Get a College Degree Through Distance Learning

The pros, cons and con artists in the distance education business.

| April/May 1999

Some years after Marina Bear and her family built their rural home on a plot of land outside of Mendocino, California, the then 40-something-year-old mother of three decided it was time to go back to school. "I suddenly realized that my twins were 13 years old and they really didn't need a full-time mom anymore," she recalls.

Having earned her bachelor's degree 15 years earlier, Marina set her sights on the next level: a master's degree. There was just one problem. The closest institute of higher learning was located a three hour's drive down a long and winding country road. Moreover, it was a small community college with little to offer a bright and aspiring graduate student. "They weren't doing much of anything that would make me want to drive back and forth a whole lot," says Marina. "Still, I just knew that out there, some where, there had to be a place that could help me further my quest."

That place turned out to be California State University Dominguez Hills (CSUDH), a school located more than 600 miles from the Bears' homestead. "But it could have been 6,000 miles for all that it mattered," remarks Marina's husband John Bear. "She literally never had to leave the house to get her degree."

Marina completed her master's degree in 1987, never having stepped foot in a CSUDH classroom. Her entire course of study was completed at a distance, a phenomenon that is becoming increasingly common, particularly as old-model, snail-mail correspondence courses give way to a plethora of interactive multimedia and electronic options.

"Distance education has become part of the mainstream," says John Bear. And he should know: he wrote the book (or rather, books) on the subject. An internationally recognized expert on the topic of distance education, Bear is coauthor, along with his daughter Mariah, of College Degrees By Mail & Modem and Bears' Guide to Earning Degrees Nontraditionally.  

"More and more people are beginning to realize," he says, "that you can earn an absolutely usable, regionally accredited degree, without ever leaving home."

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