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By improving student access to higher eduation, Louisiana online colleges can help close a growing skills gap that exists between the state's workforce and employer demand. Learn more about schools and other programs that support the state's online education initiative.

Online Colleges in Louisiana

The Louisiana Board of Regents has invested time and funds into developing programs that allow Louisiana residents to attend college without regard for geography, including those that offer online education. As the access to and quality of online schools in Louisiana continue to improve, the entire state benefits.

Louisiana is home to a broad, diverse and increasingly educated population, though the state must continue to develop and train its workforce if it hopes to maintain its economic viability. This can be a challenge to Louisiana's sizeable rural population for whom access to traditional higher education may be limited. Thus, continued investment and participation in programs that promote access to education is essential to the potential success not just of students, but for the state of Louisiana at large.

One key part of the state's online education initiative is through the LBOR's Office of Information & Learning Technology (web.selsc.net), which works toward improving student awareness of and participation in online schools in Louisiana. The OILT maintains the Louisiana Electronic Campus (laelectroniccampus.org), through which students can search Louisiana public university classes, including more than 2,800 online courses. Another service offered via the OILT in partnership with the Southern Regional Education Board is the Academic Common Market (sreb.org). This virtual marketplace affords students the opportunity to enroll in online undergraduate or graduate degree programs through schools outside of Louisiana without having to pay out-of-state tuition rates, so long as the discipline is not offered by an in-state institution. This program has helped expand student access to online degrees in Louisiana.

Trends in Louisiana Online Schools

Online education is revolutionizing the way modern students access higher education, and Louisiana has a role to play in its advancement. According to a report published by the nonprofit Sloan Consortium (sloanconsortium.org), two-thirds of private-sector colleges and universities nationwide indicated that online learning was a critical part of their long-term education strategy in 2010. Meanwhile, the growth rate for online enrollments was 21 percent nationally that same year, far outpacing the 2 percent growth in college enrollment overall. As online schools in Louisiana continue to add to their ranks -- and as groups such as the Louisiana Board of Regents continue to promote and support such programs -- Louisianans can benefit from the opportunities these new technologies provide.

Online College in Louisiana

Louisiana is home to a number of online schools and degree programs, and that pool will likely grow along with that of the rest of the nation. One well-known college offering online classes in Louisiana is Louisiana State University's LSU Online (cms.outreach.lsu.edu). LSU Online was launched to offer online courses that would complement offerings available through LSU's Independent & Distance Learning (IDL) program. It provides another alternative to those students needing flexibility when pursuing their college courses. Admission to LSU is not required to enroll in LSU Online college credit courses, and students can enroll in the program at any time and take up to six months to complete a course. Students interested in pursuing a degree through LSU Online should be aware that LSU Online courses differ from IDL courses and are governed by different policies. Areas of study offered by LSU Online include accounting, English, German, and psychology.

Another major institution making headway in the realm of online learning is Louisiana Tech University's Global_Campus (latech.edu/globalcampus/), which provides online education through its more than 275 distance learning courses in a variety of undergraduate and graduate disciplines, including general studies, health information management, English, and engineering and technology management.

In addition to these and other public colleges, students researching their higher education options may also find a number of private-sector online colleges in Louisiana.

College Degrees in Louisiana

Louisiana's educated workforce is growing, but research suggests it has some ground to cover. According to a report compiled by the Lumina Foundation (luminafoundation.org) using data provided by the Census Bureau (census.gov) and the Bureau of Labor Statistics (bls.gov), 28.2 percent of Louisiana's working-age population held associate degrees or beyond in 2010, which falls below the national average of 31.3 percent. If Louisiana's current rate of educational attainment holds steady, 31.6 percent of the state's working-age population will have degrees by 2018. While this marks a modest improvement, it falls far short of the 45.2 percent employer demand for such credentials projected by Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce (cew.georgetown.edu) for that same year. If Louisiana and its residents hope to be economically competitive in the next decade, it is essential that the state add more college-educated workers. One of the major barriers prohibiting this growth is access to higher education within Louisiana's sizeable rural population. Online colleges in Louisiana may offer one opportunity to provide these residents with this access, which could help close the workforce-employer skills gap, possibly helping boost the state's overall economy in the process.

While Louisiana could potentially benefit from improved educational attainment across the board, those fields expected to grow the most in the state could receive the most benefit. The Louisiana Workforce Commission (laworks.net) reports that the two industries expected to offer the highest employment growth between 2010 and 2020 are the professional, scientific, and technical services (24 percent), and health care and social assistance (20.9 percent). Both of these industries tend to require an educated workforce, so for Louisianans hoping to work in one of these high-demand fields, a certificate or degree may be necessary.

Sources:
Academic Common Market
Bureau of Labor Statistics
Census Bureau 
Georgetown University's Center on Education and the Workforce
Louisiana Electronic Campus
Louisiana Workforce Commission
Lumina Foundation
Office of Information & Learning Technology
Sloan Consortium

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