Posted in College Admission

College Graduation Rates (part 1 of 2)

Getting into college isn’t nearly as hard as getting out. (with a degree) 

I think better than 90% of incoming freshmen assume they’ll graduate college.  I think 100% of their parents hope so!  Still, that’s not the reality.  About half will drop out before they’ve hit the end of their sophomore year.  We’ve talked before about the new national average for earning bachelor’s degree being 6 years (if you haven’t heard that before, that’s one of many changes since the typical parent went to college).  So, the data tells us that not everyone finishes, and those that do, take much longer ($$$).  Ugh.

As a homeschooling parent, you have the opportunity to place them closer to their goal post.

Ok, so let’s say you’ve injected college credit exams into your teen’s high school, that’s the first point in your favor.  You’re paying a fraction of the cost, and you’re bringing the finish line closer.  5 carefully selected CLEP exams can yield 30 colleges credits, all while still being homeschooled.  Anyone can take a CLEP exam- any age-anywhere on the planet!  Scores are valid for 20 years and the “all in” cost is about $100.  Parents who guide their teens toward colleges with generous CLEP acceptance policies will find that their teen can test out of 25-50% of their bachelor’s degree this way.  (I tested out of an entire associate’s degree in 2009 just to see if it can be done.)

Next, let’s say you’ve enrolled your teen in dual enrollment courses, that’s the second point in your favor.  These credits have the best likelihood of transfer, and unlike CLEP, they’re making progress toward a degree.  Some of you will get to do this for free (tuition waivers for high school students vary by state) and some will pay tuition, but make no mistake that if you cash flow this option, you’re also helping them avoid future student loans.  Dual enrollment typically happens in 11th and 12th grade and is generally done through a community college.

Finally, some of you will even help your teen earn a full AA or AS (or more) in high school. Depending on your state’s articulation agreements, this may mean your teen is guaranteed a perfect transfer into a 4-year university.  Students in that situation are 50% closer to graduation than someone “just” graduating high school and starting from scratch.  While an AA or AS is not required on your way to a 4-year degree, it is gaining popularity!

If I had to kick a soccer ball and make a goal, I’d want to be line up as close as possible to the goal.  This is how homeschooling for college credit works- you’re not removing work – you’re not lowering the standards required to earn a college degree, and you’re not making it easy for your teen.  You’re simply starting earlier- and by doing so on your own, you are choosing your own curriculum, you’re paying cash, you’re keeping costs low, you’re selecting exams/credits that align with your homeschool program or family values.

Graduating high school with even 1 college credit puts your teen ahead of the game.


There’s one more piece of the puzzle- and that’s selecting a college. that facilitates your diligent planning and supports your child’s desire to graduate.

Selecting a college, in my opinion, shouldn’t fall entirely to the teen.  I realize that drifts into parenting advice, which is not my intent, rather I want to tell you the advantages of making this decision with or for )your teen instead of granting them autonomy.

  • Parents generally evaluate a college differently than a teen.  Parents look at cost, location, reputation, and utility of the chosen degree.   They assume a linear progression – from zero to degree in 4 years in perfect sequence.
  • Teens evaluate a college through a narrow lens.  Where are their friends attending? What colleges have they heard about?  Who is their favorite football team?  Which college would be more interesting or fun?  They imagine their lifestyle during college and an eventual degree.

I don’t hate fun.  I want my teens to have reasonable amounts of fun, but I also need to equip them to beat the odds and finish college with a degree in hand.  For me, that means taking over some of the initial filterings.   Filtering can happen first, and you’ll see that your teen still has a lot to choose from.

  • There are over 1,800 well-respected and accredited 4-year colleges in the United States. 
  • In addition, there are over 2,000 well-respected and accredited 2-year colleges in the United States.
  • This “pool” of 3,800 colleges doesn’t even include career or trade schools, most nationally accredited schools, and specialty certificate programs (ex. Real Estate licensure courses) which make the real number closer to 10,000!

Who can research 10,000 colleges for one child?  Not me, and I love doing it.

You can use any criteria you like when selecting or excluding a college, but to make the most of homeschooling for college credit, you’ll get the most bang for your buck if you consider the following (in no particular order of importance):

  1. The college guarantees transfer credit from your local community college.  This means no wasted steps or cost.
  2. The college has a written AP, CLEP, or DSST policy that you can find online.  While this doesn’t guarantee a perfect transfer when your teen eventually enrolls, it does let you know that they accept exam credit AND they are experienced at it.
  3. Look for colleges that allow at least 25% of the degree to be completed through CLEP.  Even if you don’t end up using it, that kind of flexibility is a good sign overall.
  4. Look for colleges that have face to face and online options for their common degrees (liberal arts, business, etc.). That flexibility allows your family to move without worry about losing traction.  In addition, your teen may find it’s easier to take more credits when they don’t have to physically travel to campus for every course.
  5. For those of you who know your teen will attend college fully online as a distance learner, it is my strong recommendation that you choose a college on the ACE partnership list.    ACE credit is readily accepted by colleges that are fully online and can be obtained very inexpensively.  While distance learning isn’t cheaper, what makes obtaining the degree less cost is choosing a college that allows you to cherry pick your credits.  Some colleges on this list allow you to test out or transfer in more than 75% of the degree – you can save big money that way.
  6. Exclude colleges from your list if they have a low graduation rate.

 The bottom line is that- you want a college that supports the diligent planning you’ve done, and the credit your teen earned in high school.  

Tomorrow, part 2 of College Graduation Rates will look at real numbers at real colleges. There are, believe it or not, colleges with 0% graduation rates!


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