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Enrollment in online courses rose at a faster pace between fall 2015 and 2016 compared with the previous three years, yet students are increasingly choosing local online degree programs, according to the “Grade Increase” report released today by the Babson Survey Research Group.
Based on federal data from more than 4,700 colleges and universities, more than 6.3 million students in the U.S. – most of whom were undergraduates – took at least one online course in fall 2016, a 5.6 percent increase from the previous year. This is the 14th consecutive year that Babson has reported growth in online enrollment.
“No matter how much we think that there might be something slowing it down, it hasn’t happened,” says Jeff Seaman, co-director of the Babson Survey Research Group and a co-author of the study. Even in bad economic times, for example, he says enrollment has only gone up.
Public colleges and universities had the largest growth in online course enrollment between fall 2015 and 2016, at 7.3 percent, the report found. Roughly two-thirds of all online students enroll in programs at public schools.
Online class enrollment at private nonprofit schools rose 7.1 percent but continued dropping at for-profits – this year by 4.5 percent, the findings show. For-profit, online schools have faced criticism in recent years for questionable recruitment practices and low graduation rates, among other things.
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