Online learning brings college closer to home

Well, spring is finally here. That means that snow and cold weather are behind us. It also means that outdoor activities will soon assume greater importance in our lives. But for many high school seniors it has additional significance: it means that in only six months they will be off to college.

College-bound students have either wrapped up the important details associated with their upcoming college adventures or are busily attempting to do so. They have to line up scholarships, loans or other sources of money. They also must be sure they have school acceptance letters in hand. This last item is particularly important because many high school seniors view acceptance by and graduation from a “name” school as a prerequisite to the good live (white collar job, a BMW, American Express Gold card, etc.).

I’m sure many conversations among high school students nowadays revolve around who was accepted at which prestige school and so forth. It is a status thing a supposed indicator of the individual’s worth. But is that even remotely true? Is a person any the less important to our society just because he or she never attends a big-name school, either because of limited finances or missed opportunities? I don’t think so. Further, in the hopes of encouraging young adults top “think big” in their college plans regardless of their financial condition I’d like to suggest an alternative to traditional brick-and-mortar schools: online education.

Overall expenses for a college student can be cut in half if he or she participates in an online education program. The student can continue to live at home, thus avoiding room, board and transportation expenses. Further, opportunities for part-time jobs are better in the student’s home community than on a college campus. But does that mean the student will have to take classes from a no-name school? Not at all!

How about Old Dominion University? A student can attend traditional classes in Norfolk or complete degree requirements from home, since ODU has online programs in business, engineering and health sciences. Learn more at

Does the student want to follow in the footsteps of a parent or relative who attended Penn State University? That prestigious school has an online program that leads to a bachelor’s degree in arts and sciences just the thing for a liberal education or as a prerequisite for law school. Go to for information.

How about the University of Maryland at nearby College Park? That popular school offers online bachelor’s degrees in communications studies, psychology and social sciences. A complete description of online programs can be found at

I have two final comments. First, students should also consider completing their first two years of college in an online environment and then transferring to a brick-and-mortar school. Northern Virginia Community College offers a vast array of accredited online courses through its Extended Learning Institute. A big plus for NVCC is its low tuition for in-state students. You can learn more at Second, students should make sure that the school they select has been accredited by one of six regional accrediting associations. A statement to that effect should appear in the school’s catalog. Good luck!

Gary Jacobsen lives in Woodbridge.

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