Posted in College Admission, College Majors, Community college, Dual Enrollment

$2000 Bachelor’s Degrees in NC

“My son is taking all his classes for 12th grade at the community college, he will be graduating in May with both his high school diploma from our homeschool and associates degree from our local community college” 

-Jayne L., North Carolina homeschooling parent.

The topic of today’s post is targeted toward our North Carolina families, but the takeaway isn’t that you should relocate to North Carolina, it’s that in almost every state there are strategies you can build around the resources you have available to you.  I know many non-NC adults who “hacked” their education and earned AA or BA degrees for pennies on the dollar (I’m on that list!)  For the motivated, there are a lot of ways to save money, but this post is my deconstruction and then reconstruction of the resources in NC, assembled in a way that maxes out the benefits available to parents.

I like to point out that I volunteer at our county’s library as a college planning expert.  Several times per year I give homeschooling for college credit presentations, championing the educational benefits available to those in North Carolina .  10 times out of 10, a parent will tell me they had no idea these resources were available to their teen, and that their teen could complete a degree this way instead of earning an academic scholarship, or taking on a lot of student loan debt.  Nevermind the opportunity to oversee the process while their teen is still living at home instead of sending them away to college and hoping their college advisors are good stewards of your teen’s time and money.

In short, make it your mission to find the programs in your state, and build a ladder that takes advantage of each and every one- then share that ladder with others.  The more brainpower we have working the problem, the greater we all benefit!

College costs:  Tuition, books, fees, meals, housing, and transportation.  No matter what your teen is doing, they have to live somewhere and eat something.  Sure, they can do that on campus and in a cafeteria, but my advice is that they live and eat at home.  I also like to rent textbooks or buy used editions whenver possible.

You have to plan ahead

Starting in high school, the homeschool parent has the option of bringing college credit into their high school -but since each parent acts as their teen’s guidance counselor, sometimes they don’t know what they don’t know.  Parents are great at high school planning, but may not understand dual enrollment planning.  In high school, the Career and College Promise advisor can help you with dual enrollment, but they aren’t great at helping with degree planning.  In community college, the advisors can help you with your AA/AS degree, but they aren’t great at helping you plan your BA/BS.  At a 4 year university, the advisors can help you earn your BA/BS, but they can’t go back in time to correct the inefficiencies from 1-2-3-4 years earlier.

There is no ONE PERSON IN THE SYSTEM that can advise for your teen from 10th grade through college graduation.  You have to take on the role of guidance counselor – Each employee has their niche, but the only common thread is YOU!  No one cares about the efficiency or cost or time or completion of your teen’s college degree more than you.  There are a lot of moving parts in the process.  BUT,  with a bit of planning and adjusting as your teen advances, they’ll get out the other end with a degree.


High School (Grades 9 & 10)

So, first things first, grades 9 & 10 must be academically robust enough that your teen can test into College Algebra and into College Composition.  In North Carolina, our high school students all have access to a state-wide dual enrollment program called Career & College Promise.  Each of the 58 community colleges has programs (called Pathways) available to your teen, some starting in 9th grade, but most start in 11th grade.  To complete the $2000 Bachelor’s degree, your teen needs to start taking courses in their AA Transfer Pathway or AS Transfer Pathway in fall (August) of 11th grade.

What age?  In NC, dual enrollment isn’t based on age, it’s based on grade.  The homeschool parent gets to decide when their teen is ready for 11th grade.

For teens headed to a 4-year college, taking advantage of the AA Transfer Pathway or the AS Transfer Pathway is a tuition-free way to earn unlimited college credit in high school. (you read that correctly- unlimited)  This is the key component of the $2000 Bachelor’s Degree.  In NC, students choosing one of the Transfer Pathways must meet placement test benchmarks.  If your teen doesn’t meet the benchmark, they can still take college classes, but they won’t be able to follow the plan in this post.  Your teen must take the Accuplacer exam in the middle or end of 10th grade.  If they don’t earn a high enough score, they can retest, but they can’t start until they hit the benchmark. Unlike an SAT or ACT, you can take an Accuplacer anytime you want and as many times as you want- the first time is free.  Simply call your closest NC Community College and schedule it with the testing center.

(Note:  if your teen has already taken the PSAT, SAT, Pre-ACT, ACT, Compass, Asset, PLAN, or NCDAP, your teen’s score may already be high enough to meet this benchmark- ask your local community college’s Career & College Promise coordinator for more help.) 

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High School (Grades 11 & 12)

Grade 11 (FALL) is when your teen must begin their pathway courses.  Your teen will have access to 3 semesters as an 11th grader (fall, spring, summer) and 3 more as a 12th grader (fall, spring, summer).  A pathway consists of about 30 credits and will fit inside of their associate degree, which will fit inside a bachelor’s degree.  Use this for visual reference:

AA Transfer Pathway (30) –> AA Degree (60) –> BA Degree (120)

or

AS Transfer Pathway (30) –> AS Degree (60) –> BS Degree (120)

No matter which community college you use for Career and College Promise classes, the pathway requirements are set at the state level, so “where” they take their classes doesn’t change the process.  Note that your teen is allowed to take pathway classes at any college, it doesn’t have to be your closest campus.  And, the entire AA and AS pathway can be completed online as a distance learning student – so they don’t need to go to campus to take their courses!

“We used two different community colleges and almost a third. One had stronger English and math instructors while the other’s strong suit was history and sociology. The third – CPCC – has a phenomenal online program.”

-Yvonne, Homeschooling for College Credit North Carolina Facebook Moderator

An important point when planning your teen’s courses, it is possible to complete the full AA or AS degree in high school, however, your teen can’t take courses “off-pathway” until they’ve done the entire pathway.  That means, no matter how much your teen wants to take a second psychology course, they won’t have access to the college catalog until every course on the Transfer Pathway has been “checked off.”  The goal is to get off-pathway as efficiently and quickly as possible.

Pathway courses can be completed using community college courses, AP exams for college credit, or CLEP exams for college credit.  Not all NC community colleges apply exam credit the same way- shop around!

If you’re aiming for the most efficient schedule, your teen should enroll accordingly:

  • FALL 11th GRADE:  12-15 credits (4-5 pathway classes)
  • SPRING 11th GRADE:  12-15 credits (4-5 pathway classes)
  • SUMMER between 11th/12th GRADE: 3-6 credits (1-2 pathway/degree classes)
  • FALL 12th GRADE:  12-15 credits (4-5 degree classes)
  • SPRING 12th GRADE:  12-15 credits (4-5 degree classes)

Parents often consider ways to use CLEP or AP exams to either lighten a teen’s course load or accelerate the pathway/degree process.  Keep in mind that CLEP and AP exams cost just under $100 each, so there is an added cost to using these, however, the benefit may be worth it to your family in other ways.  When CLEP and AP credit is earned inside an AA or AS degree that will be used at an NC public university, the exam credit is locked into the transfer agreement and won’t be thrown out – even if the NC public university doesn’t normally award CLEP / AP credit.

“My son took and passed 7 CLEPs during 9th & 10th grade. The AA pathway consists of 11 courses the student must complete before moving on to other classes, his CLEPs knocked out 6 of those classes.  I HIGHLY recommend keeping a spreadsheet to track what your child’s CLEP exams will come in as and what classes they have to complete on the pathway so that you can plan each semester accordingly.”

-NC Homeschooling Parent

If you think 4-5 courses per semester may be too much for your teen, consider enrolling them in the “short” versions of each course.  Most courses come in 2 schedule options, 8 weeks or 16 weeks.  By using 8-week options, you can “stack” 2 courses into a single time slot.

FALL 11th GRADE

  • ENG111 (weeks 1-8)  3 credits
  • ENG 112 (weeks 9-16) 3 credits
  • SOC210 (weeks 1-8) 3 credits
  • PSY150 (weeks 9-16) 3 credits
  • MAT161 (weeks 1-16) 3 credits

Observe that this student is taking 15 credits, but at any given time will only be taking 3 classes at a time (English 1, Sociology, and College Algebra) for 8 weeks, and then (English 2, Psychology, and College Algebra) for 8 weeks.

 What’s on the AA or AS Pathway?


 

Off Pathway- On Degree

At some point in the 11th or 12th grade school year, your teen will be eligible to go “off-pathway” and start checking boxes toward their associate’s degree.  It’s important for me to emphasize that even if your teen can’t finish their entire associate’s degree in high school, that they keep plugging away and finish their degree before matriculating into their target university.  In order to get that “transfer guarantee” offered by our state, your teen must complete the full degree.  Even just one credit short means that their target university will evaluate each and every class, AP, and CLEP exam- which could mean credit being lost in the transfer.  You don’t want that! This whole plan is based on the protected right we have to get a full and perfect transfer.

While working a degree plan, the community college advising team should be included in course selection and guidance with your teen.  You’ll want to be sure that each course brings your teen one step closer to their degree, and that there are no missteps.  Double check that your teen is following the correct degree plan:  AA or AS TRANSFER DEGREE.  Degrees with other titles (Associate of Applied Science, Associate Degree in Nursing, etc.) can transfer too, but the planning is not as cut and dry as AA/AS, and the nuances of planning go beyond the scope of today’s post.  If your teen is pursuing anything other than an AA or AS, they need to check in with their college advisor each and every semester before choosing classes.


 High School and College Graduation

If you worked the plan, your teen will be ready for their high school diploma (issued by you) and will walk across their community college stage to receive their associate’s degree.  Double win!

Having completed the AA/AS degree, your teen will apply to our public universities as a transfer student.  If your teen doesn’t finish the degree and only has accumulated college credit, your teen must apply as a freshman.  Transfer students in North Carolina who hold a full AA/AS degree don’t have to take the SAT exam or meet the “high school entrance” course requirements.

The entire process of exiting a community college with an AA/AS degree and transferring into a public university is HEAVILY REGULATED and standardized by our state.  It’s called our Comprehensive Articulation Agreement, and the contents are public information.  This is a huge advantage because you can learn everything there is to know about the process- just like an academic advisor.  In fact, traditional high school guidance counselors do not advise students on coordinating high school and college graduation simultaneously – it’s beyond their scope of practice.

Don’t be suprised if you encounter the occasional College Admissions Representative who doesn’t know or understand the Comprehensive Articulation Agreement policy as well as you do.  What you’re planning to do is extraordinary.

Tuition Cost for AA / AS Degree:  $0



Onward to the Bachelor’s Degree

To take full advantage of what NC has to offer, you’ll want to tap into their newest program that goes into effect FALL 2018 called North Carolina Promise Program.  The Promise Program has selected 3 colleges in NC that will allow your teen to enroll for a tuition cost of $500 per semester.  This means, your teen can complete their last 2 years of college (4 semesters) for only $2000.  Note that even if your teen doesn’t choose a Promise school, their AA / AS degree is still a guaranteed perfect transfer- but you’ll pay tuition at the rack rate.

You should budget in costs of textbooks (renting or buying used is often a big cost saving) as well as fees.  Most colleges have hidden fees or insurance costs.  You can find these out in advance, and use them as you calculate costs.  EVERY COLLEGE DIFFERS in their fees, so be sure to check all three.

Through NC Promise, the state will significantly reduce student tuition cost at three UNC system institutions – Elizabeth City State University, The University of North Carolina at Pembroke, and Western Carolina University – beginning in Fall 2018. The plan will increase educational access, reduce student debt and grow the state’s economy.  -NC Promise

To keep costs to a bare minimum, you’ll have to address housing.  If you’re fortunate enough to live within commuting distance (Pembroke, Elizabeth City, or Cullowhee) you can avoid the cost of student housing (between $2,000-$4,000 per semester!) by keeping your teen at home.  For two years of housing, this impacts your overall budget by $8,000 – $16,000!  Add in meals, and the “housing question” is no small decision.

What if you don’t live near one of the 3 campuses?  2 of the colleges (UNC-P and WCU) offer a selection of degrees that can be completed as a distance learning student!  While not “every” major could (or should) be completed as a distance learner, but some of the degrees are offered both ways- so distance learning allows your teen to live at home, avoid transportation costs, and save travel time to and from campus.

What about stigma?  Distance learning won’t bring a stigma that came with the older correspondence colleges, degree mills, and shady for-profit schools of the late 90’s and early 2000’s.  Distance learning is now mainstream!  In 2018, over 98% of all public colleges and universities participate in distance learning technology (offers one or more courses in a distance learning format), and in almost every case, no distinction is made on the transcript or degree- in other words, the degree from either of those three state schools is identical whether earned online or on campus.

What about fees?  All colleges add in fees, the million dollar questions are “what kind of fees- and how much are they?”  Some fees you can control, for instance, a parking pass isn’t required if you’re not attending classes on campus, at Western Carolina University that saves you $350 per year.  Elizabeth State also has an $80 laundry fee you won’t have to worry about, but bouncing a check will cost you no less than $25 at each school.

Fees that you should expect include Technology Fees ( about $300/year), Activity Fees (about $600/year), and in some cases, you’ll have a Health Insurance Fee if your teen doesn’t already have health insurance through a parent.  Note that fees for residential (staying on campus) students and distance learning (not staying on campus) are usually different.  Be sure you’re looking at the correct classification.  Also note that with a completed AA/AS degree in hand, your teen isn’t subject to “freshman fees.”


Distance Learning Programs at Promise Schools (2018)

NOTE:  As of this writing, the Promise Program is in progress to launch- you won’t find accurate tuition and fees listed… yet.  I’m even seeing rack rate tuition. Stay tuned.

Western Carolina University, Cullowhee, NC

  • Birth-Kindergarten Teacher
  • Business Administration
  • Criminal Justice 
  • Emergency and Disaster Management
  • Engineering Technology (Off-site/Hybrid Program)
  • Innovation Leadership and Entrepreneurship
  • RN to BSN (Nursing)

The University of North Carolina, Pembroke, NC

  • Criminal Justice
  • Sociology
  • Interdisciplinary Studies (Applied Professional Studies, Applied Information Technology, Criminal Justice, or Public and Non-Profit Administration)
  • Business Administration (Finance, Management, or Marketing.) 

Elizabeth State University, Elizabeth City, NC

Elizabeth State makes it harder for students to earn a degree via distance learning because they only separate out a list of courses the student can complete online.  I believe that they expect all students to attend on campus as a rule and that online learning allows for exceptions.  Based on what I could cobble together on their website, none of their degrees can be fully completed as a distance learning student.  This may change if their enrollment increases as a result of the Promise Program.  I’ll keep you updated.  Majors offered at Elizabeth State.

Tuition Cost for AA / AS Degree:  $0

Tuition Cost for BA / BS Degree:  $500 per sem x 4 

Tuition Total:  $2,000


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If you’re homeschooling for college credit and live in North Carolina, you’ll want to get the inside scoop by joining our NC HS4CC Facebook group!  Readers from other areas of the country can find their state’s Facebook group here.

In closing, even if you don’t take advantage of the new Promise program, every homeschooling teen in NC can take advantage of the AA/AS option.  More encouragement from the North Carolina Homeschooling for College Credit Facebook group:

“My daughter graduated in 2016 with her AA, she transferred to UNCC, moved into her major after taking 2 classes that were needed for it over the summer, and will be graduating with her BS in May ’18 and early admitted to a master’s program and will be graduating that May ’19.”

  –Denise W., NC homeschooling parent


“My daughter transferred to Chapel Hill with her associates in liberal studies. She does have to take three semesters of foreign language and one life fitness class as part of the general requirements to graduate from Chapel Hill, but her Associates fulfilled the rest of the requirements for general ed and she is on track to graduate in two years.”

– Jennifer Brauns Anthony, NC homeschooling parent


“Western was great on transferring my daughters credits even before she committed to attend (which she did not) and if you had a AA or AS completed you were automatically in as a junior”

-Jackie P., NC homeschooling parent

Posted in College Admission

College Graduation Rates (part 2 of 2)

Yesterday I promised you we’d look at the good, bad, and the ugly numbers of specific colleges and their graduation rates.  If you didn’t read part 1, you can do that here.

Why should you care about graduation rates?  Because your teen is among those that are part of that statistic.  College drop outs aren’t “other people’s children” they are our children.  They are our neighbors, our friends- they are good people.  In fact, 64% of all the adults walking around have some college credit, but only 34% have finished a bachelor’s degree.    So, I encourage you to take those statistics as a challenge.  Know that the mountain in front of your teen is very high and very treacherous.  In addition to earning college credit in high school, filtering out colleges that don’t maximize the credit your teen earned, there is a third factor:  the college’s own graduation rate.

Consider 2 colleges.  Both are equal in every way except for one thing:

College A has an 80% graduation rate  (80% of those that start a degree there will finish)

College B has a 0% graduation rate (0% of those that start a degree there will finish)

Which college would you choose?  Assuming you checked their graduation rate before choosing (!) you’d be smart to choose College A.  Students who choose College B are fighting a losing battle.  The average parent never looks up the graduation rate of their teen’s target colleges.  Oops.

All things being equal, colleges with stronger graduation rates have good infrastructure that supports student’s progress.

If a college is graduating most of their students, they’re doing it right.  

A strong graduation rate indicates that the college has a good system in place for moving students from the starting line through the goal post.

  • They have enough academic advisors.
  • The advisors are helping the teens make good course selection decisions.
  • They help the students stay on track and focused.
  • They have a supportive culture that says “you can make it to the finish line.”

Why does a college have a very low graduation rate?  That is an enormous problem for which entire higher education conferences are built to discuss…and it is an important question…but that’s a problem for someone else to tackle.  Until then, your teen has to choose a college.

Ok, I’m sure there is at least one of you who wants to dive into that question- here ya go.

What is the minimum acceptable graduation rate?  The national average is 59% in 6 years, so if it’s better than that, you’re on the side of winning.  I don’t have a hard number you’ll love. For my family, I’m comfortable with anything over 50% in general, but it also depends on how much we’ve done ahead of time.  For instance, is my teen going in with no prior college credit and expects to spend 4-6 years wandering through a degree process?  If so, I don’t trust the college with a 50% graduation rate to oversee his education.  On the other hand, if my son is starting college with 75% of his credits already earned and doing the rest online where I can help assure his success, I’m confident that we could get him through a college with a 15% graduation rate (the rate of the college he is currently attending).  So, it’s relative.  But, you should still ask- and take it into consideration.

Where can I find a college’s graduation rate?

First stop:  College Completion is HUGE listing that will help most of you find most colleges.  Start with that site!  You can search by name, by state, by 2 or 4-year, and more. Keep in mind graduation rates are calculated using 6 years (not 4).

Besides simple searching (which anyone can do) the site has TONS of tools and data that allow you a more sophisticated opportunity to dig deeper.  The site is directed by a name that will be familiar to many of you:  Jeffrey J. Selingo.  Remember him?  That’s right! He wrote There is Life After College, one of my favorite books of 2016.

Second stop:  Your target college’s website or guidebook.


Best Graduation Rates at Flagship Public Universities

1.  University of Virginia
93.1%

2.  University of California at Berkeley
91.0%

3.  The University of Michigan at Ann Arbor
90.0%

4. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
90.0%

5.  The University of Florida
86.5%


Best Graduation Rates of Community Colleges
(with more than 500 freshmen)

1. Lake Area Technical Institute (SD)
64.5%

2. Foothill College (CA)
61.8%

3. De Anza College (CA)
60.1%

4. Alexandria Technical and Community College (MN)
54.9%

5. Rend Lake College (IL)
51.2%


More fun with data

The #1 state with the highest graduation rate among public 4-year colleges?  Delaware!  59% will graduate in 4 years, and 73% will graduate in 6.

The #1 state with the highest graduation rate among community colleges?  South Dakota.  In SD, over 44% will graduate on time, while 51% will graduate in 150% of the time.  North Dakota is nearly as good, and to demonstrate how significantly better they are than the rest of the country,  states #3-50 have rates at or below 20%.

The lowest community college graduation rate?  Vermont.  A dismal 2% of students will graduate on time.

If you’re attending a private for profit college, you best chance of success is to attend a college in… Florida.  Full Sail University boasts a 4-year graduation completion rate of over 80% and Southwest Florida College maintains a 4-year graduation rate of 100%.

For those who wonder about The Big 3

The data for Thomas Edison State University, Charter Oak State College, and Excelsior College don’t appear on the above website or my second favorite resource website College Score Card.  I did find 2011 data on Charter Oak’s website, but otherwise, I’m coming up dry.  Charter Oak State College:  60% 


 

graduation

The Takeaway

It’s all about finishing.  Really.  All the planning, all the college credit earning, the goal is to leave the process with a credential in hand.

While there really isn’t any way to guarantee completion, I would suggest that you have a lot of tools to get your teen a good portion of the way there.   By earning college credit at home, choosing a college to accept that credit, and choosing a college with a good graduation rate, you are doing an exceptional job directing your teen’s journey!

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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Posted in business, College Admission, College Majors, Computer Science, Distance Learning, Free Tuition

University of the People

I have 2 over-reaching principles that guide what type of college content I share with you, and University of the People breaks both my rules.

(1)  Colleges I share must be Regionally Accredited – this one isn’t.

(2)  Colleges I share must be open to high school homeschooled students – this one isn’t.

So, why keep reading?  Because this college is worth knowing about, even if it isn’t the right fit for your teen.  In this post, I want to make a case for University of the People. You probably know someone who would love to attend college if cost weren’t a barrier. Perhaps this IS a degree your teen would consider?   University of the People is a university doing amazing things, and they’re worth considering.


Accreditation

I have to go there, just for a minute.  My first rule, that colleges mentioned must be Regionally Accredited (RA), is important within the context of what we do here because many careers and professions won’t acknowledge a degree that isn’t RA. Nursing, Medicine, Pharmacy, Accounting, public school K-12 teaching, Engineering, college teaching, Dietetics, Social Work, Architecture, and many others – including those that require a state license, almost always specify a “Regionally Accredited” degree.  Being “accredited” without the word “Regional” is not the same thing.    If your teen earns non-RA college credit, it will almost never transfer into an RA college (all community colleges and public universities are RA), while RA college credit readily transfers into other RA colleges.  So, as you can see, you can’t go wrong choosing RA.

Let me also add that when I tell you a handful of careers specify an RA degree, there are twice as many careers that don’t/won’t.  For instance, careers in business, computers, fire science, technology, military, ministry, drama, music, management, law enforcement, and numerous vocational programs (culinary arts, cosmetology, automotive, plus others) don’t care.  In fact, within certain fields, accredited is accredited; there is no distinction.   I am quite comfortable suggesting non-RA colleges to mid-career adults who are already in their career and simply need to check the box with an accredited degree in something.  I’m usually quiet when it comes to non-RA degrees for teens since there is usually so much uncertainty, but in this post, I’ll let you decide.

University of the People is accredited, but they are not Regionally Accredited.

Quick Back Story

In 2009, UoP was a tuition-free start up in California that nobody heard of and a guy surrounded by a few volunteers.  They offered one or two degrees initially, and since the college wasn’t accredited, they launched without much love from the higher education community.  In addition, they only accepted a handful of students (mostly non-American), so even if you didn’t mind their lack of accreditation, you still might not get in.  If you got in, you couldn’t transfer in ANY of your previous credit, they didn’t accept CLEP, and it was a little disorganized.  An early argument against their initiative is that it’s just as much work to earn an unaccredited degree as an accredited one.   I got the impression that they were a MOOC that wanted to be a college, and that they would fizzle out shortly (or start charging tuition).  If you’d like to see what the NY Times had to say about UoP in 2009, you’ll enjoy this story from their archives.

But then….

February 2014 UoPeople received accreditation from the Accreditation Commission of the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC), a U.S. Department of Education authorized accrediting agency. This can be verified at http://www.deac.org/

So, this got people’s attention.  In addition, they started getting a lot of support in the university community.  Their list of volunteer university leadership includes:

In addition to the added credibility of a real leadership team and accreditation, they expanded their degree offerings to their current menu:boy3.jpg

Business Administration

  • Associate
  • Bachelor
  • Master

Computer Science

  • Associate
  • Bachelor

Community Health Science

  • Associate
  • Bachelor

 

For those who don’t need a Regionally Accredited degree, this university just got real. University of the People is now considered a legitimate online university and is listed in the US Department of Education Database as accredited.  Wow!


Tuition-Free

University of the People is the first worldwide tuition-free university.  They are totally online (no room and board cost), provide your textbooks (electronically, so no shipping or rental fees), and don’t charge tuition. But, they do charge a test proctor fee ($100) at the end of each course for the final exam.  In addition, if $100 is a financial hardship, they also offer scholarships!  From their website:

It is the University’s mission to provide affordable, tuition-free education for everybody. UoPeople is tuition-free, not free. You will never be asked to pay for courses, course material or annual enrollment fees. There is a nominal $60 Application Processing Fee for all applicants as well as a $100 Exam Processing Fee for each exam ($200 for the MBA). Based on this, an associate’s degree can be completed in 2 years for $2060,  a bachelor degree can be completed in 4 years for $4060, and an MBA can be completed in 15 months for $2460. UoPeople will never request these amounts upfront, but rather students will pay each Exam Processing Fee by the end of each exam period. These modest fees ensure that the University remains sustainable and can continue to provide quality education for everybody.

There are scholarships available for those students who cannot afford the nominal processing fees of the University. It is the University’s belief that everyone deserves the right to an education, and that no one should be left behind due to financial constraints.


Transfer Credit

(from UoPeople website)  What Credits Are Accepted at UoPeople?

University of the People will consider transferring credits earned at accredited US universities and accredited universities outside of the U.S. UoPeople will also consider credits earned from College Board AP tests or evaluated by ACE (including CLEP).

UoPeople will consider accepting transfer credit for a course in any instance in which the course content is equivalent to that of one of UoPeople’s courses or in which the course may be used towards an elective credit in a UoPeople degree program. UoPeople may award the transfer of up to 50% of the required program credits.

Ok – so, let’s talk about transfer credit, and how this applies to my second rule:

Colleges I share must be open to high school homeschooled students – this one isn’t.

 

It’s true that as a homeschooled high school student, you wouldn’t be eligible for admission.  (18 years old and a High School Diploma are required for admission) but with their new transfer credit acceptance policy, you can DIY 50% of this degree while you’re still in high school.  For those seeking an Associate’s Degree, that allows for 30 credits of transfer, and for those seeking a Bachelor’s Degree, you’ll be allowed to transfer in 60 credits.

Let me add, that while they will accept credit into their program, it is unlikely that you’d get to transfer course credit out of their program into a different program. In other words, if you start there, finish there.

Last comment:  this is not a self-paced independent study program.  They have 3 terms per year, an academic calendar, application and graduation cycles – the whole thing.  So, if you’re considering the program, you’ll have to verify the application period in advance.

DIY 30 or 60 credit transfer plans by request:  I want to extend an offer to help any parent or teen match up the correct CLEP, AP, DSST, or ACE credits to align with the max allowable credit accepted by University of the People.

If you or your teen plans to attend, email me at cookderosa@aol.com or send me a message and we’ll get started.

Any degree plans we create will be shared here to help others.

 

 

 

 

Posted in College Admission, High School, working

HELP! My high school graduate doesn’t want to go to college.

If your teen graduated this month without a plan for college, and you’re probably feeling EXCEPTIONAL pressure, especially on Facebook. (you know, where “everyone’s” kids are all starting at fussy universities this fall).  I want to tell you something that’s really important but rarely talked about.

Getting into college isn’t nearly as hard as getting out.

mountain
The journey between high school graduation and college graduation.

That’s worth saying again:  Getting into college isn’t nearly as hard as getting out (with a degree).  Trust me, getting out is the better goal, but soon the buzz will die down, and you won’t hear about the struggles some teens are having, the financial challenges the parents are facing, or the worst possible scenario, their teen dropping out.

In other words, it’s intimidating when “everyone” around you starts college, but that’s only because there is a pervasive myth that tells parents “get your kid into college, and all is well in the world. Your job is done!”

Not so fast.  That’s bunk.

Simply, there is a huge journey between high school graduation and college graduation. It’s filled with pitfalls, redirection, and a lot of debt.   Unless your teen is very motivated, he likely wouldn’t have been successful today had you pushed him forward. That doesn’t mean he won’t be up for it next semester,  next year, in 3 years, or in 5.  But every college graduate will tell you that it was their internal motivation that drove them to complete their degree, not the internal motivation of their parents!  I realize all of this is very uncomfortable to talk about, but I hope you’ll explore with me how we can make your situation work out for the best.  (Did she just suggest I back off?  Maybe a little.)


Everyone is not a college graduate

The National Center for Education Statistics keeps track of all education data on all people (not a small sample of people, all people – this is the real deal!)  I like using data when I’m wrestling a problem because my emotional side and my logical side are sometimes at odds with each other!  Data helps me reel in some of my emotions, and look at a problem logically.   I’ve turned to the latest Educational Attainment Data (2017) and the latest College Enrollment of High School Graduates (2017) to discuss the challenge of “getting out” of college.  Why?  Because many parents may interpret their teen’s lack of motivation today as their own failure. (let’s face it, as homeschoolers, a lot of people are watching our kids and how they turn out – I get that, it’s a real pressure.)

Their data reflects young adults aged 25-29.  I want to walk you through a set of information that I hope you won’t skim past:

  • The percentage who graduated high school or GED:  92%
    • This is important to note because if your teen didn’t graduate high school, they would truly be in the minority of their peers.  In 2015, the graduation rate was only 88%, so as you can see, it’s trending up!  As a high school graduate, they are eligible to apply for college, apprenticeship, military, or begin work.  This accomplishment may not be your endgame, but it is still significant for their success as an adult moving forward.  Count this as a win.
  • The percentage who earned a bachelor’s degree:  35%
    • I bet you thought it was higher.  35% is up from last year!  Last year, it was only 28%.  So, roughly a third have earned a bachelor’s degree.  This is certainly not the majority by a long shot.  In fact, bachelor’s degree holders represent a minority in the United States.  (Master’s degree holders are in an elite club – only 9% of Americans have one!)
  • The percentage of high school students that graduated high school and went directly to college:  69.9%
    • Yep!  You read that right, 70% of high school graduates headed directly to college, but only 35% of those between the ages of 25 and 29 hold a bachelor’s degree.  Let’s build a diagram of how that looks using real students.

2017 educational attainment

 

Now, I know you still want your teen to land in the green “35 graduate college” box, but before we go there, I want to share a bit more data and then we’ll build a real plan.

False starts are expensive

Student loan borrowing data tells us that 94% of those that enter college borrowed money.  The general allowances and caps on government borrowing tell us that a student at year 2 in college has borrowed about $12,000. (I’m being super generalized at this point, and I’m not counting any money the parents borrowed).

slide2

So, while your teen hasn’t started college yet, at least they aren’t among the 33 that started, borrowed, and then dropped out.  That group will have a $125 per month payment for 10 years to repay their loan.  Those students are facing the same uncertainty as the group that didn’t start college – but the difference is that they are doing so with a debt burden on their shoulders.

From statistics and data, we know that student loan debt can be crushing, especially when the student expected to land a high paying job after college graduation, and instead finds themselves without their degree and a monthly debt to repay.


Tip #1  If your teen isn’t the driving force behind going away to college, stay home, pay cash, and don’t leave a paper trail.

Sometimes teens need a push.  Mine have too.  But remember, internal motivation is what drives a teen to complete their degree, so the ultimate win is getting them fired up about building their own plan.  If your teen isn’t the driving force, their potential for finishing a degree away from home is very low.  It is my recommendation that you should still push (a little) but do so in a way that doesn’t create a long-term debt or leave a trail.

A paper trail is a college transcript with 1-2 semesters of mediocre grades followed by a series of “W” and “F” grades.  That is the #1 most common way students leave college when they drop out.   You can avoid this by keeping their work off of a transcript (for now).

ADULT EDUCATION.  The best kind of college classes that are cheap and don’t leave a trail are called “Adult Education” or “Continuing Education” and found at your local community college.  While some of these courses can lead to a license, certification, or credential – that’s not really the point.  The point is for them to get into a classroom where they’ll learn something they’re interested in.  Adult Education courses aren’t graded, and they aren’t part of a financial aid program.  Failure in these courses is inconsequential, there are no grades and no debt.  You simply drop the class.  Future college applications that ask for “all transcripts and grades” does not include Adult Education.

As an example, my local community college offers EMT training as part if a degree program and through the Adult Education program.  Through the degree program, the student must apply, take a placement exam, take pre-EMT courses, earn credits, and earn grades.  A permanent record is created, and the student can use financial aid to pay for the courses.  Through our Adult Education program, a student simply enrolls directly in the EMT course, pays $180 and attends.  Whether the student passes or fails, no grade is recorded.  (no college credit is earned)

Lastly, Adult Education programs exist to meet the needs of adults – so you’ll see a robust blend of personal enrichment (cooking, Spanish, fitness) as well as career growth and development programs (Excel, PhotoShop, Real Estate, Cosmetology, Photography, etc.) that allow a life-work balance.  Adult Ed classes usually just meet one or two nights a week or on weekends, allowing plenty of time for full-time employment.


 Tip #2  Your teen should start full-time employment immediately, and do it at a company that offers tuition benefits.

Full-time work is not a punishment, it’s what adults do!  There is a LOT to be gained from immediate full-time employment.  For some teens, they just need a break from school, so working gives them an opportunity to mature, develop autonomy, and learn about being an adult.  In addition, when a teen works for a company with tuition benefits, they’re tapping into a resource that could pay for their entire degree.  Often an employer that pays tuition expects passing grades.  For the teen that is a good employee and tries hard at work, this outside pressure (from the “real world”) may be enough of an encouragement to work that much harder in school.

I’ve written 2 posts you’ll want to check out if this is the path you’re considering.  I’ve listed 100 employers that should make up your teen’s list of potential employers.

100 Employer / Employee Scholarships

Working During College: Yes or No?


Tip #3  Revisit Homeschooling for College Credit suggestions

You may not realize this, but the credit earning strategies we explore here are applicable to high school graduates too!   If you’ve been a member here for a while, it’s possible that your teen already has some college credit – maybe it was a dual enrollment course, a few CLEP exams, or a Straighterline class.  No matter what they did, if they have even 1 college credit, they’re not behind!  Here is the traditional credit progress schedule:

High School:  0 college credits

Freshman in college:  completes 0-30 college credits (10 classes)

Sophomore in college: completes 31-60 college credits (10 classes)

Junior in college: completes 61-90 college credits (10 classes)

Senior in college:  completes 91-120 college credits (10 classes)

 For those students who aren’t on the competitive admissions track to a prestigious college, or who aren’t pursuing a hands-on trade, it’s easy enough for your student to work full time (see tip #2) and earn credit at home using one of the vendors talked about here.  Read through the tabs above, but I’ll give my personal recommendation for Straighterline BECAUSE they have partnership agreements with colleges that are guaranteed to accept credit, you don’t have to disclose passes/failures, they can be done 100% at home, you can do all general education courses (AA degree) through them, and they frequently have coupons.  (see tip #1).  Furthermore, working on one class at a time, a full time working teen can still complete 1-2 classes per month.  At that rate, your teen is not merely doing, but they are beating the traditional pace of college.

Credit earned non-traditionally through Straighterline, Sophia, CLEP, DSST, ALEKS, Study.com, and others are all valid for 20 years.

College credit earned this way does NOT leave a paper trail.  This kind of credit consists of pass/fail scores.  Failed exams/classes don’t appear on an ACE transcript. 


Tip #4  Make an action plan

Now I’m the one that’s uncomfortable because this tip can cross a little into the “parenting” category, and I’m NOT in the business of telling people how to parent!  Still, making an action plan is a good way to set financial expectations and live at home boundaries for your teen as they navigate into adulthood.  Our second son just graduated high school and is earning his degree as a distance learner, so even though he’s “in college” we still have a very clear action plan for him that covers the next 2 years. Since we expect our children to eventually move out, our action plan always has that in mind.

Action plans include specific tasks either agreed upon by the family or dictated by the parent.  Action plans should have clear and reasonable schedules and goals for everyone. Examples may look something like this:

You have _______ months of working full time before you have to either enroll full time at college, enlist in the military, join the Peace Corps, leave on a mission, start the apprenticeship program, or move into your own apartment.  

While you’re working full time and still living at home, our financial expectation of you is __________________.

We will pay for classes at ____________ as long as you _____________. 

In _____ months, we’ll revisit your goals and decide what to do at that point. 


work

 

Posted in CLEP, College Admission

12 RA Christian Colleges that Accept CLEP

Colleges / Universities on this list are listed in no special order, but are all Regionally Accredited (RA) and have a public CLEP policy (meaning I can find it in one of their publications.)  You can look up colleges using the same tools I use:

(1) Accreditation U.S. Department of Education Accreditation Database

(2)  Search “CLEP” on the College’s website.

Regional accreditation is very important when choosing a dual enrollment college *during high school*  because credit earned at a non-RA college credit rarely transfers into RA colleges.  After your teen graduates high school, choosing an RA or non-RA college is a matter of career direction and personal preference.  Examples of careers that require an RA degree are generally those that require a state-issued license:  Nurse, Medical Doctor, Physician Assistant, Lawyer, CPA, Dietitian, Psychologist, K-12 Teacher, Social Worker, etc.  or that require a master’s degree or higher.  Non-RA college attendance is discouraged on this site as a general policy.

 


1. College of the Ozarks

P.O.Box 17
Point Lookout, MO 65726
Phone: 417-334-6411
http://www.cofo.edu

College of the Ozarks CLEP Policy

Fun fact:  Students here do not pay tuition!  


2. Liberty University

1971 University Blvd
Lynchburg, VA 24502
Phone: 434-582-2000
http://www.liberty.edu

Liberty University CLEP Policy

Fun fact:  This is the largest Christian university in the world!


3.  Eastern Nazarene College

23 E Elm Ave
Quincy, MA 02170-2999
Phone: 617-745-3000
http://www.enc.edu

Eastern Nazarene College CLEP Policy

Fun fact:  All children of pastors or missionaries receive a $5000 grant each year.


 

4.  Texas Christian University

2800 S University Dr
Fort Worth, TX 76129
Phone: 817-257-7000
http://www.tcu.edu

Texas Christian College CLEP Policy

Fun fact:  Accumulating 30 CLEP credits will save $58,000 at this college.


5.  Bob Jones University

1700 Wade Hampton Boulevard
Greenville, SC 29614
Phone: 864-242-5100
http://www.bju.edu

Bob Jones University CLEP Policy

Fun fact:  High school students can take online dual enrollment courses at 50% tuition.


6.  Northwest University

5520 108th Ave NE
Kirkland, WA 98083-0579
Phone: 425-822-8266
http://www.northwestu.edu

Northwest University CLEP Policy

Fun fact: High school students can earn an Associate degree in Ministry Leadership online. 


7.  Biola University

13800 Biola Ave
La Mirada, CA 90639-0001
Phone: 562-903-6000
http://www.biola.edu

Biola University CLEP Policy

Fun fact:  Students can apply up to 32 CLEP credits toward their degree. 


8.  Cedarville University

251 N. Main Street
Cedarville, OH 45314-0601
Phone: 937-766-2211
http://www.cedarville.edu

Cedarville University CLEP Policy

Fun fact:  High school students can take online dual enrollment courses for $150 per credit (free through PSEO for Ohio residents).


9.  Oklahoma Christian University

P.O. Box 11000
Oklahoma City, OK 73013-1100
Phone: 405-425-5000
http://www.oc.edu

Oklahoma Christian University CLEP Policy

Fun fact:  Average student teacher ratio is 13:1


10.  Oral Roberts University

7777 S Lewis
Tulsa, OK 74171
Phone: 918-495-6161
http://www.oru.edu

Oral Roberts University CLEP Policy

Fun fact:  Students can complete 60 credits (50% of their degree) by CLEP and AP!


11.  Colorado Christian University

CAGS Service Central
8787 W. Alameda Ave.
Lakewood, CO 80226

http://www.ccu.edu

Colorado CLEP/DSST page

Fun fact:  75% of an associate or bachelor’s degree can be completed via transfer/test-out.


12.  Messiah College

One College Avenue
Mechanicsburg PA 17055
717-766-2511

http://www.messiah.edu

Messiah CLEP and AP Policy

Fun fact:  Messiah awards credit for VERY LOW SCORES on CLEP exams.  (Under 50)


 

Posted in College Admission, Community college, Dual Enrollment, Uncategorized

Community College in the News

NPR Want to Finish College?

Did anyone read The Center for Community College Student Engagement Report 2017? Maybe not, but you may have read about it on NPR’s website this morning.  If you have the time, you can read the quick summary linked above.  I’m going to take a moment and share my thoughts, which I think other Homeschooling for College Credit parents may find useful.

“Center for Community College Student Engagement demonstrates that students who enroll full-time in community colleges fare better than their part-time counterparts…50 percent of always-full-time students earned an associate degree or certificate. In contrast, only 23 percent of always-part-time students complete their degrees.”

The community college was my employer for 18 years.  I worked for the largest district in the state of Iowa, first as a department chair and administrator, and later when I started homeschooling, as a community college teacher.  Some of you may remember reading in Homeschooling for College Credit, that I was confused by the lack of love for the community college system- it serves a lot of people from all walks of life.  In fact, if you’ve followed our Facebook Group, you know that I have a lot of great things to say about the community college as a system.  That being said…..

The community colleges seem a little out of touch lately with their role in the education industry and seem to be having a bit of an identity crisis.

“Probably for over a decade now, there’s been a lot of conversation about getting more students to complete community college,” says Evelyn Waiwaiole, executive director for the Center for Community College Student Engagement at the University of Texas at Austin. “While attending full-time will be unrealistic for every student, we need to think about why always-part-time students are having a qualitatively different experience and push for changes to be made.”

Here’s what she didn’t say- community college completion rates are somewhere around 8-12% depending on what source you reference. These rates make upper administration lose their minds- and I get it, they want to see higher numbers like those of a 4-year college (about 50-65% which is still pretty low), but what if they’re worried about the wrong thing?  Not everyone uses the community college to earn an Associate of Arts degree!

Community colleges serve a purpose.  They are open enrollment, which is to say that no matter your academic ability, they’ll let you sign up to learn something.  Whether you take courses for credit or personal enrichment, you’re allowed to register.  If you don’t have the required credentials or prerequisite test scores to take certain courses, they’ll provide those too.  Community colleges provide an avenue to earn a GED as well as many quick-employment certificates that can lead to immediate job training.  IN ADDITION, they also award Associate degrees.  

degree

It is my opinion that upper administration has lost sight of their role in our community, and has really started to push for all their students to earn an Associate degree.  Yet, an Associate degree doesn’t always transfer to a 4-year college (depends on your state) and an Associate degree isn’t always an efficient route to a career (ex. Real Estate License requires completing a course, not a degree) and an Associate degree is usually full of general education courses- the very courses students complain about.

The report and summary go on to argue that when students attend full time vs part time, that they’re more likely to complete a degree (this shouldn’t shock anyone) so we should encourage all students to attend full time!  This was the best-dressed marketing effort I’ve read this year.  Of course, colleges want your student to attend full time, of course, they do.  You don’t need an economics lesson from me to tell you why community colleges want to increase their enrollment or why 4-year colleges think you should skip community college and head right to their front door.

EVERYONE is fighting for your student and the dollars they bring. EVERYONE wants enrollment.

So, what does this mean for homeschooling families who want to know where the community college fits into their high school?  I want to point out some reasons that I think the community college is worth your consideration.  This isn’t an apologetics piece, but it’s not a criticism either- it’s simply my thoughts and opinion on how to use the community college in high school and after graduation.


 

For homeschooled high school teens:

  1. DUAL ENROLLMENT.  It’s the community college is the most likely college to allow dual enrollment participation for your teen.  While a few private colleges offer this option, but those programs tend to have competitive admissions or restrictive summer programs.  Community college dual enrollment allows full semester enrollment that awards college credit alongside the high school credit awarded by the parent.
  2. VARIETY:  Dual enrollment through the community college is broader than that of a 4-year college, and includes liberal arts as well as career and trade occupational courses- reflective of the kinds of degree programs offered at the college.
  3.  NON-CREDIT:  The community college closest to you offers a nice catalog of non-credit options.  These are perfectly compatible with homeschooling and can be used as a full curriculum.  Best of all, non-credit options do not require the student to “apply” to the college, rather they simply “register” for the course.  Examples you’ll probably find locally include full sequences of foreign languages, computer programs, and even those that lead to licensure or certifications (property management, real estate, nursing assistant, EMT, and others)  The entrance requirement is usually “age 16” however exceptions can sometimes be made.
  4. TUITION BREAKS:  Some states have community college (or public 4-year college) funding that allows high school students to take courses for free or reduced tuition.  Call your local community college to see if your state has this program.
  5. DISTANCE LEARNING:  Community colleges have really embraced distance learning and a number Homeschooling for College Credit families use community colleges from all over the country.  In other words, you can live in any state and take advantage of the super-low tuition offered through New Mexico’s community college system (about $40/credit).
  6. TESTING CENTER:  If you’re looking for a CLEP or DSST testing center, it’s probably at your community college.  Typically, community colleges have lower proctoring fees than the 4-year colleges.
  7. TRANSFER-FRIENDLY:  Universities in your state almost always all dual enrollment and summer credit earned in high school to transfer to their university.  If they don’t, it’s probably because they don’t accept transfer credit as a general policy, not because of the community college.
  8. PRESERVING FRESHMAN SCHOLARSHIPS:  Credit earned while enrolled in high school almost never counts “against” freshman status, leaving your teen eligible for freshman scholarships.  Typically, the credit earned during high school is applied once the student is already enrolled and sometimes after completion of the first semester.  In other words, they enroll as a freshman, and after 1 semester may be bumped to a sophomore or junior.
  9. HIGHER LEVEL COURSES:  If your teen finishes calculus or French 4 by sophomore year in high school, you’re probably going to have a hard time locating a suitable higher level course.  For those students, it makes sense to enroll in the community college and access no only college credit, but classes at a higher level.

For homeschool graduates:

  1. OPEN ENROLLMENT:  The community college will enroll your homeschool graduate.  The entire “college application process” can be removed from your equation, and your teen can simply register for classes.  In the case of not meeting a certain benchmark for a certain class, the community college will provide a pathway to make it happen.  For instance, if your teen never finished Algebra 1, never took the SAT, and struggles through math, they can still enroll.  There are no essays, interviews, SAT scores, letters of reference, etc.  The college welcomes all students and places them in the level they need, even if the level is lower than “college level.”
  2. TRANSCRIPT ACCEPTANCE:  You can be sure that your homeschool transcript will be accepted at your community college.
  3. LAST MINUTE ENROLLMENT:  Applying a year ahead of enrollment is great if you have a target college in mind, but community colleges allow application and enrollment even through the first week of classes- assuming there is space.
  4. ENTRANCE TESTING:  The majority of community colleges offer their own entrance test at no charge.  This test, taken on your own schedule, is to assess writing, reading, and math level.  There is no way to “fail” this test, though doing well is obviously better for your student.  Students who have taken high school tests like ACT or SAT can sometimes use those in place of entrance testing.
  5. CLEP/AP/DSST AWARDS:  The majority of community colleges award college credit by exam for CLEP, AP, and DSST.  While policies vary, it is unusual that they would award little to nothing (if that’s the case, pick a different community college).
  6. ACCREDITATION:  Community colleges are all regionally accredited, that is the gold standard.  Note that not all 2-year colleges are community colleges and not all 4-year colleges are regionally accredited!
  7. ARTICULATION:  About half of the states have articulation agreements in place, which are formal contractual agreements between the community college and the state’s public colleges.  These agreements guarantee transfer of certificates, diplomas, degrees, or courses.  It’s also worth emphasizing that about half of the states don’t have articulation agreements, but if yours does, this is a huge bonus.
  8. GED / HIGH SCHOOL EQUIVALENCY: If your student wants a GED, prep courses and advisement are available (almost always for free) through your community college. Most community colleges offer the exam as well.  In addition, some of the new high school equivalency exams are worth 10 college credits.
  9. CERTIFICATES:  Unlike a 4-year university, community colleges have “bite-sized” programs that issue certificates or certification after as few as 1 class.  These are usually directed toward job training or a specialization (forklift certification, graphic design, etc.)  Sometimes, the classes inside of a certificate will transfer into a larger diploma or degree at the same college.
  10. TERMINAL DEGREES:  The term “terminal degree” means that the degree has an ending point, in other words, there is not education beyond the terminal degree.  Often, you’ll hear a Ph.D. referred to as a “terminal degree” because there is no degree higher, but at a community college, Associate of Applied Science and Associate of Occupational Studies are also terminal degrees.  These degrees are not intended to transfer to a 4-year college, the degree is the highest training in that industry, and at the completion of the degree, the student enters their career. Besides an AA or AS degree, almost every degree at the community college is a terminal degree.
  11. STUDENT SUPPORT SERVICES:  Unlike 4-year colleges, a community college sees a huge population that needs special support.  Whether it’s simple tutoring or accommodating a diagnosed disability, the community college is excellent at serving this segment of our population.
  12. AGE LIMITS:  Community colleges serve students from age 10-100 and attending classes on campus will likely expose your teen to people of all ages.  While the 4-year colleges serve the traditionally aged student (17-22), it’s not unusual to see a huge age range in any community college classroom.  We have Homeschooling for College Credit families with very young teens taking classes (as young as 12) and as a teacher, I’ve had retired senior citizens in my classes- they were some of my best students!
  13. COST:  Community college is almost always the lowest cost option for traditional college attendance.  The average cost of tuition at a community college is $100 per credit, so an average course (3 credits) will cost you roughly $300 plus books.  While this is a lot more expensive than some of the methods we talk about here (CLEP, AP, DSST, Straighterline, Saylor, etc.) those cost saving methods are alternatives that aren’t good options for everyone.  On your basic English 101 taken on campus with an instructor, your community college is likely to be your most affordable option.  As such, you should know community colleges WANT you to stay local.  They often hike the prices beyond belief when you are out of the district or out of state.  If you can’t attend your local community college, all cost promises are off the table.
  14. PELL GRANTS = FREE TUITION:  A Pell Grant is a financial need-based grant given to eligible students who have filled out the FAFSA financial aid application.  Grants don’t have to be repaid, so if your student qualifies for a Pell Grant, it will absolutely go the farthest at your community college.  Some quick math- a full Pell Grant award in 2017 is $5,575.00  That means, if your teen qualifies and attends college full time, they should receive $5,575.00  If you divide that by the number of credits you’d complete as a full-time student in 1 year (30), you’ll get $185.83.  That means, that your student’s Pell Grant will pay full tuition if your college’s per credit rate is under $185.83!  (know that the average in-state 4-year university charges about $300 per credit, and the average private 4-year university charges about $1100 per credit!)

Referenced:  Center for Community College Student Engagement 2017 National Report