Higher education and I are old friends. And like old friends, we have the seen the best and worst of each other over the years. Our relationship began over twenty-five years ago, when I attended college right out of high school, moving hundreds of miles away from home to do so. Almost a decade after receiving my undergraduate diploma I went back to school again, this time to pursue a law degree. In both instances, I took the traditional route, living close to the university and attending class on-campus in order to immerse myself in the student lifestyle. Part of that lifestyle, however, was superfluous, in that it made a limited contribution to my overall academic education. Whether it was commuting to school, staying after class to chat with friends, wandering around the campus to locate resources, or going to the bookstore to buy supplies, a reasonable percentage of my “academic” activities were not academic at all, and were instead a time-consuming blend of well-intended distractions (read: goofing off). In fact, a quick cocktail-napkin calculation of how much of my total tuition dollars went towards actual learning resulted in the underwhelming sum of 65%, with the remaining 35% simply vanishing like last term’s class notes.
Now I am in school yet again - this time older and wiser - and digital technology has created market efficiencies where they did not exist before. Quality educational options are more plentiful than I, and perhaps anyone else, could have imagined when I first went to college in 1989. In fact, I would have never even considered a college like Purdue back in those days because it was too far away from my home in California, and the expense of repeatedly traveling the long distance home and back would have been costly and time-consuming. But thanks to the years of continuing advances made in online educational infrastructure, I can now attend a high quality program like Purdue’s Brian Lamb School of Communication without ever leaving the comforts of home. What’s more, I can do so knowing that virtually every dollar I spend goes directly to the academic bottom line, with the added bonus that online tuition is priced below the cost of what many schools charge for on-campus programs. And in addition to getting better value for my money, I spend zero hours commuting to campus, never get lost trying to find a new classroom, and don’t have to search endlessly for a quiet place in the library to study. No matter what school you go to, it’s hard to beat a combination of benefits like that.
Obviously, online education is not appropriate or relevant for everyone. For some students, part of the higher education experience includes the esprit de corps created by intimate associations with fellow learners, professors, and broad campus traditions. To others, it means pursuing extracurricular activities as much, if not more so, than academic opportunities. And then there are those who just want to drink beer and have fun, who regard classroom attendance as a rude interruption to nap time. At one point or another, I have been all three of these people, with varying degrees of success. But that was then and this now, and what I needed most when I decided to go back to college one last time was an exceptional education with on-demand accessibility, and that had the same basic standards and accreditations as an on-campus program but at a much more competitive price. Thankfully, Purdue University met all of my criteria and then some. Perhaps one day they will meet your educational needs, too!
Scott Camp is a student in Purdue’s online Master of Science in Communication degree program. The program can be completed in just 20 months and covers numerous topics critical for advancement in the communication industry, including crisis communication, social media engagement, focus group planning and implementation, survey design and survey analysis, public relations theory, professional writing, and communication ethics.
*The views and opinions expressed are of the author and do not represent the Brian Lamb School of Communication.