Wise Guide to Online Education
by W. Blake Gray
See if you recognize yourself. You're working at a job you mastered years ago, and you're bored. You wish you could go back to school and get a degree that would help you get a more challenging job.
But you can't, because you have too many commitments: kids, pets, spouse (sometimes all in one). You have some free time — you could study on Sundays, or early in the morning. But you can't drive to class every week at some college 30 miles away.
Fortunately, the answer is on the Internet. Five years ago, it was almost impossible to get a degree from a truly respected university without spending months there.
But now you can get an MBA from schools like University of Indiana or University of Maryland without spending more than a couple weeks on campus.
Moreover, virtual universities like Jones International are springing up in cyberspace and earning accreditation, making their MBAs as valid as any other schools. And ambitious for-profit schools like Michael Milken-financed UNext are promising to make online learning a richer experience than a classroom can provide.
More than a third of all colleges now offer some courses online, according to Market Data Retrieval. This figure has doubled in just a year, and InterEd estimates that the figure will reach 75 percent by the end of this year.
However, there are drawbacks to online learning. Don't fool yourself that it's easier — the tests are actually harder in many cases. And while online degrees are perfectly respectable in technology fields, some occupations, like law, demand the give-and-take of classroom learning.
Plus, the boom in online education has been good news for diploma mills, which have a global reach they could never achieve when they could only advertise on matchbooks.
But the good news on online education far outweighs the bad. This Wise Guide is here to help point you in the right direction toward the MBA, MA or MS you've been dreaming about.
We'll tell you how online education works, and how much it costs. We'll also tell you how to get financial aid, and about how several companies will pay for your schooling.
We'll introduce you to a few cyberschools, a few completely online programs at brick-and-mortar institutions, and some portal sites that help you choose courses from universities around the country.
The GMAT and GRE tests that you need to get into graduate school have changed; we'll tell you how, and how you can prepare for them.
We'll even give you an idea of how much your online degree will be worth to you in monetary terms. Though don't forget that the value of learning is priceless.
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