Thousands of students each year start college degree programs that they don't finish for a variety of personal or professional reasons: a great job offer, an unexpected addition to the family, a cross-country move, an illness. Such big life events can derail even the most dedicated student. Yet students are often drawn back to school to finish what they started, whether it's based on a desire for career advancement or to achieve personal educational goals. Given that these students who return to college often have demanding schedules of job, family and other responsibilities, an increasingly appealing option is to finish their degree online. Here's a closer look at why online degree completion may be the right choice for students.
1. More Flexibility
Older students who are returning to finish their degrees have obligations that younger students often don't, including jobs, partners, children and other demands on their time. Fitting in time for their education often requires creative scheduling. Online classes allow you to study anywhere you have a computer and Internet connection. Whether you're an early riser or need to fit in your work on the weekends, online classes allow you the flexibility to read, study, and complete work when it's most convenient for you – without taking your focus away from other commitments.
2. Transfer Friendly
You've already invested time, money and effort into taking classes. Even if you're going back to school in a different program, you want to get as much credit as you can for the work you've already done. Online universities with transfer-friendly policies can help students save both time and money on finishing their degrees. At American InterContinental University (AIU), for example, you can transfer in up to 75% of your qualifying credits, allowing you to save up to 75% on tuition and earn your bachelor's degree in as little as 9 months. Students also can earn transfer credit for previous work and military experience. Policies like this can make all the difference when you're concerned about budgets and timing.
3. Efficient Programs
Online universities understand that returning students are focused on results; many are seeking different careers or advancement opportunities. According to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, individuals with a bachelor's degree earn 65% more per week than those with a high school diploma alone.1 Getting to graduation is the first step in a successful job search. Accelerated online programs can streamline the school experience while making sure to still focus on key material students need to know to succeed in their field. Some online programs, such as AIU's, integrate adaptive learning technology that lets students skip over what they already know so they can focus their time on what they need to learn, making the learning process even more efficient and personalized.
4. Savings Opportunities
Besides the ability to save time and money with transfer credits and other prior learning credit, students in online programs can find other opportunities to reduce the financial impact of going back to school. Students taking classes on campus often spend hours commuting when they could be doing other things, such as studying or working. In addition, in-person classes often require that students pay for gas, tolls, parking, and meals while they're on campus, all of which is unnecessary for online students.
Online learning is an appealing option for students for all manner of reasons, and the numbers bear that out: 5.3 million students were enrolled in at least one online course in 2013, and 71% of all currently active, degree-granting institutions that are open to the public have some online education offerings.2 Ready to learn more? Explore online degree programs at AIU.
Thinking about returning to school but don't want to start from scratch? Download our Transfer Credit guide to find out how you may be able to get credit with previous college, military, or work experience.
1 Bureau of Labor Statistics, U.S. Department of Labor. (2014). Earnings and unemployment rates by educational attainment. Retrieved from http://www.bls.gov/emp/ep_chart_001.htm. Based on median weekly earnings. These are national projections covering all levels of experience; conditions in your area may be different.
2 Babson Survey Research Group, "Grade Level: Tracking Online Education in the United States" (February 2015)