An Ivy League education is no longer as unattainable as it was once thought to be, due to the expansion of online courses and degrees from these storied institutions. The term “Ivy League” was first used to indicate an athletic conference to which some of the oldest colleges in the United States belonged: The University of Pennsylvania, Dartmouth College in New Hampshire, Harvard University in Massachusetts, Yale University in Connecticut, Princeton University in New Jersey, Brown University in Rhode Island, and Cornell University and Columbia University in New York. But the reputation of these schools as meccas of prize-winning research and excellent teaching long ago eclipsed their athletic reputation; today, each of those colleges are consistently ranked high in the lists of top schools in the nation.
Until recently, access to the hallowed halls of these academies was limited to those who either came from elite prep schools, were “legacies” with family members who attended, or who passed rigorous entrance requirements, including top academic achievement. When I was researching my Master’s Thesis, it was even difficult to get a visitor’s pass to work in their extensive libraries. But the advent of online educational technology has revolutionized the way the administrations at Ivy League schools think about their course offerings and degree eligibility. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) paved the way with its OpenCourseWare, which provides free online course materials from almost all MIT courses, but not surprisingly, Ivy league schools also began to expand into online education to make their programs more accessible.
Here is a breakdown of what some Ivy League colleges offer online:
Harvard University Extension School: The Harvard University Extension School offers several degree options for students, including undergraduate, graduate, and certificate programs. These classes are open to the public, which means that no application is required and you don’t have to meet the stringent entrance requirements of Harvard University, including high SAT scores, two SAT subject exams, teacher evaluations, and high grades in high school. Taught by real Harvard professors, who are among the best and the brightest the world has to offer, including international award winners who have published highly regarded research and books, many of the Harvard Extension courses are available online. Harvard offers over 150 courses in its online extension program.
While in enrollment is open, these courses are not free. Course tuition is about $1000 for undergraduates and $2000 for graduate students. If you take a full load of five courses each semester, a bachelor’s degree from Harvard Extension costs approximately $40,000. By contrast, a four-year degree through Harvard’s traditional programs costs over $125,000, and a Bachelor’s Degree at Kaplan University online costs approximately $66,780. This is one of the best deals around. But it’s Harvard–expect to be challenged, and to do a lot of work. Harvard Extension courses are open to anyone, but your work has to measure up to the same standards applied to traditional Harvard students.
Cornell University: The gorgeous campus of Cornell University in upstate New York is a beautiful place to study, but it’s just as exclusive as other Ivy League schools. However, you can take advantage of the excellent faculty at Cornell through its online certificate programs, offered through eCornell, which provides more than 20 different professional development certificate programs online, in fields such as Leadership and Strategic Management, Human Resources Management, Hospitality and Foodservice Management, Marketing, and Finance. These courses include curriculum that is created directly by Cornell’s award-winning faculty and includes the same material as their on-the-ground courses. While Cornell University does not offer any degree programs at this time, a professional certificate from Cornell will certainly provide valuable skills and increase the employment chances of any job candidate.
Columbia University: A landmark intellectual center, Columbia University in the heart of New York City is similar to Cornell University in that it does not offer an undergraduate degree online, but it does offer Master’s Degree programs through the School of Engineering and Applied Science, and many of its online courses, which do require formal admission and tuition payment, can be applied toward undergraduate degrees or transferred to other institutions. Similarly, Stanford University, while not an Ivy League school, offers many of its Engineering courses online through Stanford Engineering Everywhere (SEE).
Yale University: Through its grant-supported “Open Yale Courses” program, Yale offers free online video lectures that are taught by Yale faculty and provide the same information as the traditional Yale course. While you can’t earn credit for them, these courses will enhance your skills and knowledge in any number of fields, including foreign languages, Biology, Political Science, Physics, English, and Economics.
How can online Ivy League Courses help you?
For ambitious students, the programs offered by Ivy League universities are just a start. As time goes on, it’s possible that many more courses and degree options will be offered by these top-ranked schools. Such options can provide students with many avenues toward educational and professional progress. If you are looking for ways to improve your coursework elsewhere, the non-degree courses can help by giving you more information about the topics you are studying. If you would like to be more competitive on the job market, the certificate programs can put you ahead of other job seekers and improve your chances at employment. And, of course, if you simply want to learn for your own edification, you can browse through any number of free courses and materials offered by these Ivy League schools.