Saturday, August 6, 2011

The Value of my Online Graduate Degrees: It’s an Intense Journey and worth Every Penny

By Natasha L. Foreman, MBA

I was asked to write about my experience as a graduate student attending for-profit online universities, and why it has been one of the best investments in my life so far. It is important to see where I have been, see where I am going, to understand why I made the decision to transition from a traditional brick and mortar non-profit university to a controversial, yet highly competitive online learning environment ten years later.

Some people question why I did not attend my alma mater, California State University, Long Beach (CSULB) when I pursued my MBA. My answer is simple…CSULB had a waiting list up the wazoo and I would have been waiting for what would seem like forever just to be admitted into the program. So then why didn’t I apply to an Ivy League school? Well, for three reasons. First, if the waiting list at a prominent state university was ridiculously long, how long of a wait do you think I would have had applying for an MBA program at one of these other universities? Second, other than maybe a thirty-five minute commute to the University of Southern California (USC), there was no way that I was going to relocate to another part of the state or across the nation just to attend an Ivy League school. Lastly, and possibly most importantly, have you checked out the cost of tuition at those schools?

I have always been focused and concerned with getting the best education, but to pack my bags and move two to three years so that I could have bragging rights and tuition two to three times what I was accustomed to, was and is ridiculous…for me and what I need. I began to search for universities that spoke to me, provided me with the education and knowledge that I desired as a business consultant and future educator, and that would challenge my mind. I don’t like the easy road, I don’t like short-cuts, and I don’t want an easy “A”; I want to earn everything I receive, and the blood, sweat and tears that goes along with the hard work. So after searching high and low for a competitive university that would be worth every penny invested my search was narrowed to about four schools.

I was at a time in my life where I was also contemplating relocating to another state as I was preparing myself for marriage and family. I needed to attend an accredited school where units were transferable, and I would have the flexibility in my schedule to balance school, my career, and my family life. The answer was clear…Kaplan University. I was nervous about taking online courses, but was confident that my limited experience with online classes at CSULB along with my passion for the Internet would be sufficient enough. I fell in love with Kaplan, my advisory team, my instructors, and the intense workload. Kaplan University has an intense MBA program that requires those students passionate about excellence to invest the most time and energy to succeed.

The easiest part of the program was attending my graduation, and I love that. Kaplan’s online program spoke to my needs as a night owl, so I could work aggressively in my career as a business consultant for half of my day, and focus like a soldier in my academic program the other half of the day. I didn’t have to commute, didn’t have to worry about traffic or finding a parking space on campus; I was able to create and navigate my schedule my way. But even this was no walk in the park. Taking online classes requires outstanding time management skills, dedication, determination, and a can-do attitude. If you are a procrastinator or have poor time management skills, online learning may not be right for you. If you can barely juggle your responsibilities with work and home obligations, online learning may not be the best fit. You literally may have to devote 30-40 hours to research, studying, working on projects and assignments, and participating in discussion threads and in learning team activities. It can feel like a full-time job, but without the bi-weekly or monthly paychecks.

So what possessed me to apply to Capella University soon after my MBA graduation with Kaplan University? Honestly, there are two reasons, the first being that I hadn’t married and had children yet so I decided that this was the best time to earn my PhD, before family became an excuse to not follow through with that dream. Secondly, many of the colleges I wanted to teach business courses through were now requiring instructors to have terminal degrees. I want to teach business courses online and in face-to-face environments, and I didn’t want to waste moments contemplating whether to pursue my doctorate while life past me by…so I began researching brick and mortar, and online doctoral programs. I made contact with Capella University and they knew Kaplan’s system, had a respectful relationship, and would accept many of my MBA units that would apply towards my PhD electives. Even after taking MBA courses, I didn’t know what I was up against when I began my doctoral program with Capella.

There are times I literally stop and burst out into tears as the overwhelming feeling of intense stress seizes my body. The amount of research, course work, and studying has most definitely doubled or even tripled from the work I was expected to do and master in my MBA program. To look back at my Bachelor’s Degree, I could repeat that work with my eyes closed- and that is no knock to my awesome alma mater, CSULB or their fabulous professors. What I mean by that is that earning your PhD is no cake walk. There are no laugh and giggles, partying, and moments of joy while trying to keep your eyes open at 4am and 5am. No, soon after you begin your program, you realize that the only time you will truly be laughing, giggling, partying, and having fun is when you are completely done with your work, and you have crossed the stage at graduation as a Doctor of Philosophy in your area of specialty. No one knows what you are going through except other doctoral learners, and those warriors who have already earned their degree. At times it can be a very lonely space to live within.

Kaplan University and Capella University are in the ranks with those same Ivy League schools that people thought I should have attended. These two universities mean business, provide a level of education that can’t be messed with or logically challenged, stand for excellence and expect excellence from their learners. I was told that a couple of months ago a Harvard Business School professor attended a Capella University event and declared that after much research, digging, comparing and analyzing, Capella University’s online business and technology program is the equivalent to Harvard Business School. This professor expressed his level of respect for what Capella has done, is doing, and plans to do; and the level (and intensity) of the coursework provided to students. He was beyond impressed.

Kaplan and Capella’s professors are not just academics who sit back reading about (and then regurgitating to students) what is going on in their industries; our professors are members of and work within these industries- so as students we are getting knowledge from those professionals who have hands-on experience and expertise in these fields. Who better to learn from and bounce ideas off? They are not just PhD’s they are PhDO’s- they are doing what they teach. I have learned a great deal from both of these institutions, and have applied my learning to my business consulting practice, and I look forward to teaching business courses in the very near future. I thank CSULB, Kaplan, and Capella for helping to guide and mold me as I have developed and grown as a woman and entrepreneur of excellence. My investment in my education has been worth every penny!

Natasha is currently pursuing her PhD in Organization and Management with a specialization in Management Education, and a Post-Master’s Certificate in College Teaching through Capella University. She plans to teach business courses to students and individuals on the collegiate and community-based level. Natasha is also the CEO, Managing Consultant, and woman behind the business consulting firm, Foreman & Associates, LLC. Her company works with prospective, new, and existing business owners who need assistance with start-up, management and operations, research and development, administrative support, and training services. Natasha can be reached at

For more information about Foreman & Associates, LLC visit:


  1. I got my Master's of Library Science online as well. The degree programs that potential students are interested versus what's available at local colleges is vastly different. Plus, if I had gone to UCF or USF but I would have had to pay for parking, gas to get to and from, traffic and all around stress. My program at TWU was awesome online too. The courses weren't easy and I earned my As and Bs. I don't regret my decision to learn online at all. I'd do it again for a PhD if I could.

  2. Suzanne,

    Thanks for leaving a comment. Like Natasha, I am earning my doctorate at Capella University, and I have no regrets about doing so.

    If you're interested in writing a guest post about your experiences with earning an advanced degree online, please let me know. I would love your contribution to the discussion.

  3. This is a great post! Do we happen to know who the Harvard professor is???


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