Comparison shopping in a world of mobile technology has made us well-informed customers. According to Google, mobile product searches with the word “best” grew by 50% between 2015 and 2016. This tells us that consumers do not want to settle for second place.
The same goes for prospective students researching furthering their education. Such a major financial and personal investment deserves a lot of research and information.
Since 1990, the annual number of people who seek postbaccalaureate degrees has increased by 90%. This year alone, more than 3.5 million will enroll in graduate programs across the country. They will make final decisions based on their own criteria as well as objective standards many others will also consider.
Graduate programs can be taken in multiple formats. In exploring online and on-campus options, it is important to know what to look out for, what to avoid, and how to separate fact from fiction.
How should I compare online versus on-campus?
1. Basic fit
Do the degrees that are offered align with your personal objectives? Some factors to consider are concentrations offered in the program, admission requirements, and cost.
Think back to classrooms past. Did you maintain your attention throughout or were so bored you counted the tiles on the floor? Were you habitually tardy?
Now think about experiences with self-directed study sessions or long-term projects like theses or presentations. Did you manage your time well without constant check-ins from professors or research partners? Were you ever adversely distracted by things around your home or family members?
Punctuality is essential for any graduate school candidate. Many online degree programs, however, offer students a degree of laxity when it comes to attending classes at the exact time their held. Instead, remote learners may have access to recorded lectures they can view on their own time.
Does this freedom matter to you? Are you willing to take this freedom over others, like the ability to ask questions or participate in real time? Can you balance the flexibility in class attendance with stricter deadlines for your work?
The graduate program of your choice may have one or more prerequisites. Some may ask for particular degrees, certifications, and/or test scores. Do you meet these expectations? Could you meet them before the next application window closes?
5. Faculty and staff
Faculty information is important to research when looking at your university and degree options. What are their office hours? What have they accomplished in their lifetimes? Do they sound like the right mentors for you?
Tuition can factor into a discussion on schooling. It is important to understand what financing options are available. Another variable to consider is the value of the degree itself compared to the cost of the program.
What national and regional accreditations does the university of your choice have? Does it have its own ranking or accreditation information?
8. Time to completion
Another factor to consider is the time it would take to complete your degree. Universities may offer full- or part-time completion, and specific time frames could be depended on the degree you choose.
Facts and falsehoods about online and on-campus degrees
Now that we’ve ironed out some of the questions prospective graduate students may ask, it’s time to highlight a few truths and dispel some rumors about both online and on-campus education:
Graduate degrees are so expensive, they aren’t worth the hassle.
As the cost of graduate programs has increased, so too have subsidies for federal student loan programs. In fact, in 2017, and over the next decade, projections from the Congressional Budget Office indicate graduate students will become the majority beneficiary to loan increases.
Second, as we mentioned earlier, prospective graduate students must weigh potential tuition costs against perceived gains. After all, many strive for advanced degrees to expand their professional horizons. That may come with a better salary. One study from the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce found the median lifetime earnings for master’s degree holders is 9% higher than for those with only bachelor’s degrees. That seemingly small percentage works out to around $400,000.
Online graduate students can’t apply for student aid.
Before 2006, Congress had strict limits on which schools could and couldn’t supply their students with federal aid.
But times changed. As better online degree programs gained great reputations and provided valuable opportunities to remote communities, Congress decided to let accreditation bodies make judgment calls on its behalf. Today, if you’re accredited by authorities approved by the U.S. Department of Education, your students – online or otherwise – can apply for federal financial aid.
Employers don’t like online degrees. They prefer applicants who studied on campus.
Back in 2010 a CareerBuilder survey showed more than 8 out of 10 participating executives agreed that “an online degree is as credible as one earned through a traditional campus-based program.”
Today, 25 percent of all baccalaureate students conduct their studies completely online, and one-third take at least one online class during their academic tenures. At that rate, employers won’t have any other choice than to recognize online education for what it is: an excellent way for working professionals and remote learners to grow their knowledge and excel.
Without confusion or misconceptions clouding your judgment, you’re ready to select the graduate degree program that corresponds to who you are and what you need.
Should I apply to the online MBA program at Maryville University?
A master’s degree in business administration is one of the most sought-after degrees for graduate students today. Maryville University’s online MBA program combines all the ideal elements of a distance education: low cost, flexibility, and a solid reputation, all bundled into a curriculum you can finish in just one year from the comfort of your home.
Interested in learning more? Check out our article on “Is the Maryville University Online MBA right for you?” or visit the Maryville University website for more information.