The college tuition funding nut is a tough one to crack. You could be super rich with a fully stocked college fund for all of your kids (yeah!) or you could be like me, trying to cash flow college for 4 kids on 1 income. If you’re somewhere in the middle, you might be considering student loans- but what if your teen attends a college that doesn’t allow student loans? Can that help you or hurt you? Continue reading “Colleges That Don’t Allow Student Loans”
“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.
Updated for 2019
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 some 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. Continue reading “$2000 Bachelor’s Degrees in NC”
I have 1 over-reaching principle that guides what type of college content I share with you, and the University of the People breaks my rule.
(1) Colleges I share must be Regionally Accredited – 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 the 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.
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 startup 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.
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:
- President of Duke University Richard H. Broadhead
- President of Boston University Robert Brown
- UC Berkeley Chancellor Nicholas Dirks
- Oxford Vice-Chancellor Sir Colin Lucas
- President Emeritus of Columbia University George Erik Rupp
- President Emerita of Barnard College Judith R. Shapiro
- President Emeritus of George Washington University Stephen Joel Trachtenberg
- President of the Rockefeller University and Nobel Prize laureate Torsten N. Wiesel
In addition to the added credibility of a real leadership team and accreditation, they expanded their degree offerings to their current menu:
Community Health Science
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!
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.
(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 firstname.lastname@example.org or send me a message and we’ll get started.
Any degree plans we create will be shared here to help others.
If you’d like to hear from someone much smarter than I am, the founder of Univerity of the People, Shai Reshef, gives a TED talk about how higher education is changing “from being a privilege for the few to a basic right, affordable and accessible for all.”
I have to share my correspondence with one of our Minnesota members. She has graciously agreed to let me post it here:
“With CLEP and PSEO (dual enrollment), I just calculated we are saving $96,780 at the University of Northwestern St. Paul.
1/3 of that is in CLEP alone: 32 credit hours, which is about $30,260. Then, two years free through dual enrollment which is another $30,260 X 2 =$60,520.
We are saving far more money by CLEPping and dual enrollment than we could get in scholarships. -Carol Lang Frisk
She’s not exaggerating, I pulled the numbers to share with you.
It’s -seriously- phenomenal. Read on…
2017–18 Tuition & Fees
- Meal Plan……………………………………………$3,700
- Technology Fee……………………………………..$260
- Health Services Fee……………………………….$124
- Activity Fee……………………………………………..$150
- Personal Expenses** …………………………..$2,120
- Books & Supplies** ………………………………..$600
It’s worth noting that the green items with ** indicate variable expenses you can control to some degree. (Does anyone else think the college has under-estimated the cost of books?) So, to be fair, let’s round down to $40,000 per year- just the cost Carol’s family will be BILLED.
Without smart planning, Carol and her daughter may have wandered onto campus and signed up for a $160,000 degree! Thankfully, she’ll found a way to bring that cost down closer to $40,000.
Secondary savings and benefits gained by Carol’s plan:
In addition to reducing tuition cost, this family will cut items #2- #9 on the list by at least two years! She won’t have to pay the meal plans, health services fees, technology fees, etc. if she’s not there!
A scholarship, while saving cost, doesn’t save TIME. Injecting college credit in high school is extra work, but it is saving this student a full 2 years off the TIME it takes to finish her degree.
Graduating 2 years earlier than her peers puts her into her career 2 years earlier, thus accelerating her ability to earn a supporting salary.
If entering the workforce isn’t in the immediate future, she has time to travel, volunteer, serve, or attend graduate school while her peers finish their undergraduate degree.
If she does take out a student loan, she’ll begin repayment 2 years earlier than if she attended a full 4 years- which saves 2 years worth of interest.
The average in-state public college costs about $40,000 for 4 years- they’ve found a way to attend a private college for the same price.
Using CLEP exams allowed Carol to choose appropriate homeschool curriculum that aligned with their family values while earning college credit.
Using CLEP exams allowed Carol’s daughter to move quickly through subjects she easily understood, and spend more time on those that gave her trouble.
Using CLEP exams and dual enrollment allowed Carol’s family to make credit accumulation a “pay-as-you-go” situation, which is ultimately the most affordable option for many parents.
How much did they spend? What exams did she take?
Carol shared that her daughter earned 45 CLEP credits, but this college only awards credit for 32. Here’s her list, cost, and reward:
16 credits Spanish CLEP ($100) This college awards up to 16 credits for the Spanish CLEP exam but requires the student to pass a second college based test for verification. This will give her credit in Spanish I, II, III, and IV. (note: most colleges award up to 9 credits)
4 credits World Religions DSST ($100) DSST is nearly identical to CLEP.
4 credits College Composition CLEP ($100)
4 credits Western Civilization CLEP ($100)
1 credit Here’s to Your Health DSST ($100)
3 credit (CLEP) to be determined ($100)
TOTAL INVESTMENT: $600
Parents who inject CLEP exams into their homeschool by using it as a “final exam” don’t really have that much extra added cost- they’re buying curriculum anyway, so the risk is in paying for an exam. Currently, CLEP exams cost $80 but a testing center typically charges about $20 for proctoring services, so it’s safest to budget $100 per exam.
Since exams usually award 3-6 credits, the $100 investment is well worth the risk! You’d have to fail the CLEP exam 5 or 6 times before it’s more expensive than the college class.
Have you thought about using CLEP or DSST to help offset college costs for your teen? If so, what’s your strategy? Do you have tips for getting the biggest bang for your buck? Share them below!
Reader D.M. sent me this lovely note:
“Hi. I just wanted to share a story with you. I have struggled to get my almost 15yo daughter interested in taking CLEP exams. This has recently changed! She is now obsessed with preparing. What has changed? She started the Dave Ramsey financial curriculum and I forwarded the blog post you wrote about Carol Lang Frisk. She is now hoping to take and pass three exams this summer. I hope this inspiration continues!”
College subjects are not treated equally. In this post, we’ll predict where your teen’s English 101 or Management CLEP should fall once they go to college. This is important because choosing college courses for your teen to take while in high school can be a little overwhelming, and this piece of the puzzle will help you tremendously.
This list is a general guide to help you understand where your teen’s college credit accumulated in high school might fall once they go to college. Note: if your teen is already enrolled in college or is certain of the college they’ll attend, disregard this list and ask the college directly. This is a guide for those 1 or more years away from enrollment.
If you want to read one of my earlier posts about how courses become accepted for credit, see my post on Will it Transfer? That’s the Wrong Question
Let’s proceed as if the credit has been accepted into the college. A typical FILTER process looks something like this:
- All credit that has been accepted starts here. This may include CLEP, AP, dual enrollment, or transfer credit. Courses must be 100 level or equivalent.
Degree Distribution Directive
- In every degree, there are some directives that are vague- it may ask for “6 credits in social science” or it may be specific “3 credits Psychology and 3 credits US History.” In every case, credit is first evaluated to see if it meets one of the directives for the degree. Once a slot is full, credit overflows to the next filter below.
General Education Elective
- The number of general education electives vary by the college but can be as many as 30 or more. General Education Electives are made up of courses also known as LIBERAL ARTS. It is unusual for a non-liberal arts course to count as a General Education Elective, but this can vary by school. Once GE Electives are full, credit overflows to the next filter below.
Free / Open Electives
- Not all colleges or degrees have openings called Free or Open Electives. If yours does, this is a “catch-all” category that includes all overflowed credit as well as credit that was accepted by the college, but for but didn’t fill any of the requirements of the degree. Non-liberal arts courses that don’t meet the earlier filters all overflow here. Some degrees deliberately allow for a lot of free electives to encourage adult students to return to college.
TIPS for 4-YEAR BACHELOR OF ARTS/ SCIENCE degree seekers: As you see in the filter process, accumulating a lot of non-liberal arts credit before you’ve selected a school or degree can be risky later – as a rule of thumb for high school students who plan to earn a 4 year degree, take no more than 1 non-liberal arts course for every 2 liberal arts courses. This ratio will make for optimum transfer.
Tips for ASSOCIATE OF APPLIED SCIENCE degree seekers: It’s likely that your degree will require no more than 15 general education courses. If possible, your best bet is to no accumulate more than 6 credits in any one liberal arts category. For instance, no more than 6 credits of history. The majority of your degree will consist of degree-specific courses, so you don’t need a lot of liberal arts/gen eds.
Tips for ASSOCIATE OF ARTS seekers: Most of the AA degrees consist entirely of liberal arts courses. As such, choose only courses from the liberal arts list.
The following subjects are usually classified as LIBERAL ARTS
Art / Fine Art
Mathematics / Statistics
The following subjects are usually NOT classified as LIBERAL ARTS
Automotive / Engine / Body / Machine
Allied Health / Dental
Business / Accounting
Health Education / PE / Fitness
Health Services / Medical Assistant
Home Economics / Culinary Arts
Management / Business /Human Resources
Marketing / Sales / Advertising / Graphic Design
Nursing / Nursing Assistant
Recreation / Coaching / Sport / Leisure
Rehabilitation Services / Counseling
Secretarial Science / Administrative Assistant
Social Work / Counseling
Technical Services / Repair
Student Success / Study Skills / Intro to College / Orientation
Parents who are trying to plan a full college degree can start here: Degree Planning 101
“A class of children sit revising for make-or-break exams to get them into the college of their choice. It’s the sort of scene that could be seen in high schools across the world but for one important difference: The pupils have intravenous drips hanging over their desks. The image is taken from footage that claims to reveal the controversial use of the drips to boost pupils’ ability to study at a school in Xiaogan, Hubei province, China.” Full story
Homeschooling parents have a special kind of anxiety about standardized testing. In many cases, the very principle of using a standardized course of study is exactly why parents removed their kids from group schools in the first place. The notion of individualized pursuit of academic excellence is the opposite of seeking standardization and consistency. Parents I talk to are completely comfortable marching to the beat of their own drum… until somewhere around middle or high school.
Around middle / high school the homeschooling parent’s anxiety goes up, and parents worry about their kids “measuring up” against the kids who have taken standardized tests on a regular basis. Why? PSAT, SAT, ACT, AP, and a few others in the alphabet soup of measurement are introduced into the homeschool for the first time. Remember, most states don’t require homeschooled kids to take standardized tests, in fact, my own kids didn’t take a test until we moved to a “test required” state in 2012. My oldest was a senior in high school with 21 college credits before he ever had to “fill in a bubble.”
The irony of parent’s anxiety, is that homeschooled teens usually kick-butt when it comes to standardized testing. I think most of us have heard the stats- generally homeschooled teens score somewhere in the 80th+ percentile on standardized grade-level tests, and in the upper quartile on college entrance exams . The “why” behind those stats are for another day, but for most parents, those stats aren’t comforting reassurance- they’re added pressure from the homeschool community that demands a higher standard. Above average is average. But what if your teen really is average? What if your teen has passions and talents that aren’t part of what is tested on the SAT? What if your teen is just a regular student who will probably score in the 50th percentile in most subjects? They have no chance, right?
Well, you might be suprised and relieved to know that SAT scores are not an accurate predictor of success in college – and yet, they continue to be a source of stress and fuss among high school parents and students. Homeschool parents know, but should be reminded, that academic success is multi-dimensional. College success is multi-dimensional. Additionally, happiness, health, and success in life as a grown up is more than a high school test score or grade.
As you consider standardized testing options for your teen, know that college entrance tests are currently optional. Unlike achievement tests that may be required of k-12 homeschool students in some states, the PSAT, ACT, and SAT for college entrance are not required exams. Choosing to take an exam is an opportunity for your teen to demonstrate college readiness. As such, whether or not your teen decides to take one of these exams depends on 4 key factors: Homeschool exit strategies, target colleges, availability, and their strengths/weaknesses.
Homeschool Exit Strategies
What are the options after high school? The most popular options include: college, military, apprenticeship, mission work, vocational training, gap year, or entering the workforce. While it feels like “everyone” goes to college, the current data tells us about 67% of high school graduates will enter college directly. We also know that of that set, only 60% will graduate in 6 years or less. From that, we can infer that many of the students who entered college directly may have been more successful taking a different approach:
if 1000 students graduate high school: 330 do not head to college while 670 do.
Of those 670 who start college, 402 graduate in 6 years or less, while 268 do not graduate college ever. The simple math tells us that of the initial 1000 high school graduates, only 402 follow the direct timeline from high school graduation to college graduation. That leaves the majority -598 students- in different categories. This set had a different exit strategy or changed strategy at some point in the 6 years after high school graduation. National Center for Educational Statistics
As you consider exit strategies for your teen, remember that one size does not fit all. For teens not heading directly into college following high school graduation, or choosing a different path, standardized exams are probably unnecessary.
If your teen has a few target colleges picked out, simply visit the college’s website to see if and which exam(s) they prefer. (Try looking in their “Admissions” tab) If your teen doesn’t have target colleges picked out, read on…
There is a growing trend away from requiring ACT/SAT exams for admission. You might be surprised to know that The National Center for Fair and Open Testing maintains a database of over 900 bachelor-degree-granting-colleges that do not require standardized exams for admission, are “test optional” or “test flexible.” See full list. In addition to the bachelor’s degree colleges above, there are 1,200 community colleges in the United States, most of which provide open enrollment admission – that is to say admission is granted without test score benchmarks. In most cases, colleges use a placement tool (Accuplacer and Compass) to determine level for placement, not whether or not you can earn admission.
since not all students graduate high school ready for 100 level college courses, the community college provides the courses necessary to meet that deficiency instead of denying admission.
Two advantages of taking a placement exam at your community college over traditional standardized tests are (a) student can schedule it whenever they want – even into adulthood, and (b) typically there is little or no cost.
For colleges that require SAT or ACT exams for admission, you may find that this only applies to freshman applications. For students entering college after military service, after mission service, as a transfer student, after earning an associate’s degree, or those over the age of 21, the SAT/ACT exam requirement is typically removed.
Standardized exams require advanced scheduling and travel to a testing center. In short, homeschooling families that spend a lot of time traveling, stationed overseas, or other location-based limitations will have to take that into account.
Strengths and Weaknesses
The purpose of a standardized exam is for your son or daughter to demonstrate their candidacy to a specific college. As such, you’ll want to take stock of their strengths and weaknesses when choosing the right exam rather than trying to score well on both exams. Remember, both ACT and SAT have undergone changes over the past few years, so be sure your teen is using current study material as they prepare. Since the last SAT revision, the differences between the Reading, English, and Math sections are very minor. The significant distinction is that ACT includes science, while he SAT does not.
If your teen’s strengths are in athletics, music, ministry, or if they have weaknesses that interfere with strong testing ability, the standardized test may not be the right choice for your family. While it’s true that some teens will be required to take a standardized test to pursue specific colleges, creative and resourceful parents should not be intimidated or fall to peer pressure that may not be in the best interest of their family.