Online Degree Programs Enter the Educational Mainstream

Online degree programs are leading a boom in distance learning that has made a college education more accessible than ever before. In fact, distance learning has taken a place alongside classroom learning in the mainstream of American education.

In the near term, advantages of online degree programs include lower cost and greater convenience. Over the long term, earning a college degree online can pay off with substantial financial benefits over the course of your career.

Growth of Online Degree Programs

Online degree programs are a prominent part of the trend toward distance learning which has changed the face of post-secondary education.

According to U.S. Department of Education statistics for the 2006-07 academic year, 65 percent of colleges offer some form of for-credit distance learning programs. In total 12.2 million people were enrolled in these programs, with just over three-quarters of those participating via online courses.

This proliferation has led to wider choice, with 11,200 college programs designed specifically for distance education. For the most part, these are not just continuing education courses, but rather degree-oriented programs. 66 percent of all distance education programs were degree-oriented, with the remainder representing certificate programs.

As with any college program, it is important to look for online accredited degrees–those that are recognized as meeting a certain threshold of educational standards. Fortunately, with so many accredited colleges now adding online programs, online accredited degrees should not be hard to find.

Why Earn a Degree Online?

Today, millions of people are earning a degree online.  Why should you consider joining them? There are a variety of reasons:

o    Accessibility. Not every student has the option of pulling up roots and attending college in another part of the country. In the past, this would have meant that your educational options were limited to programs that happened to be offered in your area. This is no longer true. With online education, academic programs from all over the country are now as close as your computer.

o    Flexible schedule. Traditional college programs typically represented a rigid time schedule. For people with work or family obligations, conforming to that kind of schedule is an impossibility. Online programs both increase the number of scheduling options you have, and the flexibility of many of those options.

o    Affordability. Online education gives you more low-tuition options to consider, and in particular eliminates the room, board, and transportation costs associated with an on-campus education.

Financial Benefits

Accessibility, flexibility, and affordability are all short-term benefits. If these make the difference in allowing you to pursue a college degree, then the long-term financial benefits are considerable.

Simply obtaining an associate’s degree can bump the average person’s annual earnings up to $34,000, compared to $29,000 for people who didn’t get beyond a high school degree or equivalent. Obtaining a bachelor’s degree raises the earning level by an even greater margin, to $43,500, and these income gaps have been getting wider over time.

Those are just one-year differences. Project those income differentials over the course of a career, and they add up to hundreds of thousands of dollars. That’s the long-term financial benefit of a college education, and online education may be your best chance at capturing.