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USA Today Recognizes Advances in Online College Technology

The popularity of online education has been growing tremendously over the past few years. With President Obama placing special emphasis on access to college as an asset for the workforce, more people are taking notice of the online college trend. Today, national newspaper USA Today took particular notice, highlighting the trend, its recent expansion, and new innovation within the field.

The trend is well needed, it seems. According to the article, college records in the United States are far from impressive. Of all adults in the United States, only 29% have a college degree -- relatively few, compared to other industrialized nations -- and only about 40% of those who start college actually make it to graduation. What's worse, rising education costs (at an average of 8% a year) do nothing to quell the dropout rate. The article also notes Obama's words at a recent speech, regarding the problem: "All along that education pipeline, too many people ... are slipping through the cracks. It's not only heartbreaking for those students; it's a loss for our economy and our country."

If undereducation is the problem, online education seems to be a good solution, and we aren't alone in the theory: statistics are showing marked increases in online education attendance. The article states, "Of more than 18 million U.S. college students, 3.9 million were enrolled in at least one online college course in fall 2007, an increase of 13% from 2006. Traditional on-campus enrollment increased 1% over that period." Moreover, those numbers were rising by as much as 20% in previous years. Online education is especially popular with older students. One of those is Janice Barnwell, a 44-year-old business degree candidate who was interviewed for the article. Like many, she was apprehensive at first about the limitations of taking courses online, but "it quickly changed for me because the interaction I had online with my classmates and professors felt real."

For now, according to some experts, interest in online education is starting to stagnate. Major breakthroughs have been made in some fields -- virtual laboratories, the article mentions, are doing worlds of good for students pursuing applied science degreeswithout the danger of chemicals in the field -- but such technology has yet to go mainstream, and some students are choosing to wait for virtual innovations. Until then, however, many students are happy for the convenience and flexibility provided by the technology we have now.

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