Is it Worth Going to University Anymore?

Feb 22, 2019 by

As valuable as higher education can be, can you imagine that statistically speaking, obtaining it indebts you more than credit cards and auto loans? That’s right, student loans account for the second highest consumer debt, passed only by mortgage debt.

In the U.S. alone, student loan debt amounts to the staggering $1.5 trillion, distributed between more than $44 million people, according to Make Lemonade. In 2016, the average student owed $37,172-worth in student loans.

When you let those startling numbers sink in, and add to them the mounting disappointment of higher education and its lack of real-life value that many students trumpet, one can’t help but wonder, “Is it worth going to a University anymore?” especially considering the increasing flexibility technology enables in various aspects of our life. 
Rise in Enrollment for Online Courses

It’s no wonder then that between 2012 and 2016, the number of university students who attend a strictly physical campus dropped by more than a whole million, 6.4%, Make Lemonade’s research shows. To a large extent, this is attributed to more and more people acknowledging the sweeping benefits of online education.

Enrollment for online courses is at an all-time high and only keeps rising. 2016 was the 14th year in a row in which Babson Survey Research Group reported growth in online enrollment. According to Babson, more than 6.3 million students in the U.S., most of which undergraduates, signed up to at least one online course in the fall of 2016, which was a 5.6% increase from the previous year. For public schools and universities, that increase was even higher – 7.1%.

And an interesting trend that surfaces amidst the statistics is of online students actually residing in the same state as their institution – going from 50.3% in 2012, to 56.1% in 2016. For strictly online students in public schools, this number is even higher – 84.2%. In fact, previous Babson surveys reveal that a large portion of online students even live within a 50-mile radius of their university’s campus.

While that trend may seem somewhat counter-intuitive at first, on second thought, it actually makes a lot of sense when you consider a certain advantage which online education has.

Why Study Online

To help you navigate the changing educational landscape, James Cook University, which also offers online courses has outlined a few of the major benefits of studying online.

The likely reasons why so many online students actually live in the same state as their institution are two. The more obvious one is the potentially lower in-state tuition fees. The other reason is that online education can actually be a blend of the best of both the virtual and the physical academic world, meaning students can generally study online, but they also get access to on-campus resources.

But besides that, studying online has some things to offer which traditional education simply can’t.

First off, it’s important to clarify one common misconception up: there is no mention of the word “online” on a degree from an online course. An “online” degree weighs just as much as an on-campus degree. 

The flexibility is perhaps the most universally coveted attribute of online education, especially in the case of mature professionals who are looking to take it to the next level without sacrificing the life they’ve worked hard to build for themselves. Online education allows you to fit studies into your schedule rather than the other way around. That doesn’t go to say the studies come second or require less effort than they would in a traditional environment – they’re simply not confined within rigid time slots that can’t be moved and around or adjusted.

An extension of that benefit is the autonomy you get with online education. Autonomy isn’t for everyone, but for those who can harness its immense potential, this perk is simply invaluable.

You can tailor the structure of the education to both your schedule and your learning style. It’s basically like freelance work – you are measured by your performance and the quality of your work, not by the amount of hours spent or the time of day when you spend them.

Another major benefit is the elimination of all the indirect costs of on-campus education like travel expenses, paid parking, childcare, buying food outside, and a myriad of other little expenditures, in addition to the extra time it takes to go back and forth.
Something else that can sometimes go overlooked is the higher level of teachers’ personal attention which online education can paradoxically provide. Raising questions and voicing concerns can generally be harder in a room full of other students, both from a social standpoint and from a time-related one. With online education, you can often get more direct assistance, adjusted specifically to you, in a more comfortable manner.

The world is changing fast, and the traditional notions of education and work are no longer tied to trivialities like geography. Whether you obtain a degree online or offline is not what’s important. It’s the knowledge and skills that the degree represents that matter, and more often than not, online education is a more cost, time, and energy-efficient way to get them.

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