The advent of broadband Internet has changed the reach and nature of continuing education.A recent study by the Sloan Consortium found that nearly a third of all higher-education students had taken at least one class online during the 2011 fall semester alone.Graduation rates are extremely low and student loan default exceptionally high.
There is little chance that my slightly-above-average undergraduate GPA and an extra-curricular résumé that only consisted of a part-time job at a music store would’ve secured a spot for me in one of Harvard’s ultra-competitive graduate schools.
Yet, with no admission letter in hand and exactly zero hours spent preparing for graduate admissions tests, I became a Harvard student. The Extension School – Harvard’s degree-granting continuing education school – has a student population of more than 13,000.
Upon completion and submission of the application, I was officially a graduate-level International Relations concentrator.
At about $2,000 a course, the total cost of the degree requirements--36 credit hours and thesis--cost me less than $25,000 total.
They were established to engage the local community, further the education of university staff and their family members, and provide new skills to working adults.
Their open enrollment and lower tuition rates have long made them appealing to such students. In the definitive book on HES, , the former Dean of Harvard’s Division of Continuing Education Michael Shinagel describes the early days when courses were free to the indigent and only cost two bushels of wheat for those who could afford it.
About two years ago, my classmates and I gathered in Harvard Yard to receive our graduate degrees alongside more than 7,000 of the university's newest alumni.
As the procession made its way to our designated seating area, an onlooker eyed our banner with a puzzled look and asked the guy in front of me, “What in the world is the Extension School?
”My classmate’s reply: “It’s the back door into Harvard.” Ouch.
I often felt the same way – that I’d snuck into one of the world’s premier institutions for higher learning.
(The cost of a two-year master's degree at Harvard's Kennedy School, in contrast, would have been more than ,000.)At HES, of the 13,000 students, only about 2,000 are admitted degree candidates, and the school confers about 600 bachelor’s and master’s degree every year.