A growing number of New Jersey residents are opting to go to college online instead of attending a traditional college or university with a campus.

According to Rebecca Watts, the regional vice president for Western Governors University, the number of New Jersey-based students enrolled at her school has more than tripled over the past 7 years.

She said in September 2015 a total of 584 New Jersey students were enrolled at WGU, but this past September there were 1,709 Garden State students, and a total of 3,452 New Jersey graduates.

Watts pointed out the trend is playing out nationally, with enrollment at WGU and other online schools increasing between 15 and 30% annually.

Why get a degree online?

Watts said during the early stages of the pandemic many people’s lives were turned upside down, and they realized “online learning will allow you to continue to work and gain new skills, competencies, knowledge, industry certifications where you can quickly advance or pivot to a new career.”

She noted while the average annual cost of attending a traditional college or university is between $25 thousand to $30 thousand a year, at WGU< which is non-profit, for12 months of undergraduate classes “that cost is right about $7,700 all in, including learning resources, so no books on top of that, no anything on top of that.”

e-learning concept. Online classes.
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It can be a lot faster

She pointed out “our cost is significantly lower, and our students on average finish a baccalaureate degree in 2 and a half years.”

She said during the pandemic many high school students were introduced to taking classes online, and this has now resulted in a higher enrollment of high school grads in online college programs.

Watts pointed out some students are enrolling in college courses while they’re still in high school but “we also have people at the upper end of the age, in their 50’s, in their 60’s, we’ve had people graduate with a baccalaureate or masters degree in their 70’s.”

She said while many students have enrolled in classes for the College of Business and the School of Education, the cybersecurity program is now becoming more and more popular.

Watts added she believes the popularity of online higher education will continue to grow in the coming months and years because it’s convenient and cost-effective.

“More and more people are asking for that, and more and more colleges and universities are offering that,” she said.

David Matthau is a reporter for New Jersey 101.5. You can reach him at david.matthau@townsquaremedia.com

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