(CBS) — It’s not quite the college experience. No dorms, no classrooms, no late-night parties.
But, as CBS 2’s Ed Curran reports, online classes are the only way for some to get a degree.
Gayle Andrews went to Ball State for a year, but never finished. Now, with two kids and working from her rural Indiana home, she’s thinking about the degree she’s always wanted.
“It’s just that one thing that’s always been in the back of my mind, ‘I should’ve completed this. I need to complete this,’” she says.
So, Andrews is back at Ball State — on her computer. She’s taking 12 credit hours, including geology, geography and medical sociology.
The university offers 26 online degrees, including bachelor’s and digital doctorates. It’s a growing revenue stream for online schools that offer laptops.
“Eighty-five percent of all online degrees are offered by traditional, residential schools. This includes state universities, large public brand names, Ivy League schools,” says Vicky Phillips, founder geteducated.com, says.
In fact, more than 60 percent of all colleges now offer online programs that allow you to complete your degree or to earn one from start to finish. And every year they add more.
The University of Illinois is one example. In 1996, it offered just one online program across its three campuses. Today it offers 114.
Last year, about 500,000 additional students began their online education. But some experts worry they’re missing something.
“If you ask most students two months after graduation what do they remember about their college experience, most of them remember the interpersonal interactions they had. They remember the social experiences. That’s much harder to do in an entirely online experience,” says Kevin Kruger, president and CEO of NASPA, Student Affairs Administrators in Higher Education.
Cyber-student Amy Morgan agrees.
“You don’t have your peers. We have online discussion boards, but it’s a little bit different,” she says.
Despite that one downside, she loves attending Arizona State online because of the convenience factor. It works well with her job as a flight attendant.
“I do have a lot of down time, in hotel rooms, with delays in the airports,” Morgan says.
Morgan plans to be in Tempe in 18 months to get her diploma. Andrews will graduate in cap and gown at Ball State in July.
In many cases, online courses are priced pretty much the same as being on campus. But you don’t have housing and other related college costs. And you don’t have to give up your day job.