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Study Concludes Online College Enrollment Growing Exponentially Faster Than Student Population

by Joe McKendrick

More than six million college and university students took at least one online course during the fall 2010 term, an increase of 560,000 students over the previous year.  This almost 10 percent growth rate for online enrollments far exceeds the less-than-1 percent growth in the overall higher education student population nationwide.

These are some of the findings from the recently released 2011 Survey of Online Learning, a collaborative effort between the Babson Survey Research Group and the College Board. The survey, based on responses from over 2,500 academic leaders, reveals that nearly one-third of all students in higher education are taking at least one online course.  This is up from 10 percent of the total student population in 2002, the first year the survey was conducted.

The percentage of institutions that agree ‘‘online education is critical to the long-term strategy of my institution’’ reached its highest level in 2011 (65 percent) — up from 49 percent in 2002.

While online learning keeps growing, there was actually a bit of a slowdown over the past year, the study’s authors also note — the 10 percent growth rate for online enrollments is the second lowest since 2002. As study

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