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Higher education looks a lot different than it did a decade or two ago.

The computer age has changed nearly every aspect of life, and that includes college life. A few generations ago, those who wanted to earn degrees had two choices. They could either attend a two-year community institution before transferring to a local university, or they could go away to school and live in dormitories on distant campuses. The latter option was more costly, but both entailed significant outlays of money on the part of attendees. Fortunately, even though the price of a degree has risen considerably, there are many more ways to earn one, and a few are even cost-efficient.

Today’s pupils have the advantage of taking some or all of their coursework online, choosing self-paced classes or attending weekend-only video sessions on their way to graduation. Another big difference between higher education today and in the past is that more middle-aged professionals are finishing incomplete degrees from years past, tackling masters-level study in their career fields, or aiming for doctorates and Ph.D.’s in a particular subject that interests them, with the goal of teaching or doing paid research later on. The following are just a few of the most recent changes in what constitutes collegiate life.

Self-Pacing

One of the most popular aspects of attending school in the digital age is the chance to take self-paced classes in any subject. The option is a particular favorite among online attendees who simply don’t have the time to take full-time or traditional coursework. Keep in mind that many institutions set limits on how long you can take to finish a self-paced course. However, those limits tend to be very lenient and suit people who work full-time or part-time, are raising families, or are in the military.

Paying and Graduating

Fortunately, as tuition and fees rise almost every year, there are more creative ways to cover the expenses of earning a four-year diploma. In addition to work-study and year-on-year-off programs, the most popular tactic for paying is to apply for a student loan. Taking out an education loan is a straightforward way to deal with some or all of your school-related tuition, textbook costs, activity fees, and more. For prospective students who want to make a precise budget, a student loan repayment calculator is a smart choice. The easy-to-use online calculators can show you what your payments will be after you obtain a degree and begin working. Rather than borrow money and be in the dark, it’s helpful to know how to budget expenses and income, even if that time might seem to be in the distant future.

Open Majors

Several major universities have begun experimenting with open majors, a system that lets attendees create their own specialty instead of choosing from a limited number of traditional ones. People can still select majors like marketing, engineering, accounting, biology or many others. But, under the new regimen, someone could major in environmental marketing, international accounting, pre-legal non-profit research, or virtually any combination of subject-matter areas that interests them.

Three-Year Intensives

For those dedicated who are eager to complete a four-year curriculum much more quickly, many online and traditional institutions offer intensive plans that get you through the entire process in three years or less. That means no summer vacations, abbreviated winter breaks, and little time off. Total expenses for intensives are usually the same as for a traditional curriculum, so intensives are not a money-saving move. Instead, they’re designed for people who want to finish college and head to graduate, law, or medical school as quickly as possible.

100% Online Degrees

The most significant trend in modern education, particularly after the recent pandemic, is a surge in the popularity of 100% online study. One of the central benefits is that online diplomas cost about one-half what in-person ones cost. Plus, the entire process saves attendees on travel expenses, food, lodging and much else. Taking every class from the comfort of your favorite room or coffee shop is a new way to get an education. It represents a full meeting of technology and academics and has the potential to change the entire face of collegiate society.

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