with higher interest rates and less favorable terms. Some banks are more eager to drop students loans than others. In California, Citibank has dropped its student loan program for all community colleges in the state.

Why are lending institutions doing this? It’s all about money, of course. Yes, many of the loans made to students at “less desirable” institutions are smaller—especially loans made to community college student, since these schools are less expensive and only require two years to get a degree. However, students at more elite schools are considered lower risk because these students are (according to the banks) more likely to earn more money in the long run.

Come again?

If this trend continues, the ramifications are quite troubling. It means that the people who need the loans most won’t be able to get them. Many of these people won’t go to school, which will further exacerbate the gap between the rich and the poor. And many of these students will go to school and either wind up deeply in debt or work long hours to be able to afford the expense. Long hours at a job may take away students’ ability to do well in school—and at the community college level, this may mean a student can’t transfer to a four year college.

It’s not illegal for banks to reject categories of students for student loans. But the ethics of this are, of course, questionable.

Is Online Distance Learning the Right Choice for You?

Distance learning has some serious advantages. Thanks to online courses, students can work school into their own schedules. This makes higher education far more accessible to non-traditional students of all kinds, including students who have children. Distance learning also allows students to take classes from a variety of geographical locations. It no longer matters if you live in a remote area with no access to a university, or if you live thousands of miles away from the nearest program that interests you.

However, it’s important not to romanticize distance learning as the right solution for everyone. Some students do very well with online classes. But many students find that their learning styles and study habits really don’t mesh well with the expectations of online courses. Before taking an online class, here are some questions to ask yourself.

First, do you have the self-discipline to take an online course? All higher education requires self-discipline, but because online courses are so self-structured, you have to be even more disciplined to be successful. The “do it whenever” structure of an online class is fabulous because it allows you to work around your schedule, but some people don’t work well with so little structure.

Second, can you learn well without the “face time” aspect of the traditional classroom? Some students find they do just fine without direct interaction with the teacher or other students. Online classes often come with student discussion forums and opportunities to interact virtually with the instructor, and some students find that this is plenty of interaction. In fact, shyer students may prefer this. However, some people find it difficult to learn without face-to-face interactions between instructor and student. Others simply find this system too lonely and isolating.

Finally, do you have the time to take an online course? Don’t be deceived by the fact that the course allows for a flexible schedule. You may be able to work in your pajamas, but you still have to work. In many cases, online courses are actually more work than traditional classes because there’s so much independent work involved. In traditional classes, you can sometimes get by without doing the homework. In an online class, it’s all homework, so you have no choice but to do it.

If you’re thinking about taking an online class, be honest with yourself—or give a class a try, followed by an honest assessment of your performance and experience. There’s nothing wrong with being the wrong kind of student for distance learning. It’s a great innovation, but that doesn’t mean it’s for everybody.


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