CHESTER, Pa. -- More students are looking at distance learning as a way to fit graduate school education into their busy schedules, yet convenience is not their sole criteria for choosing a course of study, according to a new survey.

The survey was conducted in December 2002 by GradSchools.com in collaboration with the University of Texas TeleCampus. More than 11,500 students participated in the Distance Graduate School survey, which sought to identify the most influential factors affecting a prospective student's consideration of distance versus campus-based programs. Respondents were recruited through a link on the GradSchools.com Web site.

More than 28 percent of students surveyed who are seeking to begin graduate study within the next 12 months said they were considering either a campus-based or a distance program, or a distance program only.

Nearly 33 percent cited "reputation of program" as the most important criteria when choosing a distance program, indicating that today's distance learning students understand the importance of reputation and seek programs their employers and colleagues recognize and respect.

The Distance Graduate School Survey also revealed that students choose online education over campus-based programs because, in many cases, they are professionals juggling demanding jobs as well as family responsibilities.

Nearly 28 percent of respondents cited "convenience" as the primary deciding factor between choosing a campus-based or distance-based program. To them, the idea of working toward their degree on their own time, at midnight in their pajamas if need be, is especially appealing.

To further support this finding, 40.3 percent of the survey respondents cited "flexible hours" as the primary reason they chose to pursue a degree through distance education.