Progress in education has always needed federal funding in order to flourish, and online education is no different from traditional schools. In 2006, Congress enacted a budget bill that allowed colleges to qualify for federal student aid which offered online education. Thus far, this has amounted to a dramatic shift from traditional to online classes and the best online schools are only in existence because of this new federal funding.
Over the past few years, more traditional colleges have expanded their programs to allow distance education students to take courses from home. This has since increased to full for-profit online schools that offer many different degree programs to their students. Federal funding has benefitted these programs drastically, as well-connected educators have relied on many Congressional Republicans who were sympathetic to their entrepreneurial ethic. Previously before this bill, restrictions existed for federal funding to online courses, putting a cap on the funds that traditional schools could receive if they offered online courses. As soon as Congress passed this bill promoting online education, online schools popped up around the country as they could now receive federal funding; furthermore, traditional schools began to offer more online classes.
The Bush administration lifted this restriction for online education as a way to reach out to nontraditional students who would otherwise be unable to earn a degree. This was one of the best solutions to the educational system that Congress could make, considering that in a few years a recession would hit the country, causing a heightened demand for higher-level education. Despite the mountainous debate that occurred in response to this bill regarding the quality of nonprofit traditional universities, the new online colleges proved their worth in only a few short months. After the bill passed, online education took off as some of the current best online schools, such as University of Phoenix, sought to prove their worth to Congressmen around the country.
The original 50 percent rule which restricted funds to online schools was only enacted in 1992 after investigations showed that some of the for-profit trade schools were little more than diploma mills which “harvested” federal student loans. After many of these myths were dispelled from the online community, the industry has grown tremendously, as many online schools currently enroll more students than traditional schools. With over 2,500 schools now offering federal student aid, students around the nation now have the opportunity to earn associates, bachelor’s, master’s, and doctoral degrees from the best online schools. Rural, military, and working students have been found to benefit the most from these changes in federal funding, as the nation has rushed to expand online higher education.
While debate still ranges over the underlying motives of online schools, the success accounts from students have told a different story.