Surefire Signs You Need to Consider an Online University
It’s easy to see the advantages of a college degree. University graduates earn about $400 more per week than those who dropped out of college, and about $450 more than people who never went to college after finishing high school, according to Bureau of Labor Statistics data. People with higher degrees earn even more.
Add to that the studies that have found evidence that college graduates live longer, healthier, happier lives than their less-educated counterparts, and you may wonder why anyone wouldn’t go to college. Numbers, again, reveal the truth. College is costly and getting more so every year, and our busy lives make it difficult to find time to return to school.
Tuition at a four-year public institution approaches $17,000 per year; private institutions average nearly $34,000 per year, according to the National Center for Education Statistics. What’s more, the average American worker puts in nearly eight hours a day on the job and nearly four hours a day working on household activities like taking care of family; few hours are left over for extra activities like schooling. Given those daunting numbers, is it any wonder that some high school graduates choose to directly enter the workforce rather than struggle to find time and money for college? Or that professionals who left college before earning a degree, or undergraduate degree-holders who might benefit from a post-graduate degree, hesitate to return to college?
One solution, however, has emerged in the past few decades that can help all three groups. College dropouts, those who never attended college, and degree-holders who want to continue their education all may be able to fit college into their busy lives, work schedules, and budgets by attending an online university.
Signs an Online University Is Right for You
When you do decide it’s time to return to college, you’ll face another vital question – what school should you attend? Should you choose a traditional brick-and-mortar institution or an online university? Both options offer advantages and challenges. It’s important to evaluate your needs and situation to determine which option is best for you.
While each person’s situation is unique, some common signs can indicate that you should consider an online college, including:
- You are employed full-time and can’t afford to take the pay cut that would accompany reducing your work hours.
- You are raising a family and physically attending classes would cut into family time.
- Your work and personal schedules are complex, and it would be difficult to physically attend classes at a specific, set time each week.
- You don’t live near a college, or the degree program you desire is not available at nearby schools.
- You need the flexibility of fitting classes into your schedule.
- You are interested in accelerated learning in order to achieve your degree more quickly.
- You need to control spending, eliminate or reduce non-tuition college costs, and extend your investment in education over a longer period of time.
Once you begin researching available online universities and their degree programs, you’ll find hundreds of options. It’s important to carefully evaluate an online university before you enroll.
Guidelines for Choosing an Online University
Accreditation is a key indicator that an online university is credible. Look for an institution that is accredited by a federally recognized organization, such as the Western Association of Schools and Colleges Senior College and University Commission (WSCUC). The US Department of Education and the Council on Higher Education Accreditation both recognize the WSCUC as a regional accrediting body. Many organizations purport to be accrediting bodies, but the most credible ones are recognized by the Department of Education. You can find a list of recognized accrediting agencies on the Department of Education website.
Access to instructors and support staff is as important for online university attendees as it is for students at traditional, campus-based institutions. Before enrolling in an online degree program, ask for information on how students interact with educators, support staff, and each other. Does the university make it easy for students to receive help when they need it? Will you be able to contact your professor or the school’s financial aid office quickly and easily through either email or phone? Be wary of schools that seem to limit student access to instructors and information.
In the same vein, does the university have a physical address or only a PO box? Does the institution’s website readily provide phone numbers for key departments, such as admissions, financial aid, and student affairs? Are costs and admission requirements clearly spelled out? Does the school make it easy to determine if credits will transfer? Are counselors available to help you through the enrollment process and advise you on the coursework you’ll need to achieve the degree you desire? All the answers to these questions will help you determine which distance learning program will work best for you.
Thirty-two percent of all college students take at least one online course, according to a 2013 report by Babson Survey Research Group. What’s more, the number of students taking online courses continues to grow, the report states. With 77 percent of academic leaders saying online education is as good as or even superior to face-to-face learning, now may be the perfect time for you to consider going back to school and attending an online university.
Written by Ashford University staff