The online news source, Inside Higher Ed, analyzed the latest statistics from the federal government’s data on students enrolled in distance education courses and concluded that the online education market showed “no discernible growth” between the fall of 2012 and 2013.
Pace’s experience with online education is much different. iPace, Pace’s online degree completion program, is growing. The program began with 15 students during its inaugural fall 2011 semester, and has grown to more than 250 students enrolled in iPace programs this past semester. From fall 2012 to fall 2013 iPace enrollment doubled.
One reason for Pace’s success in this area is our approach to online degree programs. Pace’s historic mission of Opportunitas has always included the type of students most interested in online learning—students who need quality, flexible education programs that fit into their busy and demanding working lives.
Years ago, many Pace students earned degrees by attending evening classes part-time. Many of these students couldn’t afford to attend college full-time, or they juggled full-time jobs and family responsibilities and couldn’t commit to full-time class schedules. Pace helped these students become thinking professionals and move beyond their means. Today there are 54 million working adults in the US with some college experience or an associate’s degree, but no bachelor’s degree. Many of these adults are veterans and members of the military. Offering online degrees and online degree completion programs allows Pace to offer a 21st century opportunity built on our century-old mission and help even more students realize their dreams of a college diploma.
Pace faculty members are experts at combining liberal education, professional preparation, and real-world experiential opportunities —perfect for iPace students who have work experience and want to integrate their professional lives into their educations. iPace currently offers five degree completion programs—a BBA in Business Studies with concentrations in marketing and management and accounting and internal auditing, a BS in Professional Communication Studies, a BS in Professional Technology Studies with a concentration in computer forensics, a BS in Nursing, and an associate degree in Arts and Sciences. Each degree is designed for students who need convenience and flexibility in order to earn a degree.
I attended the iPace Commencement ceremonies last year. The joy and pride that permeated the room was infectious. Many graduates had never been in the same room with their faculty, advisers, and classmates before. Everyone was very happy to connect in person. Watching them match familiar names to unknown faces was a delight. Two graduates also spoke. They told us how much their degrees meant to them at a time in their lives when receiving a diploma was either a distant memory or unfulfilled dream for their peers. They were also overjoyed to share their accomplishments with spouses and children. The experience reminded me that life-long learning has many benefits beyond the diploma.