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College Degrees Wanted -- and Online Education Could Help

There are more students in college nowadays than ever before -- but education officials are saying it's still not enough to fill the growing number of career opportunities requiring college graduates.

There are certainly roadblocks along the way. According to the Sun-Herald, The Southern Regional Education Board has released its 2009 "Fact Book on Higher Education," and it is noted that costs at many colleges are rising even faster than graduation rates. Nevertheless, Education Board officials have stated that they would like to see an attendance and graduation turnaround, especially in a few chosen fields. In particular, officials expressed a strong desire to see some "key demographic groups" actively pursuing such programs as teaching degrees.

With rising college costs and the country's current economic hardships, many are turning to alternative options to get their college degrees. Online degrees in particular are becoming more and more accepted in mainstream education culture -- they offer students the freedom to study and pursue any number of degree programs, from course certificates to bachelor degrees and master degrees, while still allowing the time and flexibility to manage one's family life and keep up with a current career. The Keene Sentinel reported on Friday that roughly 4 million people enrolled in an online college course in 2007's fall semester, according to a survey of over 2000 individual colleges and universities.

However, as legitimacy overall has come to online colleges, the experts are careful to stress the utmost importance of accreditation and recognition when it comes to choosing the right school for you. A degree from an online program will hold its own against degrees earned in a classroom, one experienced Keene-based hiring manager mentioned, as long as "it is in an accredited, reputable program coming from an accredited, reputable educational institution." Another hiring manager at a popular employment services firm asserted that, these days, an online degree "carries the same weight as one from an established bricks-and-mortar institution," and furthermore that "if a person has acquired a degree through online education I think it's appreciated ... It shows great motivation on the applicant's part."

Education officials aren't giving up on motivating more adults to consider going back to school, whether traditionally or online. As Hank Bounds, Mississippi's state commissioner of higher education, stated on behalf of Southern Regional Education Board officials: "in these tough economic times, a more educated citizenry should be of the highest priority."

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