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Online Schools in Pennsylvania

The governor of Pennsylvania recently increased state funding for education by a whopping $338 million, bringing its total share of the 2013-14 state budget to over $11 billion. In an interview with The Wall Street Journal, Governor Tom Corbett said the investment was necessary because "Pennsylvania's students deserve to have access to quality programs that will ensure their success in the future." With this influx of funding, Pennsylvania schools can hire new teachers, improve facilities, and strengthen higher education. This may also help colleges and universities expand their online degree offerings, extending educational opportunities to more students in the state. Often more flexible and convenient than traditional classroom learning, online programs can allow Pennsylvanians to pursue a degree at their own pace, from anywhere with an Internet connection.

Online Education Resources for Students in Pennsylvania

Today, there are many online learning options available to students in Pennsylvania. PA Universities Online, a website run by the Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education (PASSHE), allows prospective students to browse online offerings from 14 state universities. Along with over 100 distance education programs, the PASSHE site features detailed information on each participating school and links to financial aid options.

Many national online colleges also offer online degree programs to students in Pennsylvania. Typically, these institutions boast a most extensive list of fully online options than state or private schools. Some, such as the University of Phoenix, ITT Technical Institute, and DeVry, even have physical campuses in Pennsylvania. These locations may allow students to pursue blended learning programs, which supplement online coursework with hands-on training sessions.

Importance of Accreditation for Online Colleges in Pennsylvania

In order to be recognized nationally as a respected institution of higher learning, colleges and universities must petition for accreditation. Accreditation is the certification that a school or program meets certain academic standards. Along with determining the quality of education one receives, it dictates whether other institutions will honor the school's credits if a student decides to transfer. Many colleges and universities in Pennsylvania are accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE), one of six regional agencies overseen by the Secretary of Education.

Accreditation by the MSCHE or one of its sister agencies isn't the only option for schools, however. Some institutions choose to petition different agencies, such as the Higher Learning Commission, or have individual programs evaluated by more specialized entities. Examples of these include the National Council for Accreditation of Teacher Education and the Accreditation Council for Business Schools and Programs. Before enrolling in any academic program, students should check its accreditation status by contacting a school representative.

Pennsylvania Online Colleges and Tuition Rates

As with traditional degree programs, online tuition rates differ from school to school. For example, Penn State charges per credit hour for undergraduates taking less than 12 credits in the same semester. Those enrolling in 12 or more credits, however, are charged a flat rate. Some online schools in Pennsylvania also have different prices for students who aren't state residents. Tuition at the University of Pittsburgh, for instance, varies according to major, as well as if the enrollee is an in-state or out-of-state student. To learn more about a specific school's tuition rates or application process, prospective students should speak with an admissions counselor.

Selected Online Degree Programs in Pennsylvania

Online Education Degrees in Pennsylvania: Degrees in education and teaching come in a wide range of specializations, from early childhood or K-12 instruction to special education to school administration. Typically, undergraduates interested in becoming educators will study instructional methods, psychology, classroom management strategies, and student assessment. Graduate courses may focus on more advanced topics, such as learning theory, curriculum development, technology in the classroom, or faculty administration. With a degree in education, and the required state certification, graduates may qualify to become kindergarten or elementary school teachers, adult education instructors, or even school principals.

Online Psychology Degrees in Pennsylvania: Undergraduate programs in psychology generally train students in the fundamentals of developmental and social psychology, sensation and perception, drugs and human behavior, and cognitive engineering. Students who want to work in clinics or as counselors usually need to earn a graduate degree, as well as the proper licensing. Graduate courses tend to emphasize personality theory, advanced topics in abnormal psychology, psychopathology, and data analysis. Depending on their degree level, graduates may consider becoming school psychologists, mental health counselors, substance abuse counselors, or researchers.

Online Information Technology Degrees in Pennsylvania: Online schools may offer IT degrees in a number of concentrations, including application development, information systems, Web development, and health care informatics. Courses generally focus on subjects such as networking fundamentals, algorithms, project management, and systems analysis and design. With a degree in the field, graduates may qualify to become computer support specialists, database administrators, information systems managers, or computer systems administrators.

Additional online degrees available to students in Pennsylvania include communications, public health, criminal justice, and social work. To learn more about these and other online programs, request information from one of the schools listed below.

"Governor Corbett Calls for Four-Year, $1 Billion Investment in Schools," The Wall Street Journal, February 5, 2013, http://online.wsj.com/article/PR-CO-20130205-911554.html?mod=crnews

PA Universities Online, http://www.pauniversitiesonline.edu/SitePages/splash.aspx

PASSHE, Student Financial Aid Process, http://www.passhe.edu/answers/Pages/cost.aspx

Penn State World Campus, Penn State Online, Degrees and Certificates, http://www.worldcampus.psu.edu/degrees-and-certificates

Pennsylvania Department of Education, http://www.education.state.pa.us/portal/server.pt/community/pennsylvania_department_of_education/7237

University of Pittsburgh, Admissions & Financial Aid, Pittsburgh Campus Costs, 2012, http://www.oafa.pitt.edu/costcard.aspx

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