Until recently, higher educational opportunities were often limited to those who had a lot of time and money. Even if a person was bright enough or financially needy enough to earn a scholarship, they might not have had the time to invest in earning a degree. After all, work and home responsibilities can be full-time jobs themselves. Education was also largely limited to able-bodied people since many schools have limited wheelchair access. Fortunately, the Internet has helped to level the playing field. Millions of Americans are now earning degrees online. They are finding lower-cost options that fit their busy schedules.
Online programs are very likely to endure. Enrollment rates have been sharply increasing. About 3.2 million students were enrolled online for the Fall 2005 term, and this reflected a 35% increase over the previous school year. Online enrollment has continued to climb.
When 2500 educational institutions were surveyed in 2002, they expected their online enrollments to increase by about 20% over the coming year and traditional enrollment to increase by about 1%. Almost 60% believed that online course offerings were critical in their schools’ long-term plans, and the University System of Maryland now requires students to earn at least 12 credits outside of the traditional classroom in response to physical space constraints. As the current generation of technology-savvy students moves into the teaching profession, it is likely that online learning will continue to grow.