A college education is becoming unattainable for many without the financial means to make it happen. The U.S. government is proposing cuts to financial aid and unsubsidized student loans, leaving many out in the cold when it comes to obtaining the college degree that will help secure that well-paying job.
Students are Beginning to Rack up Credits Online
In an article that appears in today’s online edition of the New York Times, Tamar Lewin addresses the fact that online e-learning entities are gaining not only steam, but credibility, in today’s uncertain economic climate. Students are looking for ways to obtain the education they need, as inexpensively as possible, while gaining the experience they must have to survive in the workforce. Lewin compares e-learning to Wikipedia and iTunes for initiating the same type of paradigm shift that has given us a different perspective about encyclopedias and music. Many students are becoming hip to the fact that they can complete coursework online for a fraction of what it would cost at a traditional college or university, parlaying those credits into advanced degrees and better-paying jobs.
Students Young & Old are Taking Advantage of E-Learning
The article cites examples of traditional college-age students, as well as students in their 30s with full-time careers and family commitments, taking advantage of e-learning courses to facilitate career changes or increase their knowledge bases to obtain certifications to better their chances at earning higher salaries. The tuition savings are substantial, and some online outlets provide mentoring to keep students motivated to complete their studies.
Traditional Institutions Scoff at E-Learning
Chester E. Finn, Jr., a senior fellow at the Hoover Institution and president of the Thomas B. Fordham Institute believes an emphasis on e-learning does not give students the same quality education they would receive in a traditional college environment: “Instead of a full entree of four years in college, it’ll be more like grazing or going to tapas bars…with people piecing together a postsecondary education from different sources.”
Meanwhile, a study conducted by Teachers College at Columbia University tracked 51,000 community college students in Washington State for five years, found that those with a good number of online training course credits were not likely to go on to transfer to traditional four year institutions or obtain degrees.
Learning is What You Make of It
Of course the traditional higher learning crowd is going to claim that e-learning will never replace the student-professor relationship that can only be found in a classroom. The problem is, not everyone can afford to spend four years in a college atmosphere, especially as funding to public universities gets slashed to the bare minimum, and the tuition at private universities continues to skyrocket. Despite all the scoffing, academics are eventually going to need to accept that online coursework is likely to become the only means of obtaining an education for many American students if our educational system does not undergo some significant changes.
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