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Investing in Yourself: Why an Online Degree Makes Sense in a Recession

Professional investors and 401(k) owners alike have had to digest a lot in the past few months as investment strategies have been turned upside down. With staggering losses everywhere, it takes a good bit of looking to find the handful of companies with short term upside potential. Companies specializing in low-cost products such as McDonald’s and Wal-Mart have grown in this tumultuous climate, but it’s not only the cost conscious industries that are benefiting; online educational institutions have high expectations as well.

Higher education seems like anything but a value industry given the exorbitant costs of obtaining a degree. Even as the nation is experiencing the lowest inflation rates in some fifty years, the cost of a degree cannot be expected to follow suit. Higher education costs have historically risen at high rates in times of recession, but steady enrollments during these financial downturns have allowed for such rate hikes to succeed.

For many, however, the real value in online colleges and universities is not to be found by adding them to a stock portfolio but by enrolling in a degree program. Enrollments are growing steadily as people fearing or affected by job loss flock to degree programs that will ultimately increase their marketability. Savvy workers, seeking to shore up their employability or change careers, are wise to consider whether earning a degree will better position them for success in a tumultuous marketplace. One must find a program that meets their career needs, fits within their time and location constraints, and is still somehow affordable. But if these hurdles are overcome, higher education can indeed become a value in the long term.

Online programs vary widely in cost. Some are cheaper then their traditional equivalents, many are the same. But the flexibility that online degrees provide allows many students to remain gainfully employed, complete courses from any location, work on their own time schedule, and save on transportation costs. This is the real value-add.

Institutions of higher education are positioning themselves for success in the downturn. According to the 2008 Sloan Consortium Survey of Online Learning, institutions that provide online education, ranging from specialty certificates through terminal doctoral degrees, believe that this economic down turn will have an “important” or “very important” impact on enrollment numbers.

For individuals seeking to position themselves for success via an online degree, finding a program that best suits their needs is best done at a keyboard. There are numerous online directories of distance degree programs. In order to ensure that such an educational investment isn’t of junk grade quality, check that the university is regionally accredited and has experience delivering online courses.
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