Isabel Chavez says she spent about $50,000 to earn an online masters in mental health counseling from Nova Southeastern University, a private school about 60 miles from her home in Boca Raton. It was the only way she could have juggled school, young children and a catering business, she says. The experience was wonderful.
But she advises weighing the cost carefully. I dont think people are being educated on the reality of student loans and how much they have to pay back on a monthly basis. If people really thought through what they were going to do with their online degree before getting into debt, they might reconsider, she says.
Chavez, who graduated in December 2011, says for her, it was necessary debt to accomplish her goal of becoming a life coach, or to work in Florida as a therapist. She now has her own business, LifeUP! Coaching . Having the degree gives me a lot more creditability with my target demographic.
Southall Watts, the author, says budgeting knowing how youre going to pay for classes and how your degree will pay off will help you stay motivated in an online program. You have to seriously think through where you are, where you want to be and what your resources are to pay for your back-to-school experience.
Mohamed Abdalla says he has carefully thought through his educational plan. He works at Lynn University in admissions and uses his spare time to earn an MBA degree from the private college in Boca Raton. He began the program in January and plans to use the knowledge learned in the MBA program to run a private aviation fueling business.
Abdalla, 24, has found the only way he could complete his MBA degree in a reasonable time frame would be combining brick-and-mortar classes with online learning. So far, he finds online classes more conducive to balancing academic and job commitments and has just taken two eight-week courses in a row.
I can sit home or on a plane or in a hotel and have the ability to do my class work. Abdalla says he was reluctant, at first. I felt like students who took online courses got lost. Instead, he has found professors extremely responsive, usually answering questions by email within a few hours.
Espinosa, a legal administrator with Zarco, Einhorn, Salkowski & Brito in Miami, says she too enjoys the unexpected interaction with teachers via an Internet portal; in her case, all are Miami-Dade Circuit Court judges. I feel like its worth my time because they do get to know your work and your name.
As schools offer more online learning options, businesses are beginning to see the benefits, too. Law firms, technology companies and others are offering more of their training and continuing education courses virtually. Paul Berkowitz, a shareholder with Greenberg Traurig, says he participates in at least one online course every few weeks that the firm offers some are live, others replayed. It allows me to keep up with new issues and aspects of law.
As technology evolves, he says, his company has improved its offerings to make some courses more interactive. The firm now offers an average of four training webinars a week nationally and saw nearly a 40 percent jump in attendance in 2012.
Meanwhile, Elam says she is bullish on the growth of online education particularly for mid career professionals. You do need little bit of maturity. It really is more successful for working professionals that have some experience in balancing different demands on their time.
Columnist Cindy Krischer Goodman is a provider of news and advice on how to balance work and life. Connect with her at email@example.com or visit worklifebalancingact.com.