Prospective college students may wonder about the benefits of a college degree. A degree has a magnifying effect on a professional’s long-term salary as well as their career prospects.
The Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) underscored the career impact of a post-secondary degree in a 2018 report. This report found that median weekly salaries for associate ($836) and bachelor’s ($1,173) degree holders far exceeded salaries for professionals who only hold high school degrees ($712). Unemployment rates also differed significantly for high school (4.6%), associate (3.4%), and bachelor’s (2.5%) degree recipients.
There are many choices for first-time and returning college students. Modern college students often need to balance work, school, family, and other obligations. The to-do list for prospective college students in the 21st century includes answering several questions in the online classes v. traditional classes debate. As online learning technology has improved, students and faculty around the world have realized the advantages of online course delivery.
Central Christian College of Kansas features eight associate and bachelor’s degree programs completed through online courses. The university weaves marketable and in-demand skills into a curriculum based on Christian values. Graduates of Central Christian College of Kansas in 2020 and beyond are prepared to meet the demands of the industry by virtue of the comprehensive and modern curricula.
Join the online learning crowd
In the span of a decade, online college degrees have developed from experiments at a few institutions to commonplace endeavors. The convenience, cost and quality of completely online degrees are appealing to students across the world. In the debate over online classes v. traditional classes, institutions big and small have skewed more recently to online courses.
The National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) published a report in 2018 highlighting the growth of online learning. NCES determined that overall college enrollment declined by 0.4% from 2016 to 2017. This trend did not dent enthusiasm for online degrees with a 5.7% growth in students taking at least one online course during the same period. In raw numbers, overall enrollment at residential college programs dropped by 90,000, while enrollment in online programs grew by 350,000 students.
Breaking down the NCES report on learning style enrollment provides a clear view of students seeking the online advantage:
- Online-only enrollment grew by 15.4% in recent years compared to 14.7% from 2015 to 2016
- Enrollment number in hybrid programs mixing on-campus and online grew 17.6% compared to 16.4% in the previous study
- Student enrollments in at least one online course grew to 33.1% compared to 31.1%
With these numbers in mind, it’s important to understand why students are flocking to online courses and degrees. Learning House’s 2019 survey of 1,500 college students in online programs explains the growth of online education. Fifty-eight percent of respondents said they selected their degree path before considering the online classes v. traditional classes query.
Learning House found 63% of respondents chose online degrees because it fit in with their other responsibilities, while 34% outright preferred online courses over traditional classes. Online degrees have also jumped from desktops and laptops to mobile, with about 60% of students 45 years old and younger reporting that they completed coursework on their phones.
Forbes compiled survey results of online students and faculty that further answer this question. Eighty-five percent of respondents to a Learning House survey in 2018 said their online course experiences were similar if not better than traditional course settings. The publication also cited a 2012 survey by Babson College that found 77% of academics viewed online learning as comparable or better than in-person learning. The overwhelming support of students, faculty, and academic leaders has expanded the advantages of online education.
Employer views on online learning
Employers across all industries expect applicants to show career preparation through college degrees. The Association of American Colleges & Universities (AACU) surveyed 1,001 business executives and hiring managers about their views on higher education. This 2018 survey found 82% of executives and 75% of hiring professionals believe college degrees are essential to professional success. 88% of executives and 85% of hiring managers also said college degrees are worthwhile investments for professionals. In short, an important benefit of a college degree is that it is a passport to the modern workplace.
After decades of traditional college education, employers are catching up to the growth in online degree programs. Researchers surveyed 65 companies to determine how they view applicants with online degrees. Insights from the survey included:
- Respondents with previous experience with online education viewed online degrees as the same or better than traditional degrees
- Online school graduates are seen as being more tech-savvy and effective at collaborating to meet project goals or other rigorous work projects
- Applicants with online degrees should highlight their technical aptitude with learning platforms on their resumes
Media coverage of virtual learning platforms has improved significantly over the past decade. CNN published a 2010 story in collaboration with CareerBuilder.com that showed divided views of online degrees held by applicants. In this divided environment, however, many employers and employees reported that the benefits of a college degree were no different for online or traditional programs.
A 2017 report by U.S. News & World Report showed how far employers advanced in considering applicants with online degrees. This report noted that transcripts often don’t include text distinguishing online and residential degrees. Employers may view online degrees as demonstrations of good time management and budgeting skills.
An application that combines necessary experiences and education advances to the top of the pile, no matter the course delivery system. All of these points suggest students should take advantage of online college degree programs as they pursue their careers.
Desirable professional skills
Hiring managers and business owners are typically less worried about an applicant’s degree source and more interested in their skills. White-collar and blue-collar professionals need to know how to excel in the workplace. The skills necessary for professional success have traditionally emerged from classrooms, labs and other school facilities. Schools like Central Christian College of Kansas move beyond the classroom to teach online students desirable hard and soft skills for the modern workplace.
The day-to-day experience of earning an online degree can strengthen the technical skills desired by employers. LinkedIn drew data from its network of “660+ million professionals and 20+ million jobs” to determine the 10 technical skills (known in the article as hard skills) in highest demand. The most in-demand technical skills for 2020 include:
- Analytical reasoning
- Sales leadership
- Digital marketing
- Business analysis
- Artificial Intelligence
One of the advantages of online schooling is the built-in learning experiences of using online learning platforms. Students learn to communicate with supervisors and colleagues to solve problems. Newcomers to online learning experiment with platform features and digital natives to complete their work with high efficiency. An online associate or bachelor’s degree not only covers some of the technical skills listed above but creates comfort with new systems.
LinkedIn’s review of in-demand skills also explores interpersonal talents that open doors to new careers. The top five interpersonal skills found in this review were creativity, persuasion, collaboration, adaptability, and emotional intelligence. Online degree programs provide an opportunity to develop these skills, creating well-rounded graduates ready for the workplace. Students need to adapt to new conditions when moving from traditional to online learning environments. To complete the required coursework, a student has to manage time well and show creativity in their projects. The online advantage is that students accrue all of these skills without the costs of traditional degree programs.
Keeping finances in mind
Aligning your educational experiences with in-demand skills is important because college degrees are expensive. Central Christian College of Kansas amplifies the earning advantages of online schooling with budget-friendly degrees. The application process doesn’t eat into a student’s budget thanks to no application or transcript fees. Students paid $425 per credit during the 2019-2020 school year no matter their selected degree path. Each course lasts six weeks and students complete one course at a time, spreading out the cost of education.
U.S. News & World Report’s figures on average tuition rates for 2019-2020 place the affordability of online degrees in context:
- Public university tuition averaged $10,116 per year for state residents and $22,577 per year for out-of-state students
- Private university tuition averaged $36,801
- Sixty-one (or 7.77%) of the 785 surveyed private universities had tuition rates of $20,000 or less
- Approximately 80% of families consider tuition when choosing colleges
Full-time and part-time students often cannot cover the costs of traditional degrees without taking on debt. The Federal Reserve reported an average student debt load of $35,359 for 2019 graduates.
Student loan debt has become a major issue because new graduates start their careers on an average of $35,350 in the red. The benefits of a college degree are delayed if young professionals juggle household costs with loan repayments. Online degrees from institutions like Central Christian College of Kansas are affordable alternatives that launch lucrative careers.
Creating balance in life
An important advantage of online schooling is reducing the time spent completing a degree. Full-time college students spend 17.5 hours per week on average completing coursework, according to the 2016 BLS American Time Use Survey. This average includes time spent on lectures, reading, and homework. By enrolling in an online program, students can proceed as quickly as they wish to excel in their work. An online degree reduces not only this coursework average but cuts down on the six-hour weekly average for transportation. Virtual degree students don’t spend hours in traffic on the way to and from campus.
The NCES researched the work-school balance of college students in 2017. NCES determined 43% of full-time college students and 81% of part-time college students worked jobs outside of their studies.
This study found 83% of two-year students worked while pursuing part-time studies, while 78% of four-year students struck this balance. The largest portion of employed full-time students came from the 40-49 age cohort (64%) and 82% each of the 16-24, 25-29, and 30-39 groups held a paid job during part-time degree work. NCES emphasized the time stresses on students with the following categories:
- Students who are homeowners or primary renters: 57% (full-time), 80% (part-time)
- Students who are parents: 57% (full-time), 79% (part-time)
- Students who live with spouses: 59% (full-time), 79% (part-time )
How do online classes work toward creating the ideal balance for students?
Degrees from online schools like Central Christian College of Kansas are designed for completion around work schedules. College students can finish their work when they have free time, thanks to curricula aimed at working professionals. Readings, tests, and essays can be finished during work breaks, after children go to bed, or early in the morning. Online degrees also keep students off the road, saving time spent in traffic jams and inclement weather. Students reclaim their time for personal and professional growth with virtual degrees.
With online degrees, students increase their earning potential, carry less student debt, gain important in-demand skills, and claim their time for personal and professional growth to fulfill lifelong dreams.
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