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Is College for Everyone?

Here at The Distance Learner we advocate a non-traditional approach to the process of earning a college degree. It’s just not practical for everyone to attend a brick-and-mortar college or university, pay exorbitantly to live on campus, and run up an astronomical student debt that takes decades to pay off after graduation.

Distance education offers a cheaper, more practical alternative to this approach. But for some young people, college may not even need to be a consideration to begin with. This post from The Art of Manliness gives 11 alternatives to a college degree. These include starting a business, attending community college, and learning a trade.

For some professions – like many of those in STEM fields – college is absolutely the right choice. But for many, it ends up being a waste of time and money. For some, college even limits your career options, as you get strapped into thinking you have to go into a certain major (most often business) in order to be successful. That’s just not the reality, however.

Those who say every high school student needs to attend college to get a good job are either misinformed or lying. Any high school graduate can land a stable job with a healthy salary by pursuing their natural inclination or talent in a vocational school or apprenticeship. Similar to earning a degree through distance education, this is a smart and economical alternative to taking on student debt for that “magic” piece of paper.

Read the full article at The Art of Manliness

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Attend College Overseas

Here’s an interesting alternative to the traditional American college experience: consider attending college overseas. Despite what you might think, it’s much less expensive to study abroad. Experiencing a new country is exciting. And earning a degree overseas can distinguish you from other graduates who didn’t bother to travel.

On his blog Sovereign Man, Simon gives examples of several foreign colleges that are less expensive than American options, yet consistently rank among the top schools in the world. If you’ve ever wanted to visit another country, you should seriously consider whether earning a degree at the same time might be a good option for you.

Read the full article at Sovereign Man

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MIT Offers Free Online Education

In late 2011, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology launched M.I.T.x, an online learning program that offers hundreds of courses for free. This isn’t a full degree program, but it does allow those who demonstrate mastery of a course of study to receive a certificate of completion.

This new program is a continuation of MIT’s original free online learning curriculum, OpenCourseWare. It’s very exciting to see a respected university like MIT offer additional distance learning options. The groundswell of online programs over the past few years has been nothing short of spectacular. In the Forbes article linked below, James Marshall Crotty calls this new education initiative a “game changer.” I agree with his assessment.

Read the full article at Forbes

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Think Before You Intern

As someone who began a career in software development with an unpaid apprenticeship, my personal experience has been that any internship, paid or otherwise, can be beneficial. But these statistics compiled by Online College Courses are nonetheless very interesting and may indicate a trend away from what I experienced 10 years ago.

Studies show that students who intern without receiving pay in return tend to learn less, perform more menial tasks, and be hired on full-time at a lower rate than students who are paid for their internships.

As with any aspect of your education and career, it’s important to evaluate whether a given opportunity will advance you towards your goal or just waste your time.

Read the full article at Online College Courses

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Don’t Let College Interfere With Your Education

David authored this article for the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy back in 2010. It remains relevant for those making decisions about where, or whether, to attend college.

I made a decision early on that college was about getting a piece of paper, not an education. My goal wasn’t to become a better-rounded individual, or even to gain a greater understanding of my major area of study. Rather, it was to gain the educational credential that employers now use as a screening device for most jobs. And my experience confirmed what I had expected—that post-secondary education today has only a lackluster ability to provide real value aside from that credential.

It’s critical to understand the true value of a college degree before embarking on an expensive voyage that may or may not get you where you want to go.

Read the full article at the Pope Center

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Does Earning a Degree Increase Your Salary?

One commonly held belief about college degrees is that earning one will boost your income in your current job, or help you secure a job with a much higher starting salary than someone who only has a high school degree.

This may have been true at one point, but in recent years the earnings gap between high school and college graduates has been shrinking dramatically. Mary Pilon takes a detailed look at the earnings landscape in a recent Wall Street Journal article. It’s well worth a read whether you’re considering college for the first time or planning to return to school to earn a post-graduate degree.

One advantage to pursuing a degree via distance education is the lower cost. Combine that with the ability to work a full-time job while studying in the evening and you have a powerful alternative to the traditional college experience. Of course, it’s still a good idea to research your target career field and determine whether the cost of a college degree is truly worth the salary increase. It might not be.

Read the full article at WSJ.com

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The Case for Working With Your Hands

High-school shop-class programs were widely dismantled in the 1990s as educators prepared students to become “knowledge workers.” The imperative of the last 20 years to round up every warm body and send it to college, then to the cubicle, was tied to a vision of the future in which we somehow take leave of material reality and glide about in a pure information economy. This has not come to pass.

Read the full article at NY Times

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Some Encouraging Advice

The Teaching Home is a magazine for Christian home educators. A few years ag, they published some suggestions for parents and students who are considering higher education. If you’ve been wondering what the Biblical motivations and goals behind higher education should be, this is an excellent read.

Read the full article.

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Why It Doesn’t Pay to Get Straight a’s in College

I worked hard to get good grades my first few years of college. My last year, I was tired of the whole college deal (and was working full time in my career field already) so I didn’t stress out quite so much about getting straight A’s.

I still got a decent GPA, but in the end it didn’t really matter since I’ve never had a potential employer ask about my grades. They generally only care about whether or not I can do the work.

Being good at book learning rarely equates to being good at any particular job.

Does studying for 60 to 80 hours a week, pulling all-nighters and not having time for socializing describe your college life? It describes 25-year-old Jon Morrow’s, and in this retrospective essay he questions whether it was worth it.

Read the full article.

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What Can Distance Education Do for You?

Here’s an interesting article about distance education that was published by a news station in Madison, Wisconsin. Despite the fact that it’s targeted at adults who want to go back to school, it contains a good overview of distance education along with some valuable warnings about what to watch out for when picking a program.