A recent article in the Economist suggests that they're the next "boom" about to burst. Their sweet business model--of relying heavily on student loans--is about to sour, as a result of new US regulations intended to address concerns that people who have limited means paying for educations that often do not lead to work in the field or, if it does, results in salaries that are insufficient to pay back the student loan. The tangible evidence of this situation is the high level of defaults of student loans by students in online universities and other private colleges.
To get a background on this sad situation from the students' perspective, check out Peter S, Goodman's July 18 article, "After Training, Still Scrambling for Employment," at http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/19/business/19training.html?ref=us&pagewanted=all.
To get a sense of the situation from the investor's perspective, check out "Monsters in the Making" from the July 22 issue of the Economist at http://www.economist.com/node/16643333?story_id=16643333.
To get a sense of the proposed regulations, check out Tamar Lewin's report on the regulations proposed at the end of last week at http://www.nytimes.com/2010/07/23/education/23gainful.html?hpw.
And to get a sense of an alternative--an open source, low-cost online university, check out Anne Kershaw's "Explore alternative subjects at Peer 2 Peer University" published July 12, 2010 in University Affairs: http://www.universityaffairs.ca/peer-2-peer.aspx. One of those courses explores poker.