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Survey of Online Students: Most Seeking Degrees, Concerned About Cost, Aid, Transfer

Learning House and Aslanian Market Research’s 2014 report is their third annual survey of online students, which queried 1,500 students about their reasons for seeking online programs, the factors they considered, their satisfaction, how they planned to pay for their programs, and their concerns about credit transfer. Respondents had to be at least 18 years of age, had a minimum of a high school degree or equivalent, and were recently enrolled, currently enrolled, or planning to enroll in the next twelve months in a fully online undergraduate or graduate degree, certificate, or licensure program. While respondents had to be at least 18, most (72 percent) were between the ages of 21 and 44. More than half were married or had a partner, about two-thirds were female, and nearly half had one or more children under the age of 18. More than half had a total household income below $55,000.

Key findings include the following:

  • 88 percent of those surveyed were seeking degrees, 10 percent were interested in or enrolled in certificate programs, and another 3 percent were interested or enrolled in licensure programs. Among the degree seekers, 24 percent were enrolled or interested in an associate degree program, 33 percent in a bachelor’s degree program, 39 percent in a master’s degree program, and 4 percent in a doctoral program.
  • Respondents indicated that their top three criteria for selecting their online programs were the overall reputation of the college or university (25%), tuition and fees (24%), and no set class meeting times (19%).
  • While tuition and fees were among the top reasons for selecting a program, 66 percent of undergraduate respondents did not select the least expensive program.
  • Half of respondents indicated that financial aid was essential for enrollment, but only 17 percent said they would not attend if financial aid did not cover the cost.
  • Increasing percentages of respondents plan to pay for their programs using student loans and other financial aid only—40 percent in 2014, up from 31 percent in 2012. Undergraduates are more dependent on loans and aid, with 49 percent indicating they planned to rely on both.
  • About 80 percent of the surveyed undergraduate students indicated that they had credits to transfer when enrolling in their current online program. Credit transfer, including the amount of credit accepted, the ease of finding information about credit transfer, and the time it took to learn how many credits were accepted–was important to about 80 percent of respondents.
  • Most respondents indicated that their employment status had not changed following program completion (58 percent; most had not received a raise or promotion following completion (67 percent).

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