editors choice badge Editors' Choice

Lower Costs Are Making More Students Prefer Online Education

Lower Costs Are Making More Students Prefer Online Education
Summary: High school graduates are more likely to pursue their higher education entirely online, and this is largely caused by the skyrocketing costs of college tuition.

The Reason Why More And More Students Prefer Online Education

Not long ago, eLearning was mostly seen as a collection of technologies intended to augment long-distance learning and improve classroom experience; these days, however, online education is increasingly being considered a viable alternative to the traditional path of attending brick-and-mortar colleges.

Flexibility, interaction, and access to digital learning materials are often cited as being the greater advantages of online education, but tuition costs are becoming the most important factors among students who prefer the digital campus to the physical campus. Prior to the global financial crisis of 2008, eLearning was mostly focused on master degrees, extra credit, and certificate programs that appealed to working adults; nowadays, high school graduates prefer studying online basically due to the fact that the costs of college tuition are soaring.

From The "Old College Try" To The "New College Scam"

Even before the Great American Recession was formally acknowledged by economists in 2008, grumblings about the "higher education industrial complex" became a topic of discussion among American college graduates saddled with debt. By 2013, these grumblings evolved into national economic concerns, as the United States Federal Reserve estimated that student loan debt had accumulated to $902 billion. Later, the Consumer Finance Protection Bureau took a closer look into the issue and determined that collective student loan debt was actually higher than $1 trillion.

At the height of the Great Recession, unemployment levels reached nearly 10%. This is when many Americans started complaining about college being a scam, but not in the sense of getting good jobs that paid adequate salaries: the heart of the complaint is that traditional college tuition costs have claimed to such high levels that not even professionals are able to reasonably manage their student loan debt along with household expenses.

Astronomical college tuition in the U.S is nothing new, but it has gotten out of hand. In an effort to control the exorbitant debt levels caused by decades of student loans granted by Sallie Mae in conjunction with retail banks, the Obama administration launched various investigations into the American student loan industry; one of the findings, in this regard, revealed that many colleges have lowered tuition rates for their online programs, and academic counselors are getting better at explaining how eLearning students can save on ancillary costs.

Lowering The Overall Costs Of Higher Education

American college students have more than just tuition fees to worry about. If they choose to live on campus, for example, their housing costs and meal plans (often referred to as room and board) will drastically increase the size of their student loans.

Out-of-state students can expect to pay between $10,000 to $20,000 per year for room and board; this does not include application fees, off-campus entertainment, and other living expenses. Online education alleviates housing costs by letting students take advantage of their current living situation, thereby saving thousands of dollars each semester.

Textbooks are another expensive reality of traditional college education that online education alleviates. Thanks to the digital nature of eLearning, many of the course materials are included in the curriculum; moreover, electronic textbook rentals are becoming more accessible. More tools are at disposal to make life easier, from student credit cards that make the college eBook rental process easier, to Amazon and Chegg offering thousands of eTextbooks that can be rented by the semester. The underlying technology that makes all this possible, like the high-speed internet with great coverage and tablets that students can actually afford, is a far cry from the situation just 10 years ago.

Transportation costs can also be considerably reduced when college students choose to take online courses. Parking fees, tolls, fuel, and the wear-and-tear of everyday driving can add up significantly for college students; a better option is to keep the car parked and complete the curriculum requirements from home.

Thinking Beyond Financials

When it comes to higher education, not everything should be analyzed in terms of financial value and cost savings; there is the more important aspect of whether students can receive a truly valuable education when they attend college. And this is where eLearning gets the upper hand. The internet currently holds the most extensive collection of academic material; it has essentially become what Ptolemy envisioned when he founded the Ancient Library of Alexandria thousands of years ago, and this is what online students have access to these days.

The most prestigious lecturers in the world have agreed to be digitally filmed and recorded for the benefit of the entire world; this means that a student taking marine biology classes can go online and find lectures conducted by Sylvia Earle or watch documentaries starring Jacques Cousteau. In fact, most of the assignments at traditional colleges these days involve doing research online.

College students who go online to get their degrees for the purposes of protecting their finances will not receive a lesser education. To this effect, it is important to remember that Steve Jobs, the late founder of Apple, elected to audit his courses at Reed College because he could not afford tuition for full credits.