Until recently, traditional education was all there was: Students in their late teens and early twenties attended school and went on to the workplace. Nontraditional students-anyone outside of the eighteen- to twenty-five-year-old age range, including working and single mothers, women reentering education after raising a family, and working professionals – had to sacrifice a great deal of their everyday lives to pursue an accredited higher education. Some just gave up.
Not all that long ago, education was restricted to the rich (source). Universities were reserved for the training of a social elite, and working people could not manage its high cost. Post-secondary education for everyone is a modern achievement. With the improvement of the standard of living across the world in general and in the United States in particular, education became more affordable. Especially with the GI Bill after World War II, more people-at least, more men-in the United States could afford to attend colleges and universities. Women and minorities gradually began pursuing higher education in greater numbers as well.
During the last decade, however, the cost of education has begun to increase dramatically (source). Once again, education for everyone is threatened. If the cost of higher education continues to increase at such a rapid rate, at a time when more and more people want and need it, we could be returning to a traditional situation of exclusivity. If it costs too much to go to college, then the old situation will come around again, and higher education will again be only for the rich.
The direct cost of education consists of tuition and fees, books, lab fees (example), and other expenses such as dissertation writing services. These are increasing at a rapid rate. At the same time, the standard of living and discretionary income are increasing at a slower rate. In other words, the direct cost of education is rising too quickly for comfort, and more and more students must borrow money to attend college. This trend threatens to deprive the nation of the most important resource it has: educated and knowledgeable individuals.
The indirect cost of education is defined as any cost other than tuition, fees, and books. Consider the time you spend commuting to a college or a training location. Economists call this expense of time “opportunities forgone”: All the things you could have been doing during that time-if you were not tied up in commuting to school-are opportunities forgone.
Now calculate how much money you could have earned if your schedule was more flexible. Add the price of public transportation to get to school, or the cost of gas, parking, insurance, and wear and tear on your car. Do not forget to take into account the cost of meals or snacks at school, clothing, child care, and the many other incidental expenses that are associated with going to college.
Compare these costs to the cost of staying at home or in the workplace to take your courses. This should give you an initial idea of the savings that distance learning can provide for you. If you extrapolate these savings over the time period required for you to get a degree, you will see that this represents a considerable amount of money.