The Online Degree Stigma Is Gone

Barry Lenson

The Online Degree Stigma Is Gone

The Online Degree Stigma Is Gone  Education has always been part of our national dream.  Thomas Jefferson founded the University of Virginia. Ben Franklin started a school that later became The University of Pennsylvania.

There’s no doubt that the history of American higher education is one of high ambitions and lofty achievements.  Yet there is a darker side to the story too. For years, uninformed people have looked down their noses at certain educational institutions like these . . .

  • State colleges and universities were seen as second class, because they admitted students who were not members of America’s elite families.  They even appealed to students who wanted to save money.
  • Community colleges were seen as worse than second class. Students who had not done well in high school could get into them. So could students who were holding down jobs and who needed to go to “night school.” And worst of all, students could simply enroll in community college courses without taking standardized tests, getting letters of recommendation, or writing admissions essays.

Those half-formed, prejudiced, snobby, and uninformed opinions are now relics of the past. They withered and died because many worthy students who went to state schools or community colleges went on to make important contributions to America.

More recently, online colleges and universities came in for their share of scorn from educational “experts” and from the general population too.  Only a decade ago, we heard charges that online colleges were not “real” colleges, that they did not prepare students well, and that the degrees they issued could not be taken seriously in the “real” world.

That kind of thinking has pretty much disappeared, for a complex and varied set of reasons. Here are some of the more obvious . . .

  • Most American colleges and universities are now making widespread use of computerized learning. If older brick-and-mortar schools like Harvard, MIT and the University of Massachusetts are migrating a larger share of their courses online, it becomes harder for people to think that there is something “wrong” or “second-class” with online instruction.
  • Online students have graduated, entered the workforce, and proven their skills and abilities. Not long ago a graduate of an online university was seen as a curiosity in job interviews. (“Wow, you did most of your coursework ONLINE?”) Today, students who have done some or all of their college work online compete for jobs on an equal footing with other students.
  • Online colleges and universities have made important contributions to American culture and business. Not long ago it was almost impossible for many worthy American students to earn college degrees. They were members of the U.S. military who were deployed abroad, working mothers and fathers who lacked the time to go to college, disabled and mobility-impaired Americans who found it hard to commute to colleges, and more.  Thanks to online learning options, all those students can go to college, earn degrees, get jobs, support families, and become contributing members of our society.

So if you haven’t noticed, the stigma that was once attached to online education is going, going, gone.

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