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October 21, 2016

How Student Debt Is Changes Our View on Education

Student debt is something that many economists fear could have a very serious impact on our economy in the near future, and may well be the next debt crisis we face as a nation – as well as one that may have consequences in other countries where student loans are a common factor. For graduates, the matter of paying off all of the debt accrued after college is a huge burden, and one that many can't comfortably handle with the kind of employment they are able to get straight out of college. For young people from families without sufficient college savings, student debt may be scary enough to actually avoid or put off gaining a college degree at all.

Education is Changing

However, there are some ways that the looming shadow of student debt, and the alternatives people are seeking to get around the problem while still getting the education they want, are actually changing how we see degrees and college education as a nation.

The Growth of the Online Degree

Online degrees have been around in one form or another for almost as long as mainstream internet, however it is really only in the past ten years that they have begun to be seen as being ascredible as degrees taken on campus – and to some people's minds, even as a better way of learning and imparting education. This is partly because advances in technology like smartphones and online streaming have made it possible to deliver education online in more effective ways. Students now taking things like online business degrees can have access to top tutors from their chosen college (with many good colleges offering online courses), can network with others from their cohort, and can join live streamed lectures, as well as simply being able to read materials online.

Will Online Degrees Become the Norm as Fears Around Student Debt Rise?

Student debt is a problem that isn't likely to be resolved easily on a national level, however on an individual level, for those who have not yet incurred debt, it is clear to see that online universities are becoming an ever more appealing prospect. This could even lead to education delivered all or part online becoming more common than classroom teaching and college attendance. While there has been lots of talk about the relationship between online teaching and the future of education at all levels, it is likely that every change and innovation will come at the college level – where cost to the student is a major driving factor – than in high schools and below.

While there will always be some courses where students need hands on training or access to university resources like labs, for those that are mostly studied theoretically and via lectures and written materials, such as an online bachelors in business, online learning could very soon overtake going to college by giving students a way to gain their qualification with little or no debt.

The views and opinions expressed herein are the author's own, and do not necessarily reflect those of EconMatters.

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