Posted in Career Planning, College Majors, High School

Unlimited Time, Talent, and Resources

The motivational/inspirational quote always goes something like this:

“What would you do if you had unlimited time, talent, or resources?  Do that!” 

If you love that quote, you’re not alone.  But, you might not appreciate this post very much, and I want to talk to you about how time, talent, and resources fit into the homeschooling for college credit journey.

None of us has unlimited time.

None of us has unlimited talent.

None of us has unlimited resources.

I understand the concept of the quote- it’s not meant to suggest any of us literally has no parameters, it’s an exercise meant to open up the world of possibilities.  What’s not to love?

As parents of homeschooled teens, we have the privilege of also being their guidance counselor.  If I were advising your teen, it would be easy enough for me to encourage – inspire- motivate – the sky is the limit…. but that’s only because I don’t know him/her.  I don’t know how he what kinds of problems he loves to solve, his fears about his future, or what makes him tick.  I don’t know his heart.  Inspirational quotes are meant to encourage everyone, and as such, they aren’t very specifically useful to anyone.


I think homeschooling parents have a unique opportunity that we are almost going to miss if we subject ourselves to the shallow one-liners that guide mainstream teens.  Frankly, the “college at all costs” trend of the day is costing our economy and teens a lot of lost time and resources.dream

  • Currently, about 1/2 of the teens that start college won’t finish.
  • Of students who finish, the average time to complete a 4-year degree is 6 years.
  • Studies tell us that about 1/2 of the teens that start college haven’t selected a major or will change it at some point.
  • Finally, we know 2/3 of students are going to borrow money to fund their education.

This is a very informative snapshot of whether or not current wisdom is working.  I don’t think it is.  Education data is one of the most heavily researched topics in modern history – and we have data!  There are big differences between college students in 1940 and 2018.  It’s true that in 1940 only about 5% of the population held a bachelor’s degree whereas today it’s much higher, about 1/4th to 1/3rd depending on your source. But, something to note, however, is that graduation rates among those who started college in the 1940’s and finished, was better than 90%.  In other words, fewer started, but most finished.  Today we get more teens into college, but don’t get many out on the other side with a degree, instead they come out with debt and shame for “failing.” Why?

The biggest shift  I’ve observed over the past 10 years, is that the focus of the entire K12 education system is spent focused on 1 goal: getting teens into college.  All effort, all energy, all finances, all must give way to the idol of college admission.  In my opinion, that’s the wrong goal.  Your teen can get into college.  Every community college in the country allows your teen to walk in and enroll.  Getting in isn’t the problem.  Now, if the question is instead “can my teen get into ABC college?” That I can’t answer.  Maybe.  Maybe not… but of the 12,000+ college options, that question seems narrow to me.

The better question to ask in 2018 is if your teen can get out of college. When the goal is getting out (with a degree, with minimal debt, and in a reasonable amount of time), then we’re going about the process making better decisions and giving our teens solid guidance.  We’ve removed the romance and hype that surrounds the “college experience” and we’re using good judgment and wisdom.

Let’s do a small experiment.  Imagine that YOU (the parent) decided to pursue a college degree this August.  Given the option, would you study to become a doctor or a nail technician? Even if you’ve never studied either formally, you can guess what each would involve.  Would you set a budget, or are you comfortable just borrowing whatever it costs?  How much time would you like to spend on your degree?  1/2 year?  6 years?

Though I don’t know you, I’m going to predict the following:

  • You have a really good idea about what kinds of sacrifices and brains would be required to attend med-school.

  • You would never borrow $50,000 to become a nail technician.

  • If you’re borrowing $150,000 you’d be very sure that there is a stable career on the other side of it.

  • You have a really good idea about your strengths, weaknesses, talents, and type of job you’d like to have/avoid.

  • If I suggest you become a pharmacist, a chef, or a landscaper- you can understand what that is, and know whether or not you’re a good fit for that occupation.

Why?  Why do you know these things?  Because adults have a very good understanding of time, a very good awareness of talent,  personality, and adults have a very real understanding of debt.  Frankly, adults are better at making decisions because we’ve had more time on the planet.  Our teens need us to help them rule in and rule out an occupation that is a poor fit.


choice

The Science of Choice

As it turns out, science and psychology study behavior and choice, and how it intersects with happiness, satisfaction, and action.  Rather than give you yet another expert who will interfere with your good intuition (because no one scientist is ever regarded as an expert by everyone), I want to highlight one of the key principles of choice that I think is very relevant to parents who are also their teen’s guidance counselor:  Fewer choices. 

There are several famous studies that follow decisions made by people choosing between a couple options, and many options.  As it turns out, when people have a very large pool of options, they are almost always unsatisfied with their decision whereas when they’ve only had to choose between a couple options, they are quite satisfied.  The experts believe that this is because we can’t realistically evaluate too many things at once- that if we were trying to choose between 20 of something, it’s harder to trust that we’ve really compared all of the pros and cons, thus an anxiety of missing a piece of the puzzle that may have been important to make the best decision.  It’s much easier for our mind to consider 3 choices and select one with confidence.

  • Good question: “after graduation, do you think you’d like to go straight to college or go on a mission trip for 6 months in Haiti first?”  Of course, you’ll tailor the question that to fit your family, but when we start with too many options, the teenage brain just can’t discern between them.  This helps the teen evaluate a timeline, gives them a voice in the choice, but isn’t overwhelming.
  • Hard question:  “where would you like to go to college?  You can go anywhere you want!”  Clearly, no person can rationally evaluate “anywhere” and “anything” well.  How many of us could do that?  How many of us know about “all” colleges everywhere?  None of us.  Bring down the choices into bite-size pieces.
  • Good question:  “since you love music and are so gifted, have you thought about becoming a music teacher?”  This uses adult wisdom to zero in on a potential career option that uses the student’s talent in a specific way.  Even if the teen isn’t interested in becoming a music teacher, the yes/no decision is not overly complex for a teen.
  • Hard question:  “I know you love playing music, but it isn’t really a good way to make a living. Can’t you think of something else you could do to support a family?”  This is another example of “anywhere” question.  Of the zillions of career options, you’ve only removed one.  This question is too big.
  • Good question:  You’ve earned 27 credits in high school, if you go to ABC College they’ll let you use all of them, but if you go to XYZ College, they’ll only take 23 of them.  The difference here is only 1 class, how would you feel about having to retake once class? Is it worth choosing one over the other?”   This question is great because it helps the student on so many levels.  Besides narrowing it down for them (assuming you’re ok with both college choices) it brings forward a simple decision about time, work, or cost.

If this exercise is bringing you back to raising a toddler, it’s the very same principle!  We think that because we prefer to have many choices that it’s better for us, but we develop deeper confidence and security when we can consider a question carefully in smaller bites.  Further reading:  Too Many Choices: A Problem That Can Paralyze

average

What Happened to Average?

If you’ve spent a few minutes in any homeschool group, you’ll hear many parents label their teens as “gifted” or “challenged”  but when is the last time you’ve heard a parent declare proudly that their teen is “average?”  Huh?  Average has gotten a bad reputation being synonymous with “not trying hard enough” but the truth is that most of us are average intelligence with average talent.

Statistically speaking, about 75% of us fall into the same category of cognitive ability or intelligence: average.  That is to say that while there are degrees of average, most of us are about the same.  There are students with profound limitations, just as there are those with profound intelligence, and they are represented on the far ends of a traditional bell-shaped curve.  So, within the category of average, what makes someone different?  You already know the answer, and it has many terms, but they all mean the same thing:  hard work.  Hard workers almost always out-perform lazy workers, this isn’t news.  But as a teen’s guidance counselor, we need to be realistic with our teen’s determination to become a successful student.  In short, are they hard-working students?  What about talent?

  • Academic Work Ethic: By the time your teen is in 10th grade, you already have a good idea of their academic work ethic. We need to be honest – some occupations and college majors require significantly above average work ethic.  Medicine, pharmacy, dentistry, engineering.  These careers are elite because they require exceptional academic work ethic.  Students who are successful in these college paths are those who enjoy the challenge of difficult academic work and rigorous schedules.  They enjoy school and strive to be exceptional students, who happen to be using their gifts and talents to pursue difficult subjects.
  • Talent: Most of us have a talent or something we are “naturally” good at.  As an example, we all know someone who can play anything on the piano, paints or draws well, who picks up new languages effortlessly or can cook anything without a recipe. Within our social circle, these people stand out to us, but, when grouped with other talented people, they appear more average.  This makes assessing our own teen’s talent very challenging.  As an example, perhaps I’m the best baker you know – but if you were to put me in a room with thousands of talented bakers, I’d be near the bottom.  I’m a good baker among amateurs, and that’s only because I went to culinary school.  I’ll never be a world-famous pastry chef, but I could work as a decent baker if I had to.  It’s not my talent.

How do we, as parents, reconcile having average teens?  How do we reconcile being average?  I don’t pretend to have that answer for everyone, but I do believe that if we teach our teens to work hard on what they’re doing, and praise their work ethic instead of only their results, we teach them that they do have control over one narrow aspect of their success:  their effort.  If you can help them match their talent with something that they feel motivated to apply effort toward, you’ll probably be on the right track for guiding them towards success.

Education at Any Cost

The notion of having unlimited resources was unheard of 50 years ago.  Once upon a time, students worked hard to earn a scholarship, parents had a college fund, or some students worked their way through night classes.   Once upon a time, the cost of college was a significant barrier to a student earning their degree.  While that sounds like bad news, the up-side to that barrier, was students weren’t allowed to rack up thousands of dollars of debt willy-nilly.

If you graduated high school in the 80’s or 90’s like I did, teens who borrowed for college (like I did) were faced with an “annoying” student loan payment of $50-$100 that lasted for 5-10 years.  Today, student loans aren’t annoying, they’re crushing.  Teens today who borrow face repayments of $300-$1200 per month for 10+ years.  Further, those debts, unlike our mortgages or credit cards, aren’t dischargeable in bankruptcy.  Borrowing rules changed in 2008.   Your teen, unlike you, will be allowed to borrow through the government guaranteed student loan program the first  $57,000 for their degree without any restrictions or your consent, and then they can continue on to graduate school and receive funding until they reach the cap of $138,500.  Once at that cap, they’ll have to seek alternative sources like parents, banks, or credit cards.  Parents, who usually have some collateral, are tapping into their 401K funds, IRA retirements, and home equity to pay college tuition.  As such, colleges haven’t much incentive to keep costs in line with inflation, and we’ve seen a huge rise in tuition and student loan debt.  To make matters worse, many people are entering into marriage, each bringing their own student loan debt into the family.

debt

If you think this is an exception, you might be surprised to hear that 2/3 of students are borrowing money to follow their talents, passions, and dreams without the wisdom and counsel of their parents.  The young lady caller phoning Dave in this clip was probably encouraged by her coach, but as she soon found out, that passion has a price.  Be sure to hang around through the end.

I’ve written here before about my own son’s scholarship opportunities that we deliberately didn’t pursue with him after high school (diving) because the scholarships would have created significant long-term debt for him. In 4 years, we never met another parent in the league that that thought the way we did.  Everyone we met was quick to mortgage their home or tap their retirement to fund their teen’s education.  If we’d had a large college fund, we may have considered the situation differently, but the point is that we each have limitations.  Having the ability to borrow nearly unlimited amounts of money allows us to pretend those limits don’t exist, but it’s our teens who pay the price.

College budget tips you can start today:

  • While you’re still teaching them at home, inject college credit opportunities into your curriculum.  There are “easier” and “harder” ways to do this, but there is something for everyone.
  • Encourage your teen to earn low-cost college credit in high school.  Some states allow reduced or no cost tuition to teens that qualify.  Join your state’s Homeschooling for College Credit Facebook Group to help navigate the process.
  • If your teen doesn’t qualify for reduced or no-cost tuition, DIY a plan using credit by exam resources that you can arrange on your own.  The tabs at the top of this website provide free planning help.  By using CLEP, DSST, and Advanced Placement exams in high school, your teen can complete 1-2 full years of college credit at home.
  • Just because your teen graduated high school, that doesn’t mean they can’t use credit by exam to finish maxing out their 100 and 200 level credits. Even if it takes another year or two, keep making smart financial decisions. I tested out of an AA degree using CLEP at age 36 just for fun!
  • Unless your teen has an exceptionally high PSAT, ACT, or SAT, do not expect a full ride academic scholarship.  Partial scholarships should be evaluated against the cost of all 4 years, not just freshman year.
  • Parents who work for a college or university in a full-time job usually get free tuition for dependents.  Besides being a teacher, colleges hire cooks, secretaries, janitors, IT professionals, electricians, and safety workers.  It’s worth looking!
  • Many companies will pay for your teen’s tuition.  I have a good list of 100 employer scholarships here.
  • Some schools have guaranteed scholarships for teens who meet academic or geographic conditions.  I have a good list here. 
  • Almost every traditional state university in the country offers distance learning.  If your teen doesn’t need a “hands-on experience” for their degree, consider using your state university – but as a distance learner.  By living at home, your teen can save at least $10,000 per year.
  • Help your teen research the “ROI” for costs that they will spend on their degree.  ROI is a business-school term that means “Return on Investment.”  Some degrees have exceptional ROI.  As an example, nursing, which can still be started at a community college for about $8,000 returns an average annual salary of $68,000 per year based on last year’s census by The Department of Labor. Additionally, while nurses are encouraged to earn a bachelor’s degree, many hospital employers will pay the tuition for nurses to do so while working.
  • Even for teens who are on the lower-average side academically, there are opportunities for college classes that can be done at home in a self-paced setting with online proctoring.  This allows teens (like mine) to make enormous progress, but at their own pace without barriers like taking notes during a lecture, or memorizing huge chunks of content.  General degrees in liberal arts or business are easy to complete this way and can be very affordable.  (about $15,000 total)
  • Talk with your teen about the budget, their responsibility, and what you plan to contribute to the process.

In closing, I urge parents to understand that you an say “yes” to a college degree while also saying “no” to the snares that trap young students, especially those that result in student debt without the credential to repay it.

If you’ve homeschooled in high school, your teen has already witnessed that education and learning don’t have to look the same for everyone.  Your teen has an opportunity to follow your lead by being resourceful and open to thinking outside the box.  There are dozens of different ways to make a college degree affordable!


 

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.) 

NCPromise3


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!  Of the the three, WCU offers the most online programs, UNCP is a close second, and ECSU offers next to no distance programs. 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


NCPromise2

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 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 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.


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 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.

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.


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.”