• Dartmouth Advances Online Education in the Ivy League

    Ivy League universities are often held synonymous with rich tradition, world-class professors, and sprawling, sophisticated campuses. With the name and the resources come the infamous high tuitions. However, with advances in online education, several top-tier schools are piloting new and innovative ways to make their programs more accessible to prospective students without compromising their reputation or admissions criteria. One recent example is Dartmouth University.

    Beginning in July 2011, Dartmouth will offer an 18-month Master of Healthcare Delivery Science program, primarily online. The program, initiated by Dartmouth's Tuck business school is the first for the college but likely will not be it’s last. Identifying the growing trend in online education, Tuck's associate Dean, Robert Hansen, hopes to prepare Dartmouth for the future. "We don't know how the entire industry is going to reorganize,” says Hansen, "all we can do is prepare them for change."

    With Dartmouth's name behind it, the online master's degree comes backed with a solid reputation, making it extremely attractive to highly qualified prospective students. The course cannot be fully completed exclusively online, as the degree requires each student to spend a minimum of six weeks on Dartmouth’s campus. In addition to this, tuition is still quite significant at $85,000. The university also plans to limit seats to keep the relationship between students and professors as intimate as possible.

    Other Ivy League schools such as Harvard and Cornell offer several online certificate programs across various subject areas. Tuition costs are much lower, ranging from $2,500 to $10,000, and allow more students to enroll, compared to Dartmouth's projected limit of 50 seats. These courses may be taken for extra credit or simply because they interest the student. However the completion of these programs only rewards a certificate, not a degree.

    The University of Pennsylvania and Yale have also made forays into the world of online education. Both universities offer free class videos and forums in addition to their specialized class certification programs.

    Dartmouth’s announcement is unprecedented because completion of this majority online program results in a student being awarded a prestigious Ivy League degree. Perhaps this explains why its cost and exclusivity rivals that of Dartmouth’s traditional campus-based programs.

    According to Dean Hansen, "This is our first significant foray into distance education." If Dartmouth’s announcement is a sign of things to come, it is not difficult to imagine a not-too-distant future where it is commonplace for Ivy League universities and other top-tier schools to offer a variety of complete degree programs, completely online.

    Non-Profit vs. For-Profit Education: Understanding the Difference

    Excerpt: The recent growth in the for-profit education sector in the United States may sometimes confuse prospective students about the distinctions…

    The recent growth in the for-profit education sector in the United States may sometimes confuse prospective students about the distinctions between these two types of schools. The key difference between a non-profit and a for-profit school lies in the financial objectives of the institution. A non-profit or "traditional" school does not seek to earn a profit for providing educational services, while a for-profit school is run more like a business and must therefore charge students a tuition that will generate a profit margin. The non-profit school category can include both public universities like the University of Michigan, and private universities like Harvard University. While these schools are called "non-profit," students will pay tuition to attend these education institutions. However, the school does not run as a business and will only charge student fees high enough to cover their operating costs. These institutions normally receive more financial support through their research activities, public funds, private donations, or likely, all of these funding sources will contribute.

    According to the U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor & Pensions, for-profit education has experienced a boom in the United States, with enrollment in for-profit schools increasing 225% from 1998 to 2008. However, for-profit education still represents a small portion of the overall post-secondary education sector, with less than 10% of all higher education students. While for-profit education has expanded significantly in recent years, most of these institutions are relatively new, whereas non-profit schools have long histories and established reputations. Non-profits are also more likely to have extensive alumni networks because their long histories have allowed for larger numbers of students pass through their doors.

    For-profit schools like the University of Phoenix actively recruit students, as any other business would advertise for customers. Since students are viewed by for-profit schools as customers, for-profit schools can be more responsive to student complaints. They are also interested in showing the success of past students at getting jobs in their chosen fields. As a result, for-profit schools are more focused on career training, certificates, and practical training for students to apply directly to jobs when they finish their programs. Despite this, government data has shown that students who attended for-profit schools default on their student loans at higher rates than those who attend non-profit schools, which has led to scrutiny of federal education funds being available to students who attend these schools. However, no reason has been given to explain why students who attend for-profit schools default at higher rates.

    For-profit schools generally have a strong interest in making their curriculum accessible to a variety of students. They typically have branches in multiple cities, offer night and weekend classes, and frequently make entire degree programs available online. These offerings expand opportunities for students who would otherwise be unable to complete degree programs at traditional, non-profit institutions because of the distance from campuses or the need to work while completing their schooling.

    Non-profit colleges and universities are also increasingly starting to recognize the benefits of distance education and have expanded their online and evening course offerings to accommodate the modern student. Still, it is widely acknowledged the physical location of a traditional school helps to strengthen its alumni network, since all students attend classes on the same campus and share similar experiences which they can later reminisce about. Alumni networks are invaluable to graduates attempting to begin their careers.

    Regardless of whether a student chooses to attend a for-profit or non-profit school, it is important to make sure the school is accredited, and to understand the type of accreditation <link to De-Mystifying Accreditation article> it has received. In order to be considered legitimate, a college or university’s accreditation must be recognized by the U.S. Department of Education. Otherwise it may not be accepted in a chosen career field, or for purposes of continuing education. Therefore, when comparing schools, students should choose the program that best meets their needs, while also taking into account the school’s overall reputation and the type of accreditation it has received.

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