Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Good Source of Free Online Courses

Free online courses are always appearing on the internet, and Annenberg Learner offers an interesting variety of them. There's an assortment of traditional college courses which are presented in the form of online video documentaries. Two foreign language courses are on offer, French in Action and two levels of the Destinos Spanish course. There's also a variety of history courses. One blogger thinks that the course A Biography of America could replace traditional history textbooks. Annenberg Learner might also be considered as a way to homeschool the "tough" high school subjects, as there are courses in chemistry, physics, microbiology, and statistics. Documentary series often present the material in a more entertaining and easy-to-absorb fashion than traditional textbooks, so Annenberg Learner might be worth a look.

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Monday, February 14, 2011

When a Community College Offers Bachelor's Degrees

Community colleges have long been a low cost alternative to universities, and many students have been able to graduate from these schools with no student loan debt. Not only do they offer lower tuition, they also offer classes at more convenient times for working adults. Community colleges are normally located within a short driving distance and are easily accessable by public transportation, making the costs of a college dorm unnecessary. All of these advantages are set off by only one disadvantage. At most community colleges, the highest degree you can get is an associate's degree.

A small, but growing number of community colleges are beginning to offer bachelor's degrees. Brazosport College in Lake Jackson, Texas offers a bachelor's degree in industrial technology. According to Community College Week, it was recently named on a list of four community colleges which are about to lose all of their state funding, despite the fact that the enrollment there is higher than it has ever been. Opinion seems to be divided as to whether or not Brazosport will have to close.

I can't help wondering if this is an effort by the large universities to prevent this lower priced competitor. If all community colleges offered bachelor's degrees, the universities would see a considerable drop in their enrollment numbers. Many students do their first two years of college at a community college, and then finish the degree at a large university. This group would probably finish their bachelor's degrees at the community college if it were possible. The state universities would also suffer image wise. In recent years, they've become associated with using tax money to build rock climbing walls, gourmet food courts, and state-of-the-art sports stadiums. If community colleges became an option to get a no-frills bachelor's degree, people would question the need for the large universities, as their image as party houses would only get worse. Life on campus would continue to deteriorate as more rowdies would arrive, and the serious students would stay away.

Hopefully, Brazosport College will stay open, and the number of community colleges offering bachelor's degrees will continue to grow. These schools are proving that a college education is possible without massive costs and a lifetime of debt. I only wish that they had thought of this sooner, as I once lived near a community college where I would have gotten a four year degree had they been offered.

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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Hourly Cost of College

Many people are thinking about the fact that college is getting increasingly expensive. According to the College Board, the average tuition at a public four-year college is $7,605, or $3,802.50 per semester. Presuming the student is taking 12 credit hours per semester, or four courses worth three credits each, that means that each course costs approximately $950. If the course meets three times a week, that means with a total of 42 class meetings, each meeting costs $22.62. College costs nearly $23 an hour, and that's not including textbooks, room and board, or any other additional costs.

For $23, the average class meeting doesn't cover much ground. A student studying the books at home could probably cover more ground during that hour than would be covered if he spent it in a classroom.This option also saves the transportation costs, and the student doesn't have to learn at a set time. It's often possible to find a suitable self-study book for less than $23, or even for free if you use library books. If you miss a class meeting on a college campus, that $23 is gone with nothing to show for it.

The colleges must be taking in a tremendous amount of money. If a class contains 30 students, the university has taken in $690 brutto for only one hour. A class in a large lecture hall with 100 students takes in $2300 for that same hour. Now imagine this occuring simultaneously in many classrooms campus-wide, all day, five days a week, all semester. Admittedly, the colleges do have the expenses of professors, staff, maintenance, etc., but a lot of the money which the schools take in these days is spent on non-essentials like huge sports stadiums, climbing walls, and other resort-style trappings. They charge a lot of money for things which you can mostly learn at home by yourself from books and the internet. Is doing college the old-fashioned way really worth it?

Truth in Higher Education