In recent years, online degrees have been critically questioned, and rightly so, given the numerous reports of degree mills. Infamously, according to Wired Magazine, Saint Regis University was shut down after it was discovered the couple in charge of the operation were awarding degrees for a small fee so long as applicants could answer questions such as “where does the president of the United States reside?”
Seen as an easy alternative to face-to-face classes, online programs have garnered a stereotype of being a free time activity like the Sunday morning crossword.
In reality, online degrees require an equal amount of work and more effort on the student’s behalf to communicate with faculty and staff, a fact that employers cannot ignore.
Online degree programs are becoming more widely accepted. Employers are more concerned with an applicant’s GPA and field of study than they are with how the student earned the degree, according to New York Daily News. In a survey done by online institution Excelsior College and Zogby International, 83 percent of CEO’s felt online degree programs are just as credible as those earned on campus.
In the 2011-12 academic year, the University of Phoenix awarded 18,602 master’s degrees, a growth rate of 183 percent compared to the previous year.
Every year since 1978, tuition has increased at a rate of 7.45 percent, according to the Wall Street Journal. The National Center for Education Statistics reports tuition, room and board was $2,777 while the website College Data reports average student tuition for the 2013-14 academic year was $22,826.
The Wall Street Journal associates rising cost of attendance with an increase in paid administration, stating that the University of Michigan, among other institutions, has 53 percent more administrators than faculty. As a result, institutions are hiring adjunct faculty to cut costs.
Posing a solution, the Wall Street Journal suggests universities hire more adjunct administrators instead and recruit top instructors to provide online lectures to students at multiple institutions, combating student debt in the process.
New York Daily News reports more than 6.7 million students were enrolled in at least one online course in 2011. USF offered over 1,600 sections of online courses last year. In addition to the $211.19 per credit hour tuition fee, USF charges an additional $50 distance learning fee per credit which is used to further distance learning and transition face-to-face courses to online courses, according to USF Innovative Education.
It’s hard to ignore that an online education is becoming a current means for earning a degree and the advantages extend beyond flexibility and accommodation to learning style.
Brandon Shaik is a senior majoring in psychology.