Enrollment in online college courses in the United States outpaced overall growth in higher education last year, and officials predict a sustained increase in online enrollment as the economy slumps and good jobs become scarcer, according to report published this month.

"Staying the Course: Online Education in the United States, 2008," published by the Alfred P. Sloan Foundation, says 22 percent of American college students took at least one web-based class in the fall 2007 semester, or 3.94 million students. That marked an increase of 12.9 percent from the fall 2006 semester. During the same period, overall higher-education enrollment increased by


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