Are Online College Degrees Worth the Time and Effort?

Most people are well aware of the financial advantages of a college degree. Indeed, recent studies claim that university graduates earn, on average, a million dollars more than non-graduates over their working life time.

High school graduates are anxious to make the right choices when it comes to selecting the program that will lead them to their career goals. However, other plans and commitments, not to mention time and money, can sometimes make it difficult to follow the usual path to college or university. Some students may be tempted to register for an on-line program that seems to lead to a bachelor's or master's degree just the same.

This may be a good choice for some students, but the question arises as to whether degrees obtained in this way have the same value as those obtained through a normal three-year or four-year college course. If such degrees are thought to be inferior, perhaps they are not worth the time and effort needed to obtain one.

Attitudes towards on-line degrees may be changing, especially since some well known schools such as Duke, Stanford, Jones, and Capella now offer full degree programs through the internet. Their degree courses are accredited, and they are accepted by a majority of employers. A recent survey of major employers indicates that about 2 in 3 accept on-line degrees at par with traditional qualifications obtained through the typical residence program.

That means, of course, that about one third of employers still doubt the quality and content, but the fact that the schools themselves make no distinction between distance or resident degrees is rather convincing. It is also interesting to note that college or university transcripts no longer indicate whether a degree was obtained through college attendance or through an on-line program.

Whether or not a degree is recognized by employers is one important consideration, but it is certainly not the only one. It is a mistake to imagine that the value of a college or university program lies only in its academic content. Students who spend three or four years on a college campus usually mature noticeably, and show remarkable growth of character and personality. They socialize and interact every day with fellow students of both sexes, and through this daily contact they tend to develop the self-confidence they will need in their future lives.

The problem with on-line degree programs is that the normal student world of campus activity and daily interaction with others is missing. Some might argue that interaction is still possible through the internet, but most will agree that it is by no means the same. Students cannot develop high-level speaking, debating, and presentation skills with a computer keyboard.

If program content is the major criterion, then no one can deny that on-line degree programs are as valuable as any other. Universities and colleges are clear in stating that course content for distance and resident study is identical. Such a course may be a good choice for some students, especially mature students or those who are already settled in full-time employment. Graduating high school students, however, need to examine their options carefully. It is vitally important for them to participate in traditional campus life in order to develop the interpersonal skills they will need.

Information is for educational and informational purposes only and is not be interpreted as financial or legal advice. This does not represent a recommendation to buy, sell, or hold any security. Please consult your financial advisor.