The cost of obtaining higher learning is steadily on the rise. Interest rates on federal subsidized loans are set to double on July 1, bringing them back to the highest they’ve been in five years, according to CNN Money. With rates jumping from 3.4 percent to 6.8 percent, students are potentially going to have to pay an additional $5,000 in interest over a 10-year repayment period.
In response, President Obama has urged colleges and universities to innovate and find alternative means of cutting costs that do not result in tuition increases. In his State of the Union Address, President Obama warned schools that if they don’t stop tuition rates from rising, the funding they receive from taxpayers will subsequently decrease.
This has placed colleges and universities, as well as businesses, within the private sector in a unique position to change education for the better. Venture capitalists are increasingly looking to fund education startups, particularly those whose strategies are centered around leveraging technology to enhance the educational experience. TechCrunch reports that 500 Startups, a company that provides early-stage companies with funding, plans on investing in 10 to 20 education startups this year.
With such great emphasis being placed on using technology to improve education, many colleges and universities are revisiting the prospect of broadening the scope of their current online class offerings. In a report from MIT News, the Michigan Institute of Technology announced in December the launch of MITx, a new online learning initiative the offers MIT classes for free. Most institutions currently offer classes that can be facilitated completely via the Internet or in the form of a hybrid in-class/online experience, but the idea of offering an entire degree program within an online platform is starting to become more common.
Of course, nothing can replicate the student life and academic discipline that one acquires over the course of participating in an off-line, on-campus college experience. At the undergraduate level, the college campus experience provides the foundation for basic methods of achieving validated learning, and remains essential to the personal and academic growth of the 21st-century student.
However, the 21st century student is also evolving. They are learning faster, working smarter and utilizing technology more than ever before. This evolution in behavior of today’s collegiate student might suggest that the world of graduate studies is ready to break into online learning. The benefits of an online education are considerably substantial for graduate students. Obtaining a graduate degree online would not require students to relocate or quit their jobs. It would also poise graduate students to connect with geographically diverse classmates who relate to everyday issues in various ways as a result of their location, making for a richer learning experience.
Many institutions have already begun to experiment with this concept successfully. The Kenan-Flagler Business School at the University of North Carolina currently offers an online MBA degree. USC is offering an online Master of Social Work, and Georgetown has an online Master’s in Nursing. All of these institutions have experienced considerable growth in their programs since their inception, and some even offer mobile applications for use on iOS and Android platforms.
TechCrunch reports that the online Master of Social Work program at USC currently has over 1,200 enrolled students, 500 of which are active users of its iOS apps. With unprecedented trends such as these, it’s clear that the world of education is slowly but surely moving online.
Sarah Fudin currently works in community relations for the University of Southern California's Master of Arts in Teaching program, which provides aspiring teachers the opportunity to earn an online teaching degree and helps them learn how to become a teacher. Outside of work, Sarah enjoys running, reading and Pinkberry frozen yogurt.