All things being equal, it’s hard to imagine that most adult students wouldn’t choose to attend college online. Unlike their 19 and 20-year-old counterparts, working adult students aren’t concerned with fraternities and sports teams. They want to expand their knowledge base and master the necessary career skills as efficiently as possible. Online programs allow the kinds of flexible course and semester schedules that are conducive to busy lives.
But up until now, all things haven’t been equal – particularly with regard to employer perceptions of online degrees. Even though 2006 saw more than 1.5 million students enrolled in fully online degree programs, HR professionals weren’t exactly overwhelmed by applicants with e-learning credentials on their resumes.
That attitude is changing, according to a study released by the Society for Human Resource Management (SHRM), and commissioned by the online college resource, eLearners.com. Today, 87 percent of human resource authorities surveyed agreed that online degrees are viewed more favorably than they were 5 years ago. Of the 449 randomly surveyed HR professionals, 70 percent also disagreed with the stigma that online students display less self-discipline or inferior time-management skills.
SHRM’s findings couldn’t be more timely, especially in light of projections – like the one made by Carol Aslanian, SVP of Marketing & Advisory Services at the higher education marketing firm, EducationDynamics – that by 2014, nearly 20% of all college students will be pursuing their education entirely online.
Others have pointed out that online degrees (in addition to community colleges) may be the most viable workaround for the growing problem of unaffordable higher education. Universities that shift certain courses or entire degree offerings online are able to reduce institutional costs and accommodate more students. And a recent piece from U.S. News & World Report highlighted the growing niche of online degree completion programs, which target working adults who never finished their studies at traditional institutions.
All told, heightened employer confidence in online credentials will bode well for Boston employees hoping to take advantage of advancement opportunities – perhaps through their companies’ tuition reimbursement programs. Five years ago, a Boston-based profile on such programs lacked any mention of online college/employer partnerships. Tomorrow, the story is projected to be a very different one.
A visual interpretation of the SHRM survey data can be found in this infographic.