During times of economic recession when employment opportunities are minimal and layoffs are abundant, adults naturally seek opportunities to make themselves more marketable to employers. Whether individuals need to acquire new skills to enter an entirely different career field, or they simply want to fine tune skills that they already possess to keep their existing jobs, education is often the solution. However, unemployed or working adults with families and busy lives may have difficulties fitting college courses into their hectic schedules. Recession May Drive More Adults Students to Take Online Classes by Steve Kolowich is an article that discusses the reasons many adult students will choose online learning in the current economy. In this article, I will summarize Kolowich’s article. I will also provide an analysis of what I think has created this enrollment trend: cost, convenience, and completion.
Adults often choose times of economic hardship to go to school. Currently, more adults are selecting two-year colleges and private for-profit colleges than traditional four-year universities for their educational needs. Many of these students will take online courses. The 2008 Sloan Survey of Online Learning anticipated that all types of colleges would experience increases in enrollments, but non-traditional schools could see the greatest jumps in enrollments. Elaine Allen, one of the report’s authors, attributes this to the fact that non-traditional schools offer online classes.
Online classes offer many conveniences that traditional college courses do not. Students can take online classes at times that work for them. They do not have to leave their homes to go to school. They are still able to care for the needs of their families. Individuals can save on gas by not having to drive to campuses.
Online enrollment has been steadily increasing since 2003. More than a fifth of all students enrolled in higher education were taking at least one online course in 2007. Over half of the colleges surveyed in 2007 thought that it was critical to offer online courses to students. In addition, 70% of the colleges noticed an increase of student interest in online learning. Students are beginning to choose colleges specifically for their online programs.
Because of the recession, jobs are scarce. Tough economic times put “more people in the pipeline, looking, and hoping for opportunities” (Stevenson, 2008). Taking classes or earning a degree gives individuals an edge over the competition in the job market. “The majority of continuing education students today are most concerned with first getting into the academic pipeline” (Stevenson, 2008). Adults enroll in programs that offer classes to complete degrees they did not finish in the past. “A lot of people want to increase their skill levels or get that degree they didn’t have. The threat of losing their jobs can be as big a motivator as the actuality” (Kolowich, 2009). The cost of losing a job or not obtaining a new job is greater than the cost of education. In addition, non-traditional colleges offering online courses often cost about the same of even less than traditional universities.
Unemployment benefits often pay educational costs during the first year of unemployment. Unemployed individuals can use these benefits to take classes. Some companies give educational benefits to employees that they had to layoff. Former employees can use these benefits to learn new skills. Individuals are able to enroll in classes without worrying about how to pay for them.
Many adults who would like to go to traditional universities to earn degrees are unable due to busy schedules. They have to work or search for new jobs. They have children to care for and households to run. “They may prefer to go into the classroom but they need to work or stay at home and they don’t have the time. An online education may be their only chance to get a degree” (Johnson, 2006).
Online courses offer much more flexibility than traditional classroom classes. Students can participate on days that are convenient for them. If they have to do their schoolwork early in the morning before going to work or late at night after the children are asleep, they can. Online courses still have participation requirements and assignments with due dates, but if students know that they will be busy on days assignments are due, they can simply do these ahead of time.
Many online programs allow students to take only one or two courses at a time to be “full-time.” This allows busy adults to focus on a minimal amount of subjects. Their other responsibilities would make it difficult to take four to five classes at one time as is necessary to be full-time at traditional universities.
Students do not have to leave their homes or jobs to attend online classes. They can participate in class from anywhere that has a computer with internet access. Time is not wasted driving to campuses, finding parking, and walking to classes. Parents do not have to worry about finding childcare for their children during class times. Students do not have to rush from work to school to home feeling as if they are constantly on the go. Online classes offer conveniences like these that traditional courses cannot.
According to Stevenson (2008), “today’s non-traditional student is interested in one thing: completion, completion, completion.” Adult students want to earn or complete their degrees as quickly as possible. “Students earning a bachelor’s degree from University of Phoenix take one class at a time for five weeks per course” (Johnson, 2006). This means that students can complete up to 10 – three credit courses in a year or 30 semester credits. Accelerated online degree programs like this are a big attraction to individuals who desire to complete degrees quickly.
Because of our country’s current economic recession, more often adults are enrolling in degree programs. Some hope to find new jobs, while others aspire to keep the jobs they have. Education is an effective way increase employment opportunities. Many of these individuals choose to attend non-traditional colleges. Non-traditional schools offer several advantages to benefit the busy adult. These advantages include cost, convenience, and completion. Non-traditional institutions “tend to offer programs that have traditionally been tailored to serve working adults” (Kolowich, 2009). Online courses offered by many of these schools are the ideal educational alternative for busy adults.
Johnson, F. (2003, August 21). Online Education Helps Fight Enrollment Dip. Enterprise/Salt Lake City, 36(7), 9. Retrieved August 1, 2009, from Regional Business News database.
Kolowich, S. (2009, January 16). Recession May Drive More Adult Students to Take Online Classes. Chronicle of Higher Education, 55(19), A11-A11. Retrieved August 1, 2009, from Academic Search Complete database.
Stevenson, J. (2008, September 15). Streamline the Pipeline. Business West, 25(9), 38. Retrieved August, 1, 2009, from Regional Business News database.