“I’m embarking on this experiment because I want to show that learning doesn’t require acceptance boards and SAT tests, thousands of dollars in debt, or even the 4-year pace most students assume is necessary to learn a subject.” Scott Young
As we near the end of another college application season, I find myself reflecting on the trends in the business of the college adventure. The pivotal trend? The continuing rise in tuition expenses, of course. That college is a business is not a surprise: Payroll costs exist; maintenance must be performed; bankruptcy must be avoided. That enrolling in college can cost anywhere between the mind-boggling range of $46/credit at a community college to over $3300/credit at an Ivy is one reason college counselors exist. Families need to know the ins-and-outs of the process, in a timely manner, to make that informed, appropriate choice for their unique financial circumstance. As an independent counselor, beholden to clients not colleges, it is my job to navigate families through the maze of variables-- to discover those worth considering--to actually get to that ‘informed choice’.
I recently read Scott Young’s blog post which is a perfect illustration of another trend in higher education: online learning. Online learning is the huge disrupter in higher ed: Costs are crazy so how can we educate more students for less money. Online is also essential since the greatest growth in enrolled students is in the over 24-year-old cohort, those with full-time jobs who have few academic options and little interest in a brick-and-mortar college experience.
Having toured hundreds of college campuses, I started enrolling in online courses a few years ago just to see what that ‘classroom' looks like: I could be “in” class 24-hours a day; there were 1 million students enrolled; my study group had 5,000 students living on all the continents. It really was fun. But that’s anecdotal. The reality is: online education is already in widespread use on college campuses and is extremely useful for most non-traditional students. But…
The question remains: employers want to see a degree but do they care from which platform the degree is obtained? I suspect that online degrees are still not conducive to getting jobs in “high" finance or for those on a post-graduate, professional pathway. Or, of course, for those employers who are brand name conscious. Much like homeschooled students are now admitted to the Ivies, it’s entirely possible that online's early adopters—the highly motivated, early adopters--will transform even those fields.
While the 4-year college experience can truly be a life-changing adventure-- and colleges are doing everything they can afford to give this to all students--if online education suits your learning style or bank account…keep your eyes wide open but go for it! I love the phrase “hack your education”. In my office, the A+ mantra is: there is a pathway for everyone.