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Online Schooling Picks Up Students—and Respect
CNBC.com | September 04, 2009 | 03:35 PM EDT

Thanks to the recession, Internet schooling is taking on growing importance—and gaining acceptance.

The huge cost of a higher education—plus the need by many laid off workers to learn new skills—has sparked a sharp increase in the number of people taking online courses. And online degrees, especially from well-known institutions, are gaining acceptance among educators and employers.

Some 3.94 million people were enrolled in at least one online course in fall 2007, up 12.9% from 2006, according to studies by Sloan Consortium, an online education service provider. By contrast, the overall enrollment in higher education during that period only grew at a 1.6% rate.

The enrollment number for this year, coming out in November, is expected to be considerably higher. Today, almost 85% of college students are taking online courses of some kind.

“The recession has been a bonanza for the online education industry,” says Frank Mayadas, program director at Sloan Foundation, an advocacy group for education and parent of Sloan Consortium. “It comes as a result of a mixture of pursuit for convenience, fear for job loss and desire to recharge while unemployed.”

As unemployment rate spikes to near 10%, more working adults are taking online courses either to find a better job or to keep their jobs.

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