A Guide on How to Go Back to College: Part Four (Page 3)

Your Higher Education Options

We’ve talked about knowing your higher education options, but what are they? Looking at admissions and scheduling, as well as what kind of degree or technical certificate is available, each type of higher education program has its own unique focus. Where you start may not be where you end up, particularly if you are looking to transfer credits from one kind of institution to another. Know the steps you need to take along the way. The educational success you achieve is up to you knowing yourself and choosing wisely.

Open Enrollment Institutions

Open enrollment institutions are what they sound like – open. This means you can register to take classes, and as long as you pay the tuition and fees, you can take them as needed.

Online and community colleges commonly offer open enrollment, including providing a variety of developmental classes for those students who need to brush up on their academics before taking prerequisite classes for their major. In fact, in 2009, there were 539,000 undergraduates enrolled in non- degree-granting institutions.5

One of the advantages to some online institutions is that in addition to open enrollment, they also offer rolling enrollment. What this means is that you can start and finish your courses at your own pace rather than according to a calendar schedule. For some, this may mean taking a class quickly; for others, more slowly. Your time and money are valuable, so use them wisely by enrolling in a college program that meets your needs.

It may come as a surprise that almost half of all 4-year degree-granting institutions offer open admission or accept at least 75% of their applicants.6 But considering the growth of online degree granting programs, there is a growing trend in this direction. In fact at least 31% of higher education students now take at least one college course online.7 If you plan well and enroll in the right institution for you, you don’t have to allow your academic past determine your academic future.

Associate Programs

You can receive your associate degree through a variety of programs. Typically, online colleges or community and technical colleges fill this niche. For many, an associate degree can lead to a bachelors degree through credit transfer to a 4-year public college, particularly for those who start out at a public community college with transfer agreements with their state universities. Typically, students attending associate programs are commuters and don’t live on campus.

Some interesting statistics8:

  • 26% of all full-time undergraduate students attend a public 2-year college*
  • 40% of all undergraduate students (including part-time and full-time) attend a public 2-year college*
  • The percentage of all associate degrees awarded by for-profit institutions increased from 11% to 18% over the decade from 1999 to 2009

(*These statistics apply to Fall 2009 for students enrolled at degree-granting institutions)


5 College Board Advocacy & Policy Center, Trends in College Pricing, 2011, p.26
http://trends.collegeboard.org/downloads/College_Pricing_2011.pdf

6 College Board Advocacy & Policy Center, Trends in College Pricing, 2011, p.4
http://trends.collegeboard.org/downloads/College_Pricing_2011.pdf

7 The Sloan Consortium, Going the Distance: Online Education in the United States, 2011, p.1
http://sloanconsortium.org/publications/survey/going_distance_2011

8 College Board Advocacy & Policy Center, Trends in College Pricing, 2011, p.26
http://trends.collegeboard.org/downloads/College_Pricing_2011.pdf