Online learning gains popularity with the under-25 crowd

It's not just for adults anymore

Undergraduate online-only programs are becoming more popular with students under 25-years-old, according to a new report from Aslanian Market Research and The Learning House.

In a survey of approximately 1,500 undergraduate and graduates students who were, are, or planned to be enrolled in spring 2015 online programs.

The findings, released this month, show that 34% of undergraduate online students were younger than 25—an increase from 25% in 2012. The same age group also increased its share of the graduate student body, growing from 13% in 2012 to 19% this year.

Study authors say the uptick in younger students may be because of two major factors: awareness of online programs and pressure to simultaneously work and go to school. 

Online enrollment slows, but still beats traditional enrollment

Yet despite being able to enter the digital classroom from anywhere, 50% of online students live within 50 miles of campus and 65% fall with 100 miles.

That is probably because universities target prospective students in their region, says Joel Hartman, University of Central Florida's vice provost for information technologies and resources.

When choosing an online program, cost is becoming more of a factor, according to the report. This year, 45% of respondents said they chose the cheapest option compared with 30% who reported the same in 2014.

The second most important factor was the time commitment for study and flexibility in class times.

Additional findings include:

  • 70% of students were female, possibly because the fields women generally enter—such as social services and health—require continuing education;
  • Students are divided on whether they prefer face-to-face courses and the way they interact with faculty members;
  • Overall, prospective students do not care whether an institution is for-profit or non-profit;
  • Being able to self-motivate, and the quality and cost of online education were students' most frequently reported concerns; and
  • Business administration was the most popular program, followed by nursing (Haynie, U.S. News & World Report, 7/17).

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