The Pros of Online Education
- You may be working a full-time job and need the convenience & flexibility of online courses.
- You may live in an area where you aren’t near any colleges or universities.
- You may want a specialty program you can’t get in a school near you.
- You don’t have to worry about things like campus politics or popularity contests.
- If you’re older or were never comfortable in school, you may feel a lot more comfortable with virtual learning.
- You simply need a degree or certain skills and the name of the school issuing the degree doesn’t matter.
- More and more quality schools are getting into the online education game. And so are more and more less-expensive community colleges and non-profit schools. In New York State, where I live, I see top universities as well as local community colleges offering online learning. Luckily, it’s no longer just the fast-talking for-profit online schools that exist mainly to make the school’s owner very rich.
The Cons of Online Education
- There still are a lot of fast-talking for-profit online schools that exist mainly to make the school’s owner very rich. And unfortunately, these schools spend a lot of money advertising their “excellence” – NOT. So you need to do your research, carefully.
- Because so many of the degree mills get your attention through slick ads, you may be investing a lot of time and money in something worth almost nothing. I’ve seen resumes come in with iffy-sounding degrees, and they just don’t get you the respect you deserve for the effort you put in. (No matter what their ads tell you.)
- As with any low-quality school program you might enroll in, you may saddle yourself with tons of debts for something that won’t help you in the long run. These for-profit EZ degree mills help push you into loans that you will have to pay back whether or not you get an actual job.
- You don’t make the same connections you might if you were attending actual physical classes. Some of the best networking happens in person.
- You have to be great at motivating yourself since, when you come right down to it, you’re the only one watching you. Of course, if you’re spending this kind of money, I hope wherever you take your classes you give it your all.
That’s NOT What Suze Orman MeantSomeone I once knew decided it was time she went back to get her bachelor’s degree. She was struggling at a job she hated (talking people into taking for-profit courses, ironically), and wanted the degree so she could get a better job. And she took out lots of loans to do it – saying that Suze Orman said to invest in your own education. But my friend had a kid, owed back-rent, and was now majoring in art. That’s not what Suze Orman meant.Student loans will never be discharged, not even in bankruptcy. So if you’re mortgaging your future to get a degree to advance your career and earn more money, make sure it’s a degree that will really help you. Not all of them do, no matter what the claims. Now, I am a huge supporter of liberal arts education, but not if you’re doing it for her reasons, and will wind up owing more money than you can ever make back. People often go in overly-optimistic, but down the road things may not be as rosy.A recent study showed that, with the high cost of education, you pretty much only wind up ahead money-wise nowadays if you major in technical programs or specialized fields where jobs are in demand. And this holds true even if you go to Harvard – although arguably the connections you make there may help you get over some of the other hurdles, even if you’re an art major. So just imagine if you’re enrolled in an online arts program from some unknown questionably-credentialed school!Of course, if you can get by without too much money and want to follow your passion, I am all for it. But my friend had a child to feed and a landlord giving her eviction notices. And her art degree and huge monthly loan repayments weren’t going to help her in the long run. Now if she would have added some arts administration courses to her copper plating classes, she might be building toward something that can both serve her earning needs and her need to make art. But using Suze Orman’s line about investing in education to wind up in a worse financial situation is certainly not the answer.
What Should You Do Before You Enroll Online?Do your homework before you enroll anywhere. If you’re looking for an online program, that means you can investigate colleges anywhere. So start researching:
- Quality of programs in general
- Are they licensed and accredited
- Are there complaints about them online
- How your specialty is treated there
- What they would require of you
- Career placement assistance (is it all talk or can you find people on LinkedIn, for example, who will speak to how much help they give)
- Full cost of the program
- Scholarship possibilities
In SummaryIt’s clear that for many people, there are real advantages to online education. Just make sure you have taken the time to know what you’re really getting for your money – and what you will owe when you get out. And if you can take any classes in person, by all means do that. Some of the most powerful networking connections you’ll ever make is in school. Then again, if online is your only choice, don’t forget to seek out online support groups and study groups – as well as career office help and alumni support when you’re close to finishing.Oh … and don’t forget to take some computer classes (even if only Excel, PowerPoint and Word), since no matter what your field, you will probably need at least some of these to make real money!
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