Online Education Enters the Workforce


We’ve all seen the statistics.  Deschutes County unemployment rates are hovering at 14 percent this summer and it’s up over 16 percent in Crook County.  That’s staggering for anyone to hear, but especially difficult if you’re among the ranks of the unemployed and realizing that your competition for the next job is going to be fiercer than ever.

For those of us working in the field of education, we’ve seen firsthand that those with college degrees typically experience about half of the unemployment rate as those without degrees. And when college grads are out of work, chances are that they will find a new job faster and that their median pay for that job will be higher. As a result, this economic downturn has become the time to go back to school for many Central Oregonians, but taking that initial plunge can be daunting.  You’re faced with multiple options. Associate’s Degree or Bachelor’s Degree? What field?  Can you hold down a job in the meantime? How much will this degree cost? Adult learners want to make sure that they are making the most of their time, money, and considerable effort.

More often than not, when prospective students begin asking these questions, the idea of online education arises. Certainly it seems to be the ideal situation to work during the day and take classes from home on evenings and weekends. In fact, this seems to be the trend across the nation.  A recent study by the Sloane Consortium has shown that a quarter of all college and university students in this country are taking at least one of their courses online. That calculates to over 4.6
million students.

Since these are the students that I have the privilege of working with each day, I can tell you that this is not the easy route. Successful online students need to be self-disciplined, highly organized, and motivated learners. They need to see the goal in sight and they need a clear roadmap to get there. They need to be able to create a balance between work, family, school, community, and friends.
This balance is never easy and it often takes a period of trial and error. But it is possible. Every term I see students graduate and head into this tough job market with a sense of renewed confidence in their abilities. Their diploma is one that they can be proud of. A degree received through online education can be proof of technological skills, flexibility, self-motivation, and independent thinking.  What employer wouldn’t want to see these skills on your resume?

It’s certainly a worthwhile effort to price various schools and make sure that you’re taking not only the most time-efficient pathway to graduation, but also the most cost-efficient path. Every school has financial aid counselors and academic advisors who will help you chart your path. Use those resources to your advantage. Again, ask questions and expect answers. Your options outside the traditional classroom setting are now more limitless than ever before.

Brenda McDonald is the Regional Director and Academic Advisor at Eastern Oregon University’s Central Oregon Center in Downtown Bend.  She currently works with nearly 150 students completing their bachelor’s degrees online.

EOU-Central Oregon Center
265 NW Franklin Ave, Suite 10, Bend
541-385-1137 or 866-801-6192


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