Friday, 21 December 2012

The Real Deal in that Online English Degree

Updated 17 June 2014
The following is a guest post by Brandon Wilson who has been consulting on higher education degrees and helping families find the best value for their money. You can follow Brandon at DegreeJungle.com and learn more about online college degrees.

The Real Deal
You have to wonder, can you really earn an English degree online? Many students are finding the distance-learning alternative offers a compelling advantage. The US Department of Education has recently released a study that shows that students who study online perform better.

A virtual education provides more choices in where you attend; however, the ability to learn without any structure obliged by classroom attendance and overcoming student procrastination are both crucial factors. Without a doubt, online education is cost-effective, but virtual doesn't translate into an easy out. The virtual classroom requires the same work and time commitment as any on-campus program.  

Narrowing Your Choices
So you have a firm commitment to achieving an English degree online, but which college should you attend? You've probably heard people talk about whether you should choose a big school or a small school; there's some truth in general stereotypes of each: larger colleges and universities tend to offer more opportunities but often have more red tape. Additionally, adjunct professors and graduate students often teach their virtual classes, while small schools tend to have a closer community of students, with more undergrad focus but limited academic programs.  

For-Profit versus Non-Profit
For many career-oriented students, for-profit colleges represent a persuasive alternative to public and non-profit colleges. For-profit schools focus on job training, which in today's economy would seem to offer students an edge. They tend to offer more online classes than traditional colleges and longer sessions year-round. But according to a Harkin Senate Committee Report, students could end up drowning in debt with a questionable degree for choosing a for-profit institution.
  • Students at for-profit colleges incur more debt and tend to default on student loans more than in any other sector. 
  • Some for-profit schools have had their accreditation questioned, which can be risky and make you non-employable.
To get a credential worth having and paying for, you need to take a close look at the school and resist any hard sells. For-profit schools make their money by getting students into their classrooms. They don't benefit from federal and state subsidies like public and non-profit education. Most of these schools relentlessly recruit students with easy approved loans and promises of help finding jobs after graduation.

Since the 2008 Harkin Senate Committee investigations began, bad publicity has caused enrollment to decline. Eight Democratic senators are now calling for investigations into the tactics of for-profit colleges, in part because of reports of shady practices, including deceiving prospective students about future job prospects.  

Measuring what is Important
There will always be a host of intangibles that make up a college experience, but for those concerned with finding the best program for an online college English degree here are the starting points:
  • Check the undergraduate academic reputation: peers rating academic programs.
  • Retention: The higher the proportion of undergrads that return to the school after their freshman year, the better.
  • Financial resources: Spending on sports and dorms don't count; generous per-student spending indicates a college can offer a wide variety of programs.
  • Graduation rate: Measure the difference between a school's six-year graduation rate and the rate predicted for each class. If the graduation rate is on point or higher, they are meeting expectations.
Finding the perfect fit will take some time, but it's totally worth it when you earn that English degree.

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