I’ve posted from time to time about The Alternative Credit Project, so I’m sad to report today that the program is closing down effective 3/31/2018. At the risk of this post reading like a bowl of alphabet soup, I’m going to try and keep this simple, but we have a lot of initials in the next few paragraphs and I want to be sure you guys have this info.
First, if you’ve never heard of the Alternative Credit Project, you’ve nothing to worry about. I’m going to mention programs in this post that you may have heard of, and may even be participating in, but the Alternative Credit Project was a program within a program and has no bearing on college credit earned outside of the ACP. In other words, the providers will STILL offer courses, but they’ll do so independently now.
Alternative Credit Project was a program within a program
A quick overview: The Alternative Credit Project ACP was a grant-funded program of American Council on Education ACE that started late 2014. The program selected 6 alternative college credit course providers (Saylor Academy, Straighterline, EdX, Ed4Credit, Pearson, and Sophia) and then found about 50 colleges that would guarantee (in writing) that students who completed a course in the program could receive college credit at the participating colleges.
The reason this was a noteworthy program: As a program within a program, we saw that some of the colleges who signed up to accept credit were “new players” in alternative credit acceptance, and by agreeing to participate, parents now had the option of using inexpensive home-based self-paced college credit resources in their homeschool and have a written guarantee that their teen could use them at a participating college. This was a “backdoor” method of bringing alternative credits into a traditional college that otherwise wouldn’t be a target school for families.
Who will feel the greatest sting? Our families in Colorado will be hit the hardest. Colorado Community Colleges signed on, and this meant parents who wanted to DIY their teen’s dual enrollment could use this program and earn college credit for about $25 per course. (Colorado does offer tuition-free dual enrollment, but only in 11-12th grades, so resourceful parents could supplement their program and really rack up college credit starting earlier than 11th and extending later than 12th) The big benefit in play was that once a course is on a transcript in Colorado, the other public Colorado community colleges/universities automatically accept it in transfer. So, by extension of this program, parents knew their teens would get college credit first at the community college level, but then also at the 4-year university in the future. It was a very sweet deal.
The rest of you who feel the sting of this are probably building your own dual enrollment program from scratch. Remember, not all states allow teens to dual enroll, and in those that do, only a handful offer that for no charge- so a great number of our parents look for low-cost alternatives that can be done at home. Additionally, testing scores and age requirements in some states restrict enrollment in some programs, leaving parents feeling like they are “wasting” valuable time. I wrote about one of my own son’s school year here Straighterline and my 10th Grader’s Spring Semester when he used Straigherline to complete a full year of college in 10th grade, a year before our state allowed him to enroll in our (free) dual enrollment program.
You’ll still be able to DIY home-based dual enrollment program for your teen, you’ll just have to plan more carefully.
College partnerships are written agreements, much like we see in many states at the community college level. Some of your states have written agreements called Articulation Agreements that guarantee the transfer of courses taken at the community college into that state’s public college/university. These guarantees give parents confidence that their teen’s college credit earned in high school can be used later, thus saving a lot of time and money! The Alternative Credit Project had roughly 50 partnership agreements with colleges that may not have otherwise had agreements with their community college! In other words, the program was finally the “in writing” promise parents wanted in place before signing up for these alternatives (inexpensive $) courses.
Straighterline already has over 100 written college-partnerships in place, making them a clear leader in this area. That is far more than the ENTIRE Alternative Credit Project had in place. Clearly, Straighterline didn’t “need” the ACP program, but for the other 5 players (Saylor Academy, EdX, Ed4Credit, Pearson, and Sophia) these partnerships were ground-breaking. On their own, most of those course providers have only a small handful of written partnerships, making transfer less secure. To be fair, many colleges claim to accept credit of that type (ACE), but I like certainty. To, to be frank, prior to the Alternative Credit Project, I rarely suggested any of these credit providers since the transfer was so shaky. ACE publishes a list of colleges who say they will consider transfer credit, but I’ve found too many mistakes in that list to consider it useful.
In other words, without the guarantee of the written ACP transfers, we are back to relying on partnerships created by each of the individual course providers (Saylor, EdX, Sophia, Pearson, Ed4Credit, Straighterline) and since each are a little different in terms of business model, how aggressively they “go after” formal partnerships varies. It’s not surprising the the the largest partnership list was created by Straighterline, a profitable company – while the lowest cost provider, Saylor Academy, is a non-profit and lacks the resources to be as aggressive setting up that structure away from ACP.
- Find out if the course they are taking / has completed holds ACE or NCCRS college credit separate and apart from their participation in ACP. Go into the ACE Database and type in the organization’s name- search for your course. For those using Saylor, check the NCCRS Database the same way. If you find the course, it’s going to be worth college credit once ACP closes, so even if you change target schools, it is still worth college credit.
- Make sure that all of your teen’s ACP courses have been added to their ACE transcript TWICE. Your teens ACP course should have an entry under ACP, but then also under the original provider (if applies). You should be able to view their courses under both headings!! As an example, if your teen completed the American Government course through Straighterline, the first entry would be in the “Alternative Credit Project Ecosystem” heading with a course number and completion date:
|American Government (StraighterLine)
3. If you find that the course(s) is only available for college credit under the Alternative Credit Project and does not have stand-alone approval for credit, that course must be completed and submitted BY YOU / YOUR TEEN to ACE by 3/31/2018 midnight (EST). Even though the program is closing, there is still a strong possibility that colleges will honor the relationship if you completed the course while the relationship was in place.
VERY GOOD NEWS FROM SAYLOR ACADEMY
Saylor Academy is being very proactive in obtaining ACE / NCCRS approval for the courses that will otherwise appear “unaccredited” once the ACP program folds. Specifically, there are 8 courses that are at risk. They are:
BIO101: Introduction to Molecular and Cellular Biology ACPE-0023
BUS101: Introduction to Business ACPE-0107
BUS103: Introduction to Financial Accounting ACPE-0113
CHEM101: General Chemistry I ACPE-0034
MA121: Introduction to Statistics ACPE-0017
PHYS101: Introduction to Mechanics ACPE-0008
PHYS102: Introduction to Electromagnetism ACPE-0007
POLSC221: Introduction to Comparative Politics ACPE-0071
I contacted Saylor Academy’s Executive Director Jeff Davidson and asked if he expected these 8 to be ACE approved before ACP expired, and he wrote me this very encouraging note:
“Hi, Jennifer- We are submitting ALL of our “ACPE” courses to ACE for re-review this month. I suspect ACE will not allow a “lapse” for those courses if they are unable to complete the review by 3/31, but I can not 100% definitely guarantee that. I would be shocked if there was a lapse, so I’m 95% confident there will not be. So please express that super high level of confidence. “
Before I leave you with the list of ACP partnership schools, know that helping you learn the transferability of courses is my TOP PRIORITY. Why? Because everyone has their own set of preferences for choosing our teen’s classes. We have different budgets, skills, even teacher preferences that we get to choose with them. Transfer, on the other hand, colors everything and must be known in advance.
In order for YOU TO BE YOUR TEEN’S BEST GUIDANCE COUNSELOR, you have to know and understand how/why a course that you THINK should transfer will or won’t. Know that I’ll post updates as they happen, and we’ll follow the progress of how the partnership schools react once they’ve severed ties with ACP. Additionally, I’ll keep you up to date on the ACE / NCCRS college credit status of Straighterline, Saylor, EdX, Ed4Credit, Sophia, and Pearson.
ACP Partnership Schools (through 3/31/2018)