Posted in Community college, Credit by Exam, Distance Learning, Straighterline

BOG AAS Pierpont Community and Technical College

This is the follow-up post you’ve been waiting for!  Last week I told you about the West Virginia Community College System’s little secret:  CHEAP and FAST associate degrees for adults with at least 12 previously earned college credits from a Regionally Accredited college (I mistakenly said 15 in my original post, you only need 12!). The cost?  Nothing….. but wait.  Let’s talk.

First, know that this is a totally legitimate Regionally Accredited Associate’s degree through a community college in West Virginia.  Pierpont Community and Technical College is not the only college in the country that offers a Board of Governor’s Associate of Applied Science degree – many do. In fact, your local community college may.  A Board of Governor’s degree is simply a traditional college’s way of going around a college’s traditional requirements to encourage adult learners to return to school, or to allow those with non-traditional credit to complete a degree.

Since I’m organizing a degree plan through Pierpont for a friend, my research is specific to Pierpont.   We had a lot of interest on the Facebook group about this degree, so I’m thrilled to bring this to you!

I am told that all of the West Virginia Community Colleges offer BOG – AAS degrees, however, not all are as easy to complete as this one, which is why I selected Pierpont.  There are many adults pursuing this specific degree over on InstantCert, so you can also visit that forum and read some first-hand experiences. 

Is Pierpont’s BOG – AAS a good fit for you?

  1. Did you graduate high school /earn a GED at least 2 years ago?
  2. Do you have at least 12 graded college credits earned through a Regionally Accredited college?  They can be online or in-seat, but if you don’t have them, you’ll have to complete them somewhere.  You can do it anywhere or Pierpont.

As you can see, this is a program focused on attracting the adult learner who may have left college or the military and wants to finish their degree.  So, what’s the catch?

Not a “catch” but a limitation.  This is an Associate’s of Applied Science degree- which means it’s not meant to transfer perfectly into a 4-year program, however, if you attend a West Virginia-based public 4-year college or university, they have an articulation agreement that allows a perfect block transfer.  In other words, if your goal is to earn a 4-year degree, you’re going to want to look at West Virginia public colleges.  If you intend on attending in a different state or a private college, a transfer may be limited or significantly restricted and not result in a 60 credit transfer.   This degree is best suited to someone who is satisfied with only an Associate’s degree, or who wouldn’t object to attending a WV public university.  (Yes, online is an option too).


The cost to complete this degree through Pierpont is $0.  Meaning, they don’t charge you anything to apply, anything to transfer, or anything to graduate.  You can literally transfer in 100% of your credits and be awarded a degree.

If you don’t have all of the credits you need, you’ll have to pay for them yourself, but the good news is that you can control those costs and cash flow the whole thing for very little out of pocket cost.  Since they accept all military, CLEP, DSST, AP, and ACE credit, you can choose the way you earn those credits.  As an example, you can use Straighterline (a program my 10th grader used last school year to earn 39 credits for $1200)  For someone that only needs 3 or 4 courses, you could simply take CLEP exams ($100 each).

Since there is no way for me to know what credit you already have or where they will fall on the degree template, it’s hard to estimate costs that apply to all of you, but, you can use this generic tool to help give you an idea.  (YOUR COSTS may differ)

60 credits REQUIRED for this degree

Subtract the number of credits you already have from all sources including CLEP, ACE, etc.  Be sure you already have at least 12 college credits from a Regionally Accredited college!

Subtract 11 10 (the number of free credits you’ll earn from the options below)

= the number of credits to pay for.  

If you use the resources in this post, you can earn the rest of your college credits for about $33 per credit, so multiply the number left to earn x $33 to get a rough idea.

If you have 12 left to earn = $396

If you have 24 left to earn = $792

If you have 36 left to earn = $1188

The cost examples you see are the “all in” costs from application to graduation.  You can see why this is so exciting!!  The average Associate’s Degree in the United States can cost between $10,000 and $30,000.

If you do not already have 12 college credits from a Regionally Accredited College, your costs will be more.  If you live outside of West Virginia and want to take classes at Pierpont, their tuition is $432 per credit, which is the LEAST cost effective way to complete this degree.  Look at your local community college first, where you may be able to complete your courses for closer to $100 per credit.

Program Information Page Pierpont Board of Governors AAS Degree

Credit Distribution

A credit distribution explains where your credits have to fall in order to meet a degree’s requirements.  In other words, the degree requires 60 credits, but you don’t meet that requirement by simply having 60 credits.  You have to distribute credit into the right slots.  it doesn’t matter where your existing 12 credits fit into this distribution, only that you have them in there somewhere.   NOTE: You have to have English 101 credit, either by course or exam.  Everything else is undesignated.  In other words, you can choose ANY course from a category.

NOTE 1: It doesn’t matter where your pre-existing 12+ credits fit into this distribution, only that you have them in there somewhere.

NOTE 2: You have to have English 101 credit, either by course or exam.  Everything else is undesignated.  In other words, you can choose ANY course from a category.

6 Credits Communication English 101 (or similar)


Any 3 cr. English or Communication

6 Credits Math or Science Any 3 cr. Math or Science


Any 3 cr. Math or Science

6 Credits Social Sciences Any 3 cr. Social Science


Any 3 cr. Social Science

3 Credits Computer Literacy Any 3 cr. Computer Literacy
39 College Credits Any subject*

COOL THING TO NOTE:  If you have 15 or more credits in one subject, you’ll be awarded an Area of Study on your transcript.  

WARNING:  I need to emphasize that the courses below meet all of the specified requirements set by the college and should transfer seamlessly.

Still, it is a wise investment of your time to reach out to the program advisor and discuss your degree plan in advance of earning tons of credit independently.

Parks, Nancy W.

Director of Assessment, Advising & Testing
Associate Professor of Academic Studies

Ways to Earn Free ACE Credit

If you have enough space in the “39 credit” category, you can pick up 11 10 college credits totally free through the following ACE sources open to anyone!

This list was generously assembled by the members of InstantCert.    Members there have successfully applied these 11 10 credits to this degree.  NOTE:  You will have to open an ACE account to collect and hold your ACE credit.  ACE is a third party credit evaluator, it’s necessary in order to turn your work into actual college credit.

Don’t be intimidated by this step –  I made a video to walk you through the process.

(2 Credits) The Institutes

The American Institute For Chartered Property Casualty Underwriters (commonly referred to as “The Institutes”) offer a free ethics course that is ACE recommended for 2 credits.

  • 312N-H Ethics and the CPCU Code of Professional Conduct (2 credits) – an upper level ethics/philosophy course that meet’s TESU‘s General Education “ethics” requirement (you might have to ask for an exception to be made for the last credit, but typically this is automatically granted. The 3rd credit is to be made up as a general ed elective).

To signup, use the following link:

Select the FREE option. You should not do the $5 option. The paid option is for “Continuing Education credit,” which is different than college credit. The free version is ACE approved for college credit.

(2 Credits 1 Credit) National Fire Academy

The National Emergency Training Center/National Fire Academy (NFA) offers two free courses that are ACE-recommended for 1 credit each.

  • Q0118 Self-Study Course for Community Safety Educators  (1 credit) currently not available for college credit, but if it is renewed, I’ll add it back in.
  • Q0318 Fire Service Supervision: Self Study (1 credit)

To signup, use the following link and find the course code in the list, Q0318:

After you are enrolled, use this login URL to take the classes:

(1 Credit) Sophia – Developing Effective Teams

Sophia offers a number of paid ACE-approved courses that are fairly expensive. However, they do offer a free 1 credit course:

  • SOPH-0021 – Developing Effective Teams (1 credit)

You can sign up for the course at

(6 Credits) TEEX Cybersecurity

Texas A&M Engineering Extension Service (TEEX) offers three ACE-approved courses recommended for 2 credits each. These are DHS/FEMA funded and therefore free for the general public to take.

  • Cyber 101 – Cybersecurity for Everyone (2 credits)
  • Cyber 201 – Cybersecurity for IT Professionals (2 credits)
  • Cyber 301 – Cybersecurity for Business Professionals (2 credits)

To signup, use the following link and make sure you sign up for all classes under these three headings, there are multiple courses per heading: Cyber 101, 201, 301:

After you are enrolled, use this login URL to take the classes:

Ways to Earn Low-Cost ACE Credit

There are a handful of popular ACE credit sources. You may have already heard of a few of them:  Saylor Academy,, Straighterline, Sophia, Shmoop, Davar/Tor, ed4Credit, EdX, and Pearson.   Honestly, it’s impossible for me to go through each of these and provide a full list of options, but know that there are MANY and if the course is ACE evaluated, it’s accepted.  For the sake of keeping this post concise, I want to emphasize 2 providers:  Saylor Academy and Straighterline.

 Saylor Academy

If you can pass a really tough exam, Saylor Academy is THE cheapest option for Communications, Math, Science, Social Science, and Other.   I don’t know the exact pass rate for each, but I know a lot of good testers who couldn’t pass these exams or barely passed- still, I want to tell you about them because they only cost $25 each (proctored at home via webcam) and for $25, that’s only $8.33 per credit – without leaving your house! So, if your budget is tighter than tight if you’re a good test taker, and you’re up for a challenge, I think you should give one a try.    You can choose courses from this list that have an ACE# next to them.  Note, I don’t suggest their Sociology or Psychology since they are not a full 3 credits each.  But, you can still use them, but you’ll need to make up the difference with another course.

Saylor Coures Matched to the Credit Distribution


  • COMM001: Principles Of Human Communication


  • BIO101: Introduction to Molecular and Cellular Biology
  • CHEM101: General Chemistry I
  • MA001: College Algebra
  • MA005: Calculus I
  • MA121: Introduction to Statistics
  • PHYS101: Introduction to Mechanics
  • PHYS102: Introduction to Electromagnetism


  • ECON101: Principles of Microeconomics
  • ECON102: Principles of Macroeconomics
  • POLSC101: Introduction to Political Science
  • POLSC221: Introduction to Comparative Politics


  • ENVS203: Environmental Ethics, Justice & World Views (while this does have a science prefix, it has been ACE evaluated a philosophy course – not science)
  • BUS101: Introduction to Business
  • BUS103: Introduction to Financial Accounting
  • BUS105: Managerial Accounting
  • BUS203: Principles of Marketing
  • BUS206: Management Information Systems
  • BUS205: Business Law and Ethics
  • BUS208: Principles of Management
  • BUS210: Corporate Communication
  • BUS303: Strategic Information Technology
  • CS102: Introduction to Computer Science II
  • CS302: Software Engineering
  • CS402: Computer Communications and Networks
  • PHIL103: Moral and Political Philosophy



Straighterline is cost-effective when you work quickly, and the way to work quickly is to skip the lessons.  I would never suggest that to my teens (I make them do every lesson!) but the tests and quizzes are what make up your grades, and all of the test content comes from the free ebook – not the lesson.  Really, it’s your decision.

I wrote a really long post on how to select Straighterline courses.  The strategy I use is a good one, and I highly suggest you read it before signing up.   Also, Straighterline ALWAYS has coupon codes running.  You can find my coupon list here.

To keep things simple, any Straighterline course can be used.  Most of the courses cost $59 before coupon and require a $99/month membership fee.  An adult focused on the tests (skipping the lessons) can complete 1 course per week comfortably.  If you really grind, you can complete 2 per week, but you won’t have a social life.   Since you’re paying a monthly fee, you want to try and complete ALL your Straighterline courses in 1 month (or 2 at the most).

TIP:  when using coupons at Straighterline, purchase your courses in individual transactions.  This allows the “1 coupon per transaction” to reset with each purchase. 

Cost for Straighterline:  $99 (1-month membership) plus course ($59 average with a $50 off coupon = $9 per course)  The minimum cost for 1 course will be $108, but every course AFTER that initial membership fee is whatever you pay for the class! So, if you can use 3 more coupon codes, you can get 3 more courses for $9 each = $27!

TIP:  You can start and stop your Straighterline membership without losing your place in your courses.  My oldest son took a 2-year hiatus and picked up where he left off! 


Credit by Exam

Credit by exam allows you to study for a subject on your own using whatever resources you can pull together, and then take a multiple choice exam on the subject.  If you pass, you earn college credit in the subject.  The two big exam brands you’ll want to look at are CLEP and DSST.  If you follow Homeschooling for College Credit on Facebook or this blog, you’ve probably seen my What is CLEP?  video and my suggested study resources.  If not, it’s worth looking at, because it will open an entire world of credit earning options to you!  In short, I want to help you assign CLEP and DSST exams to their proper category.  See the table below:

Other Financial Accounting

Introductory Business Law

Principles of Management

Principles of Marketing

American Literature

Analyzing and Interpreting Lit.

English Literature





Business Ethics and Society

Introduction to Business

Money and Banking

Organizational Behavior

Personal Finance

Principles of Finance

Principles of Supervision

Ethics in America

Introduction to World Religions

Communications College Composition Advanced English Composition

Technical Writing

Social Sciences American Government

History of the United States I

History of the United States II

Human Growth and Development*

Introduction to Educational Psychology

Introductory Psychology

Introductory Sociology

Principles of Macroeconomics

Principles of Microeconomics

Social Sciences and History

Western Civilization I

Western Civilization II

A History of the Vietnam War

Art of the Western World

The Civil War and Reconstruction

Criminal Justice

Foundations of Education

Fundamentals of Counseling

General Anthropology

Human/Cultural Geography

Lifespan Developmental Psychology*

History of the Soviet Union

Substance Abuse

Math & Science Biology



College Algebra

College Mathematics

Natural Sciences


Fundamentals of College Algebra

Math for Liberal Arts

Principles of Statistics


Environmental Science

Principles of Physical Science I

Computer Literacy Information Systems


Computing and Information Technology

Management Information Systems


*choose one but not both

How Do I Begin?

You can contact Pierpont directly to begin the process.  Since I know many of you have questions about your credit and will want to connect with others working this plan, I have created a Facebook group for this specific purpose.

Pierpont BOGgers will be a special group specifically for Homeschooling for College Credit members who are working on the Pierpont BOG Associate degree.  In the group, you’ll be able to ask questions of others and contribute to the working body of knowledge that is shared here and passed out to the other members who would like to complete this degree.  The group will “open” for membership on 9/10/2017 and will remain active as long as we have an interest.


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.


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

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!


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 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 Majors, Distance Learning, engineering, Science

Member question: Can my daughter study mechanical engineering online?

Great question Vivien, thank you for asking!  There is only 1 college that meets the very rigorous criteria required for this search.

(1)  Regionally Accredited University or College (note, you’ll find many “accredited” colleges but the only accreditation you should be after if you’re becoming an engineer, is regional.  Forgive me, but Wikipedia says it well:


While it might seem that national accreditation would be more important than regional accreditation, this is generally not the case. Regional accreditation is older, and with a few exceptions, more prestigious than national accreditation.[4] Most non-profit institutions are regionally accredited, while most for-profit colleges and universities are served primarily by national accrediting agencies.

(2) ABET Accredited Program is considered the standard for an engineering degree.  This is a program accreditation, not a college accreditation.

Graduates of ABET-accredited programs who work in applied science, computing, engineering, and engineering technology can seek professional recognition by enhancing their credentials through licensure, registration, and certification programs where appropriate. Graduation from an ABET-accredited program is increasingly a required minimum credential for such professional recognition.

…and the winner is

The University of North Dakota

That’s it.  Just one school is RA, ABET, and offers a full engineering program as a distance learner.  Their engineering program(s) is not new to distance learning.  I have information going back to 1989, so these guys have been doing this for a while!  I always like to see some experience as a distance learning provider before enrolling.  (I’ve taken classes at two colleges, and my husband at a third, that were brand new at offering distance learning.  Let’s just say it’s not always best to be first).

There will be brief campus visit(s) required for labs.  

The University of North Dakota offers several options:

Program Overview

Distance Engineering Degree Programs

  • Leads to a degree in one of UND’s undergraduate degree programs accredited by the Engineering Accreditation Commission of ABET.
  • Designed for working adults who are unable to complete a full-time, on-campus program.
  • Follows the same curriculum as UND’s on-campus engineering programs.
  • Available online with on-campus labs (ranging from 5 to 14 days) held during the summer in Grand Forks, North Dakota.
  • Provides online access to recorded classroom lectures and course materials from anywhere, at any time.
  • Requires supervised (proctored) exams to be completed within a specified timeframe at a location near you.
  • Waives select course requirements if you demonstrate work experience and extensive knowledge in the field of engineering.
  • Taught by highly qualified UND faculty who are committed to distance learning and are available to answer your questions by phone or email.
  • Offers student support services, such as online tutoring, library, tech support and advising services.
  • Begins every Fall (August), Spring (January) or Summer (May) Semester.

This is a $125,000 degree. Let’s look at ways to bring that number down.

Tuition is high.  If you’re a North Dakota or Minnesota resident, on-campus tuition is just under $400 per credit.  If you’re from anywhere else, you’ll pay close to $850 per credit.

In my estimation, you should be able to complete 60 credits externally through a combination of CLEP, AP, dual enrollment, and transfer credit.  Expect to pay about $6,000 doing that, but you’ll cut the cost of this degree by 50% before scholarships.

They accept CLEP and AP.  While it doesn’t say it on their policy page, my intuition tells me that engineering majors won’t allow your teen to use CLEP or AP for credit in any of their sciences.  Stick to liberal arts, social sciences, foreign language, or humanities.

They accept dual enrollment.  If you have an option of earning dual enrollment credit through your local community college, this can shave a lot of the cost for you.  This is the best way I know of to learn English 101, English 102, and all the math that’s coming!

They accept transfer credit.  Use your community college to receive guaranteed transfer of an associate’s degree.  They have a LOT of articulation agreements, not just in-state (common) but with other outside states (rare).  If you live in one of these states, contact the University before enrolling in your state’s community college.  Dot the i’s and cross the t’s.  A lot of money is at stake here! 




New York

North Dakota




Posted in AP Advanced Placement, CLEP, Curriculum, Distance Learning, DSST, High School, Self-Paced Learning

The Great Courses

In 2008, I was struggling through a college Anatomy & Physiology course when I turned to youtube for some help.  I stumbled upon a video by Dr. Anthony A. Goodman – it blew me away.  Not only did he help me understand the information, but I dug until I found the rest of his lectures- they were that good.  As it turned out, they were eventually pulled from Youtube for copyright violation (oops) but I found the source: The Great Courses

Here’s the short of it:  The Great Courses are usually (not always) college-level learning taught by well respected and highly regarded professors.  These are not worth college credit when taken alone, rather they are used in your homeschool as a high school curriculum.  You could then marry the program with other test prep material if you desire to finish your teen’s program with AP, CLEP, or other exam credit.

Format:  Individual Great Courses are available on DVD, CD, Audio, or you can stream their whole Plus catalog on demand through their new Great Courses Plus program (monthly subscription).   While I am not a Plus subscriber, the Plus program looks amazing!  It will appeal greatly to those of you who use technology in your classroom or are already comfortable with products like Amazon Prime, Apple TV, mobile device based streaming, for entertainment.  This product fits into that category perfectly.   Plus program subscribers also have the option of purchasing hard copies at a deep discount (70% off).  

This promotional link gives you 1 month free:

The Great Courses Plus – One Month Free

CLEP & AP Friendly?  I asked our membership if they thought the Great Courses alone were “enough” to prepare their teen for an AP exam or CLEP exam, or if it served as the main curriculum and they followed up with CLEP/AP prep.  This is what they had to say:

Jude Barrier Dickson writes…” I don’t think any TGC {The Great Courses} is enough for an AP or CLEP exam. This is NOT to say they are not valuable, and be sure to know we use them extensively, but I find the best practice for exams are flash cards of info, presented as they would be in an AP or CLEP test.”

Wendy G.  writes… “Lots of CLEP and AP here and I also don’t think TGC would alone be enough, we just use them as supplemental.”

Selecting TGC for Your Homeschool

Since no single course stands alone as your curriculum and test prep, this small selection is representative of the types of courses I believe would enhance your homeschooling for college credit program.  I’ve deliberately selected courses from the Plus list since they are all also available for DVD purchase if you choose.  (Not all DVDs are available to stream)

SCIENCE: The Great Courses Plus

AP or CLEP Biology Program:  Biology The Science of Life, The Joy of Science, Understanding Genetics, and What Science Knows About Cancer.

New course:  Plant Science: an Introduction to Botany

AP or CLEP Psychology Program:  Mysteries of Human Behavior, Biology, and Human Behavior, Understanding the Brain, and Cognitive Behavioral Therapy.

AP or CLEP Chemistry Program:  Chemistry our Universe, Chemistry 2nd Edition, Nature of Matter, and Organic Chemistry.

HISTORY: The Great Courses

AP or CLEP American History Program:  History of the United States 2nd Edition, Experiencing America, World War II, and Decisive Battles of History.

New course:  American’s Founding Fathers

DSST Civil War Program: American Civil War, History of the United States 2nd Edition, and The Life of Abraham Lincoln

ECONOMICS: The Great Courses

AP or CLEP Economics Program:  An Economic History of the World, The Economics of Uncertainty, and New Global Economy.

New Course:  The Art of Investing

OTHER: The Great Courses to Consider

DSST Cultural Anthropology Program:  Customs of the World and Cultures of the World.

Coming Fall 2017:  Anthropology and the Study of Humanity

DSST Astronomy Program:  The Remarkable Science of Ancient Astronomy

AP or CLEP Western Civilization Program:  Foundations of Western Civilization (coming Fall 2017)

AP or DSST Environmental Science (Human Cultural Geography): Understanding Cultural and Human Geography, The Science of Energy, and Fundamentals of Sustainable Living.

AP or DSST Statistics and Probability Program:  Big Data How Analytics are Changing the World, Probability Made Clear, Mathematics of Games and Puzzles, and Game Theory.

AP Music Theory Program:  Music and History, Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas, Mozart’s Chamber Music, Greatest Orchestral Works, and Great Solo Piano Works.

CLEP Humanities Program:  Understanding Opera, History of European Art, Masterpieces of the Ancient World, How to Look at and Understand Great Art, The World’s Greatest Churches, The Louvre, and Understand Great Music.

If your family has used The Great Courses in your homeschool, let me know your favorites, and I’ll add them to this page!  Contact Jennifer

Posted in ACE, AP Advanced Placement, CLEP, Credit by Exam, Curriculum, Distance Learning, Self-Paced Learning, Sophia, Straighterline

Fine Arts

Fine Arts for College Credit

Most general Associate of Arts and Associate of Science (2 year) degrees have at least 1 “Fine Arts” requirement (3 college credits), and you can usually fill that in high school.

Exception:  if your teen is headed into a fine arts college, a music conservatory, or other highly specialized area of fine arts education, you’ll want to check with target colleges before accumulating a lot of college credit in high school.  Specialized art/music colleges sometimes have a policy against accepting transfer credit of any kind, but may allow your teen use Advanced Placement exam scores to boost their admissions application. 

The list of acceptable “Fine Arts” courses will differ slightly by institution, but the following courses will do the trick most of the time.  colors3

  1. Literature
  2. Music Theory
  3. Music Performance
  4. Art History
  5. Studio Art
  6. Humanities

Ways to Fill a College Fine Arts Requirement in High School

Dual Enrollment (contact your local Community College for information)

  • Dual enrollment has the highest probability of transfer assuming the target college accepts transfer credit.  Dual enrollment credit earned in high school is not considered “transfer credit” by most schools, but does carry a grade as part of the student’s permanent record.

Credit by Exam (CLEP, AP, DSST, Saylor, ECE/Uexcel)

  • Credit by Exam (CBE) acceptance varies dramatically.  CBE credit earned in high school is not considered “transfer credit” and generally does not carry a grade (pass/fail only).

Non-College ACE Credit (Straighterline, Sophia, Shmoop, Study, ed4credit, Propero)

  • ACE Credit is generally not accepted except when a partnership exists.  Some companies, like Straighterline, have credit-transfer-guarantee partnerships with more than 100 colleges.  ACE credit earned in high school is not considered “transfer credit” and generally does not carry a grade (pass/fail only).

Credit by Exam

(last update:  04/07/2017)

Advanced Placement (AP) Art History (6 cr.)

Studio Art (6 cr.)

$93 Official AP Page
DSST Art of the Western World (3 cr.) $80 + local proctor fee (~$20) Official DSST Page
CLEP American Literature (3 cr.)

English Literature (3 cr.)

Analyzing & Interpreting Literature (3 cr.)

Humanities (6 cr.)

$80 + local proctor fee (~$20) Official CLEP Page
Excelsior College Exam (ECE / Uexcel) Introduction to Music (3 cr.) $110 + $60 local proctor fee Official Uexcel Page
Saylor NONE $0 + $25 webcam proctor fee Official Saylor Page


Non-College ACE Credit Courses

(last update:  04/07/2017)

Shmoop American Literature (3 cr.)

The Bible as Literature (3 cr.)

British Literature (3 cr.)

Contemporary Literature (3 cr.)

Drugs in Literature (3 cr.)

Holocaust Literature (3 cr.)

Introduction to Poetry (3 cr.)

Literature in the Media (3 cr.)

Modernist Literature (3 cr.)

Shakespeare’s Plays (3 cr.)

Western Literature (3 cr.)

Women’s Literature (3 cr.)

$87.68/mo. subscribe

Unlimited courses

Shmoop Introduction to Humanities (3 cr.) $199/mo. subscribe. Limit 2 courses per month
Propero (Pearson) Literature (3 cr.) $330 per class Propero
Sophia Visual Communications (3 cr.)

Introduction to Art History (3 cr.)

$329 per class Sophia
Straighterline NONE $99/mo. subscribe + $59 per class Straighterline
Ed4Credit Literature (3 cr.)

Film Appreciation (3 cr.)

$195 per class Ed4Credit
Davar Academy (NCCRS approved, not ACE approved) NONE $70 per class + $25 web proctoring  Davar


Posted in Curriculum, Distance Learning, High School, Self-Paced Learning, Straighterline

Straighterline Dissected: What to Take

Not all Straighterline courses follow the same format.  In this document, we’ll explore the structure of each Straighterline course, and I’ll help you break down the differences between them.  This will help you choose courses that meet your specific need.

Courses are generally considered “easy” and/or “fast” to complete when they:

  1. Consist only of only exams, a midterm, and a final.  Those three exam types are multiple choice format, open book, and instantly graded by computer.  
  2. The course point distribution allows you to accumulate enough points to pass the course before taking the final.
  3. The course textbook is available digitally, which allows you to search out answers quickly during exams.  Tip: hold the Ctrl button and press the F key.  A “find” box will open, and you can search the text for any word or phrase.

Courses are generally considered “hard” and/or “slow” to complete when they:

  1. Have assignments that must be uploaded to Straighterline.  The assignment will be graded by a human, and can take 3-5 days.
  2. Are subject to a human’s interpretation of the course instructions, which can result in a low grade.  The nature of the grading system means your grader is anonymous and you can not ask follow up questions or make revisions.  You will likely have a different person grading each of your assignments.
  3. Require labs.  Science labs can stretch several days each, especially if you’re waiting for a reaction or culture to grow.  Labs also require uploading photos in every lab report.

Courses are generally “more expensive” when:

  1. You take a science lab.  Science labs all require lab kits purchased through the link in the course syllabus.  Lab kits can cost as much as $200. 
  2. You don’t use a discount code.  There are usually at least 2 codes at any time.  I keep a log of current codes on this website. Discount Codes


A passing score for every Straighterline course is 70% unless your college says differently.

Straighterline credit comes into every college as PASS/FAIL credit unless your college says differently.  

Charter Oak State College (CT) is the only college I know of that awards letter grades for Straighterline courses.  They use a standard 90=A, 80=B, 70=C grade scale.

When the “pre-proctor” column is 700 or more, you can pass the course before taking the final exam. Note, they still require you to take it, but there’s no pressure.

I pulled all of the following MASTER TABLE information from the Straighterline website on 2/25/2017.  Information is subject to change at any time, but I will make every effort to keep this current.  If you find an error, please don’t hesitate to let me know.



Accounting 1 4 exams @ 150 / midterm 200 800 Final exam 200
Accounting 2 4 exams @ 150 / midterm 200 800 Final exam 200
American Government 4 exams @ 125 / midterm 200 700 Final exam 300
Anatomy & Physiology 1 16 exams @ 40 / midterm 160 800 Final exam 200
Anatomy & Physiology 1 Lab 9 exams @ 42 *lowest score dropped

9 written lab reports @ 83 *lowest score dropped

1000 -0-
Anatomy & Physiology 2 13 exams @ 50 / midterm 150 800 Final exam 200
Anatomy & Physiology 2 Lab 9 exams @ 42 *lowest score dropped

9 written lab reports @ 83 *lowest score dropped

1000 -0-
Biology 13 exams totaling 700 700 Final exam 300
Biology Lab 8 exams @35 / 1 homework @ 40

8 written lab reports @ 85

1000 -0-
Business Communication 14 exams @ 25 / midterm 150

3 written papers @ 100

800 Final exam 200
Business Ethics 4 exams @ 175 700 Final exam 300
Business Law 4 exams @ 125 / midterm 250 750 Final exam 250
Business Statistics 6 exams @ 125 750 Final exam 250
Calculus 1 4 exams @ 125 / midterm 150 650 Final exam 350
Calculus 2 4 exams @ 125 / midterm 150 650 Final exam 350
Chemistry 6 exams @115 690 Final exam 310
Chemistry Lab 8 exams @35 / 1 homework @ 40

8 written lab reports @ 85

1000 -0-
College Algebra 4 exams @ 125 500 Final exam 500
Criminal Justice 12 exams @ 50 / midterm 200 800 Final exam 200
Cultural Anthropology 4 exams @ 125 / midterm 250 750 Final exam 250
English Composition 1* 15 exams totaling 610

9 written assignments totaling 400

1010 -0-
English Composition 2 17 exams totaling 510

8 written assignments totaling 500

1010 -0-
Environmental Science 4 exams @ 125 / midterm 250 750 Final exam 250
Financial Accounting 4 exams @ 125 / midterm 250 750 Final exam 250
First Aid 4 exams @100 / midterm 200

1 demonstration 100 / CPR verification 100

800 Final exam 200
Introductory Algebra 7 exams @ 100 700 Final exam 300
Introduction to Business 4 exams @ 125 / midterm 250 750 Final exam 250
Introduction to Communication 4 exams @ 100 / midterm 100

3 speeches totaling 300

800 Final exam 200
Introduction to Nutrition 15 exams @ 40 / midterm 150 750 Final exam 250
Introduction to Philosophy 4 exams @ 75 / midterm 200 500 Final exam 500
Introduction to Programming C++ 4 exams @ 50 / midterm 200

8 Program assignments @ 25

600 Final exam 400
Introduction to Religion 4 exams @ 125 / midterm 200 700 Final exam 300
Introduction to Statistics 5 exams totaling 500 points 500 Final exam 500
IT Fundamentals 19 exams totaling 700 points 700 Final exam 300
Macroeconomics* 19 exams @ 40 / midterm 120 880 Final exam 120
Managerial Accounting 4 exams @ 125 / midterm 200 700 Final exam 300
Medical Terminology 4 exams @ 125 / midterm 200 700 Final exam 300
Microbiology 6 exams @ 100 / midterm 200 800 Final exam 200
Microbiology Lab 8 exams @ 48 *lowest score dropped

8 written lab reports @ 95 *lowest score dropped

1001 -0-
Microeconomics* 24 Exams @ 30 / midterm 140 860 Final exam 140
Organizational Behavior 4 exams @ 125 / midterm 250 750 Final exam 250
Personal Finance 14 exams @ 50 / midterm 100 800 Final exam 200
Personal Fitness 10 Exams @ 70

Fitness test/Caloric Inventory/5K race @ 0

700 Final exam 300
Pharmacology 1 4 exams @ 125 / midterm 250 750 Final exam 250
Pharmacology 2 4 exams @ 125 / midterm 250 750 Final exam 250
Physics 4 exams @ 150/ midterm 200 800 Final exam 200
Physics Lab 9 exams @ 42 *lowest score dropped

9 written lab reports @ 83 *lowest score dropped

1000 -0-
Pre-Calculus 4 exams @ 175 700 Final exam 300
Principles of Management 4 exams @ 150 / midterm 200 800 Final exam 200
Psychology* 4 exams @ 175 700 Final exam 300
Sociology 10 exams @ 50 / midterm 150

5 discussion assignments @ 20

750 Final exam 250
Spanish 1 4 exams @ 75 / 2 written assignments @ 75

2 oral assignments @ 75 / midterm 150

750 Final exam 250
Spanish 2 4 exams @ 75 / 2 written assignments @ 75

2 oral assignments @ 75 / midterm 150

750 Final exam 250
Survey of World History 18 exams totaling 700 points 700 Final exam 300
United States History 1 4 exams @ 125 / midterm 200 700 Final exam 300
United States History 2 4 exams @ 125 / midterm 250 750 Final exam 250

SL courses WITHOUT webcam proctored final exams

English Composition 1
English Composition 2
Microbiology Lab
Anatomy & Physiology 1 Lab
Anatomy & Physiology 2 Lab
Biology Lab
Chemistry Lab
Physics Lab

SL courses approved as “Advanced Placement” by College Board

English Composition 1

SL courses you can’t pass unless you also pass the final exam

Calculus 1
Calculus 2
Introduction to Programming C++
College Algebra
Introduction to Philosophy
Introduction to Statistics

SL courses that require written essays

Business Communication
English Composition 2
English Composition 1

SL courses that require giving speeches/video recording

Spanish 1
Spanish 2
Introduction to Communication

SL courses that require a 3rd party to verify your activity

First Aid
Personal Fitness

SL courses that require purchase of a lab kit

Anatomy & Physiology 1 Lab
Biology Lab
Chemistry Lab
Microbiology Lab
Anatomy & Physiology 2 Lab
Physics Lab

SL courses that can be “passed” before taking the final exam 

NOTE: the quizzes, labs, homework, exams, and even mid-term exams are all open book.  The only closed book activity is the FINAL EXAM, and not all final exams are closed book!  In other words, your teen should be able to earn nearly perfect scores on everything leading up to the final exam.

Introduction to Communication
First Aid
Business Communication
Accounting 1
Accounting 2
Anatomy & Physiology 1
Anatomy & Physiology 2
Criminal Justice
Personal Finance
Principles of Management
Spanish 1
Spanish 2
American Government
Business Law
Business Statistics
Cultural Anthropology
Environmental Science
Financial Accounting
Introduction to Business
Introduction to Nutrition
Introduction to Religion
Organizational Behavior
Pharmacology 1
Pharmacology 2
United States History 1
United States History 2
Western Civilization 1
Western Civilization 2
Personal Fitness
Business Ethics
Introductory Algebra
IT Fundamentals
Managerial Accounting
Medical Terminology
Survey of World History

Jennifer’s TOP 10 Suggested SL Courses

based on: fewest computer graded activities that can result in a pass before the final exam

  1. Psychology – not only is this course approved as an AP course (record it as such on your teen’s high school transcript) but it only has 4 exams @ 175 points each + final. If you want, your teen can also take the AP exam and/or CLEP exam.  The content of this course aligns with both very nicely.  Note: their target college will still only award 3 credits even if they have multiple passing scores.
  2. Business Ethics – some partner colleges consider this a philosophy or ethics course, which meets a general education requirement!  Only 4 exams and a 300 point open book final.
  3.  Accounting 1 & 2 – These don’t make sense for all of my readers, but if you’re looking for math alternatives or business courses for your teen, these two courses follow the same structure and can yield a full year of math.  There are 4 exams and midterm (all open book) totaling 800 points.  Since only 700 is needed to pass the course, you can pass long before attempting the 200 point open book exams.
  4. Principles of Management– Also a less traditional option, the structure makes this class a winner.  4 exams and a midterm (all open book) totaling 800 points.  Again, easy enough to pass before attempting the 200 point open book exam. CLEP also offers an exam for this course.
  5. American Government- Almost every high school student takes a government course, so this acts as a great DIY dual enrollment option.  A straight-forward structure consisting of 4 exams and midterm (all open book) totaling 750 points.  The final is closed book, however, it’s possible to pass this course before taking the final. CLEP offers an exam for this course, however, the pass rate is very low.  SL would be a significantly easier option if deciding between the two.  *while there is an AP exam in this content area, the SL course is not an approved AP course.
  6. Environmental Science– Considered a nice and easy science by most, the structure here makes this course a great option.  4 exams and a midterm (all open book) totaling 750 points followed by an open book final.  *while there is an AP exam in this content area, the SL course is not an approved AP course
  7. Introduction to Religion– This course is usually considered a general education course, not a theology course, making it a good option for any degree.  The structure is simple with 4 exams and a midterm (all open book) followed by a 250 point open book final exam.  In my opinion, I thought this course covered the major religions well and without strong bias toward one over another.
  8. United States History 1 & 2 – Like Accounting, these two courses can be taken individually, but when taken together make a full sequence.  Both have the same structure: 4 exams, a midterm, and final.  US History 1’s final is closed book, while US History 2’s final is open book.  Either way, it’s possible to pass both before taking the final.  There are CLEP exams for US 1 and US 2, but if you want to plan for an AP exam, be sure to take both classes!
  9. Western Civilization 1 & 2 – Identical in structure to US History 1 & 2, but both have open-book final exams.  Like all the courses on this list, you can pass the class before taking the final exam.  There are CLEP exams for Western Civilization 1 and 2.
  10. Cultural Anthropology– This course is an alternative to Sociology or Psychology as a social science option.  In some colleges, this course also meets requirements related to world cultures or diversity.  The structure is very similar to the others on this list- 4 exams and midterm with a 250 point open book final.
Posted in Curriculum, Distance Learning, Self-Paced Learning, Straighterline

Straighterline Basics

Disclaimer:  Straighterline is a registered trademark.  The content of this blog is not endorsed, evaluated, or approved by Straighterline in any way.

Official Website:

What:  Straighterline is a business that offers online courses.

Who authorizes the credit? The courses have been evaluated by the American Council on Education as college credit eligible.

Who accepts the credit?  Straighterline has over 100 partner colleges that have formal credit arrangements.  Not all of their partners accept all of their courses for credit.  Furthermore, the course equivalency list may be one or more semesters old.  Confirm that your target college awards credit before enrolling.   Interesting point:  Straighterline has more partner colleges than anyone else in this segment. 

How it works:  I suggest visiting their official website for a detailed overview, but I’ll give you the quick version.  You pay a monthly subscription fee of $99 per user.  You then purchase courses a la carte as you need them (average around $50 each).  For most of the courses, a textbook is required, but they incorporate a “free” ebook into the course fee.  If you want a physical text, you’ll have to buy that on your own.  The contents of the course are self-paced and NOT proctored.  Quizzes, exams, homework, and midterm exams are open book.  After you complete all of the course’s required activities, you’ll take the proctored final exam (if applies) via webcam on your home computer.  They use a third party proctor company called ProctorU to monitor you during your test. Your exam score is uploaded instantly.  If you passed the course, you must complete the final step of getting your course onto your ACE transcript.

What is an ACE transcript?  Create an ACE account  Each of your homeschooled students needs their own ACE account with individual email addresses.  Creating a transcript is free but not so easy.  I’ve made a short Youtube Video to walk you through the process.  Save their login information, they’ll keep the same account for life.

Potential:  Straighterline offers 55 courses for college credit totaling about 156 potential credits.  Note that most of the partner schools cap the number of StraighterLine credits you can use toward a degree.   Strict schools allow as few as 30, while generous schools allow up to 90.

Cost:  Cost is difficult to determine since the pace you complete the course determines the cost.  Students are incentivized to work quickly because the faster you complete the course, the cheaper it is.   The minimum cost to complete any course is one month ($99) plus the cost of the course(s) you choose.  Straighterline’s marketing material suggests you can complete 1 course in a month.  Completing 1 course in a month is about $150/month. I can tell you that the adult learners on InstnatCert focus on speed over learning. It isn’t unusual for members to power through an entire course in under a week, which brings the cost down considerably.

My high school teens complete an average of 2 courses per month if they’re adding as a subject to their school day, but have done 3 courses in a month when it was their “only school” subject for the month. Completing 3 courses costs $99 subscription + $59 per course (x 3) = $178*.  So, you can see it is more cost effective to complete SL courses QUICKLY and in BULK rather than spread out over a semester.  

Scholarships:  Straighterline has scholarship arrangements with many partner schools.  A typical arrangement is “complete 4 courses with StraighterLine and receives 10% off tuition.”  Check to see if your target school is on their Scholarship Participants list.

Codes:  Codes reduce the cost of your SL course, and there are always codes. I keep a current list here: Discount Codes.  It is normal to receive $50 off each course you register for, and they NEVER EXPIRE, so you can purchase the courses during a promo code period, and use it later!   (I use codes for all our classes.  In the above sample, my son completed 3 courses  *9 college credits*, each with a $50 off code for a total of $127!

ACE and Expiration Dates:  While Straighterline courses never expire in your account, Straighterline refreshes or replaces courses when their ACE expiration is up (or has the option to, of course, they may also choose to do nothing…but since we can’t read minds…). So, it’s important to keep an eye on dates when the courses you purchase are up for renewal.  I advise you to “use them up” before their renewal – this avoids any potential sticky situations that may cause you trouble.  MOST of the Straighterline courses in the current database will be up for expiration/renewal on 5-30-2018.