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Demand Driven

by Monica Smith

Jun 11, 2019, 9:00 AM.

With over 100 online degree choices, FIU Online serves working learners and addresses the needs of today's workforce.

Reality check—if you have a college degree, you are likely to get paid more than those who do not. And it’s not just about pay. A college degree offers a greater number and wider variety of opportunities. But for many individuals, this reality is coupled with the need to hold down full-time or part-time jobs to meet the multiple demands of day-to-day life.

In response to the demand from its working learners and to help close the pay gap, Florida International University has grown its online learning offerings to more than 100 fully online degrees. The university combines access and variety while it maintains quality standards. FIU’s online learners reap the benefits of a more dynamic and engaging learning environment that compliments their current lifestyle needs.

The Working Student

Trends indicate that today’s learners need flexibility to complete their educational goals while being able meet life obligations, and these trends have increased the urgency for non-traditional online education. According to Inside Higher Ed, a third of all higher education students take at least one online course allowing them to meet their work- and life-balance needs. Currently, the majority of FIU’s online students live within a two-hour radius of the university. For many, like Grace Melvin, a second-year undergrad, degrees and courses offered online are not optional, they are necessary for helping to balance caregiving and economic demands.  

“I take the majority of my classes online because it’s convenient for me. I work and online courses offer me the ability to study on my own time to meet course deadlines,” explained Melvin, who finds that online courses are helping her stay on track to graduate in four years. They also help her manage her busy work life. Melvin’s primary job is part-time, and she also works two other separate jobs to pick up where her financial aid leaves off.

“The benefit of online courses for me is that they allow me to fulfill my personal obligations while still being able to manage the demands of earning a degree,” said Melvin, who hopes to be accepted into the fully online bachelor’s degree program in Computer Science. “I’m earning my degree so I can prepare for and work in a field that interests me.”

New Degree Offerings Mean Increased Opportunities

Today’s graduates are prepared to enter the best U.S. job market the nation has had in a long time. FIU’s online programs are designed to provide students with options. New degree offerings are incorporated as products of necessity to increase learner opportunities and to help bridge the skills gap.

“We have been working hard to make available a greater number of degree options to provide the upward mobility students come to expect when they make the commitment to earning a higher education degree,” said Joseph Riquelme, assistant vice president of FIU Online. “As an organization, FIU Online continues to leverage innovative technology to develop dynamic online learning environments, even for more complex STEM programs.”

Along with more than 20 STEM programs at the graduate and undergraduate level, Riquelme also stated that additions include liberal arts bachelor’s degrees, such as the new online Economics degree, an English degree in Writing and Rhetoric, as well as the suite of master’s degrees in Hospitality Management. The variety of program and course offerings are now more likely than ever to meet students’ academic aspirations.

Research shows that the proportion of low-income students has risen dramatically to more than half of all college student enrollments. Despite the need for higher education in today’s market, costs and financial aid still remain a top concern for students. Naturally, many students, including those who are in lower socioeconomic standing, need to work to cover basic living expenses as well as the indirect and direct costs associated with going to college.

Access and Quality

While many trends are feeding into the growth of online education, FIU Online is sensitive to the population it serves and caliber of education it provides.

“Online education is meeting the needs for learners to reach career-related goals through quality education,” stated Riquelme. “FIU leads the nation in Quality Matters certified courses to ensure our students are receiving the best in the industry.”

The QM process is rigorous as courses are peer reviewed for their design aspects and the impact the course can have on learning outcomes. 

With more than 200,000 alumni, including thousands of graduates from fully online programs since the launch of FIU Online in 1998, FIU continues to be dedicated to enriching the lives of students through top-ranked, online education with options that deliver the skills needed for today’s workforce.

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