Posted in Credit by Exam, DSST, Self-Paced Learning

DSST: the “other” CLEP test

DSST isn’t a CLEP test, but it is a competing brand with CLEP – and similar in almost every way.  Since CLEP is more widely accepted than DSST (2,900 institutions accept CLEP vs only 1,900 accept DSST), is there any reason to take a DSST?  For some of you, yes!  In this post, we’ll cover the basics of DSST as well as the pros and cons of this exam.

DSST Official Website

DSST is a registered trademark of Prometric, a test development company.  In contrast, CLEP is a registered trademark of The College Board, also a test development company, but in this case, you’ve probably heard of The College Board’s other brands- SAT and AP. Most high school students take one or the other at some point, and resourceful high school students take CLEP.  But Prometric is less known for their tests and more known for their testing centers.  There are about 8,000 Prometric testing centers in 160 countries, making it the largest testing company you’ve probably never heard of.

A quick back-story:  DSST is formerly known as Defense Activity for Non-traditional Education Support (DANTES) so some of you with military knowledge may be familiar with this exam. For a number of years, only our military could take a DANTES exam, but in 2004, Prometric took over the exam process and opened up testing to everyone.  So, while our military can still take DANTES / DSST exams (for free) so can anyone else.  This is a great opportunity to those seeking credit by exam because the DSST catalog contains 36 exams covering topics that CLEP doesn’t cover (with one exception).  In other words, between DSST and CLEP, you have almost 70 different college subjects that can be completed by exam.

Tip:  when asking a college about DSST exams, you may want to refer to them as DSST/DANTES since some schools are more familiar with the DANTES name.

What’s The Test Like?

Like CLEP, the test is a multiple choice format.  In a CLEP exam, the student selects the best answer out of 5 possible choices, but DSST only lists 4 choices.  Technically, the probability of getting a correct answer is better with DSST (25%) than CLEP (20%).

What Subjects are There?

1. A History of the Vietnam War boy
2. Art of the Western World
3. Astronomy
4. Business Ethics & Society
5. Business Mathematics
6. Criminal Justice
7. Computing & Information Technology
8. Environmental Science
9. Ethics in America
10. Foundations of Education
11. Fundamentals of College Algebra
12. Fundamentals of Counseling
13. Fundamentals of Cybersecurity
14. General Anthropology
15. Health & Human Development
16. Human Cultural Geography
17. Human Resources Management
18. History of the Soviet Union
19. Introduction to Business
20. Introduction to Law Enforcement
21. Introduction to World Religions
22. Lifespan Developmental Psychology
23. Management Information Systems
24. Math for Liberal Arts
25. Money & Banking
26. Organizational Behavior
27. Personal Finance
28. Principles of Advanced English Composition
29. Principles of Finance
30. Principles of Physical Science
31. Principles of Public Speaking
32. Principles of Statistics
33. Principles of Supervision
34. Substance Abuse
35. Technical Writing
36. The Civil War and Reconstruction


Like CLEP, the exams are pass/fail.  Also like CLEP, a school may choose to impose a higher cut score than is recommended by ACE.  The following table shows the cut scores for “B” grades as well as “C” grades.  For most schools, the “C” grade score is sufficient.

Table of B and C scores

Upper-Level Credit

When college credit is earned, it’s generally grouped into “lower level” or “upper level” categories.  The lower level credits consist of 100 and 200 level courses, also often called “General Education” courses by most colleges.  There are exceptions, but most 100/200 level courses will meet the requirements of an associate degree or the first two years of a 4-year degree.

An edge that DSST has over CLEP, is that all CLEP exams are 100/200 level, while 7 DSST exams are classified as “upper level.”  It is always harder to find economical credit alternatives in the upper-level category, so it’s worth pointing out that this small list is the least expensive upper-level credit currently available.

A History of the Vietnam War

History of the Soviet Union (formerly The Rise and Fall of the Soviet Union)

Introduction to Law Enforcement

Substance Abuse (formerly Drug and Alcohol Abuse)

The Civil War and Reconstruction

Fundamentals of Cybersecurity

Money and Banking

Test Preparation

Like CLEP, the best way to prepare for a DSST exam is to have your teen complete a full semester of study using a curriculum, and then follow up with dedicated exam prep.  Good resources for curriculum and test prep can be found in my The 10 BEST Resources tab.  Since companies that assemble online curriculum are always adding resources, I encourage you to always check edX for classes being offered in these subjects.  EdX courses are always free!

In addition, for those who enjoy the Great Courses (amazing, but expensive) their streaming service (think: Netflix for education), there are a TON of courses you’ll find that align really well to the DSST exams.  The Great Courses Plus

Unlike CLEP, my favorite prep company (REA) doesn’t have DSST prep books.  You can find prep books on Amazon, but you may want to check the customer feedback to assure you’re getting a book that actually aligns with the DSST exam.  DSST exams are refreshed on 3-year cycles, so it’s best to look for current publications or use the prep material distributed by DSST.  

Finally, my favorite online practice test company (Peterson’s) does have the full catalog of practice exams, so if you want to check your teen’s readiness, you can purchase a set of 3 online timed practice exams for $20.  They are considered by most to be a bit harder than the real thing, so solid scores on the Peterson’s tests (60%+) are a really good indicator of readiness.  The Free CLEP Prep site offers one free exam for several DSST exams, so it’s worth a visit too.


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 ACE, AP Advanced Placement, CLEP, Credit by Exam, DSST, Foreign Language, Saylor Academy

Single Exam Options

College classes usually require a lot of homework. Some college classes require a little bit of homework, but for some students, earning college credit by exam means skipping homework in college! If your teen is the type of learner who can read a book and pass a test, is a strong independent learner, likes to deep dive into a subject, then credit by exam is probably something to consider.  In addition, parents who plan credit by exam options are the teachers and selectors of the curriculum (because it happens in highschool at home) and there is no worry about what the college may or may not teach.

There are many alternative credit sources out there, and many require passing a series of tests or quizzes, but this post will focus on the single-exam option.

A single-exam option:  one test determines whether or not you receive college credit in a subject.  

Now, to be clear, I’m not advocating skipping a high school class.  Rather, I’m telling you that learning in homeschool can prepare your teen well enough to skip a college class.

Let’s look at this example:

Paul has studied German since middle school and is starting 10th grade.  His parents have used a variety of curriculum options, and he’s done fine, but last year he really had a breakthrough after his family went to Germany to visit family.  When they returned home, Paul was very motivated and put is heart into his German class.  He completed the 4th and final level of his Rosetta Stone German course.  Paul can speak, read, and write German pretty well!  Paul took the German CLEP exam and scored a 70.  That is an exceptionally high score and will qualify him for 9 college credit at most of his target colleges.  With such a high score, his homeschool advisor suggested he attempt the ACTFL  exam too.  His score resulted in 14 college credits.  Though the first 9 credits of his ACTFL exam will duplicate the CLEP exam credits he has (you can’t count them twice), the additional new 5 credits will give him upper-level credit at his top choice university.  At $900 per credit, Paul saved at least $12,000  by taking a single exam and getting 14 credits for his fluency in German.  (If the university tuition price goes up before he graduates high school, his savings will be even more impressive!)

It’s important to point out that not all colleges accept credit by exam, but you’re not going to send your teen to all colleges- you can be strategic in the schools you choose and consider whether or not it is worth your family’s time and money to use credit by exam.

To inject a personal note, when I first read about credit by exam, I was very skeptical.  In addition to thinking it was possibly untrue, I wasn’t sure that I was smart enough to test out of a college course.   Since I was working at a college at the time, I went down the hall and asked about CLEP.  Despite working there for 10 years, I had no idea that we accepted CLEP, we were an official testing center, and that we allowed our students to complete 75% of their degree through CLEP!!!  So, yeah, it’s a real option.

Using my employer’s testing center, I proceeded to test out of class after class. I found a college with better CLEP policy than my employer and tested out of an ENTIRE AA degree.  This was a test, I didn’t even need the degree.  But, that event changed my children’s lives forever, and it led me to start this community.  So, I share that story because it’s TRUE.  (And my IQ is unimpressively average)

List of single-exam options

CLEP College Level Exam Program:  33 different exams.  All credit is considered lower level (100/200) and all exams (except College Composition) are multiple choice pass/fail.  Cost:  about $100 each.  Accepted by about 2,900 colleges. Taken at a testing center.

DSST (formerly known as DANTES):  36 different exams.  Exams are lower and upper-level (100/200/300/400) and all exams are multiple choice pass/fail.  Cost:  about $100 each.  Accepted by about 1,400 colleges.  Taken at a testing center.

Saylor Academy:  31 different exams.  Exams are lower level (100/200) and all are multiple choice and require 70% to pass.  Cost:  $25 each.  Accepted by about 200 colleges.  Taken at home via webcam proctor.

American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages:  Exams in over 100 languages.  Exams are lower and upper level (100/200/300/400) and credit is awarded based on the strength of your score.  Cost and requirements vary.  Accepted by at least 200 colleges for college credit.  (This exam is also accepted for government employment and teacher certification)

Advanced Placement:  38 different exams.  Exams are lower and upper-level (100/200/300/400) and all exams are a combination of multiple-choice and essay.  Exams are scored 1-5, and colleges generally award credit for a score of 3 or above.  Cost:  about $100 each.  Accepted by about 3,200 colleges.  Taken at a designated AP high school.

New York University Foreign Language Proficiency Exam:  Exams in over 50 languages.  Exams are lower and upper level(100/200/300/400) and credit is awarded based on the strength of your score – up to 16 credits.  Cost ranges from $150 – $450.  Accepted by at least 200 colleges for college credit. (This exam is also accepted for government employment and teacher certification).  Taken at a testing center.

UExcel (Formerly known as Excelsior) Exams:  61 different exams.  Exams are lower and upper-level (100/200/300/400) and all exams are mainly multiple-choice.  Credit is awarded as a letter grade (A, B, C, or F).  Cost is about $100.  Taken at a testing center.




Posted in ACE, ALEKS, Breaking News


ALEKS, an ACE-evaluated online math course that many of our families have used as homeschool curriculum and college credit may be dead effective this week.

ALEKS posted this statement on their website:

It is uncertain whether ALEKS will be recertified for the ACE credit program. Unfortunately, after August 31, 2017, users will not be able to request ACE Credit approval for work done in ALEKS. We are working to resolve the recertification issues.  We cannot guarantee success in these efforts. If and when we are successful, requests for approval will again be accepted, including work done during the interval of suspended certification. We apologize for this inconvenience and thank you for your understanding.

Anyone who completed an ALEKS assessment with 70% or better BEFORE August 31, 2017 can still submit their score to ACE for college credit.  If you are in progress, you can continue to use the program for high school credit, but college credit is currently off the table unless ALEKS gains new approval.

For years, I’ve followed ALEKS through renewals and extensions, all while they’ve continued to use the same platform and course structure.  Read ALEKS has problems…to understand some of the issues I thought might be the cause of constant uncertainty. Earlier this year, we saw the first expiration happen, and then a renewal.  ALEKS Has EXPIRED *again* – what now? And then an expiration, and then a renewal.  Our suspicions about change were confirmed when they did a revamp of their platform, a change suspected to improve user experience, but also partly to please ACE.

I’m confident that their lack of proctoring is a problem.  In private conversations with an ACE Evaluator (off the record) my suspicions were confirmed, and frankly, I expected the 8/31/2017 renewal to happen with the added proctoring.  It appears, however, as if ALEKS may not even be trying to add this safeguard to their program.

For now, ALEKS is dead.  As always, I’ll keep you posted.


Posted in College Admission

College Graduation Rates (part 2 of 2)

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Where can I find a college’s graduation rate?

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

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

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

Best Graduation Rates at Flagship Public Universities

1.  University of Virginia

2.  University of California at Berkeley

3.  The University of Michigan at Ann Arbor

4. The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill

5.  The University of Florida

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

1. Lake Area Technical Institute (SD)

2. Foothill College (CA)

3. De Anza College (CA)

4. Alexandria Technical and Community College (MN)

5. Rend Lake College (IL)

More fun with data

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

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

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

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

For those who wonder about The Big 3

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



The Takeaway

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

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

Posted in College Admission

College Graduation Rates (part 1 of 2)

Getting into college isn’t nearly as hard as getting out. (with a degree) 

I think better than 90% of incoming freshmen assume they’ll graduate college.  I think 100% of their parents hope so!  Still, that’s not the reality.  About half will drop out before they’ve hit the end of their sophomore year.  We’ve talked before about the new national average for earning bachelor’s degree being 6 years (if you haven’t heard that before, that’s one of many changes since the typical parent went to college).  So, the data tells us that not everyone finishes, and those that do, take much longer ($$$).  Ugh.

As a homeschooling parent, you have the opportunity to place them closer to their goal post.

Ok, so let’s say you’ve injected college credit exams into your teen’s high school, that’s the first point in your favor.  You’re paying a fraction of the cost, and you’re bringing the finish line closer.  5 carefully selected CLEP exams can yield 30 colleges credits, all while still being homeschooled.  Anyone can take a CLEP exam- any age-anywhere on the planet!  Scores are valid for 20 years and the “all in” cost is about $100.  Parents who guide their teens toward colleges with generous CLEP acceptance policies will find that their teen can test out of 25-50% of their bachelor’s degree this way.  (I tested out of an entire associate’s degree in 2009 just to see if it can be done.)

Next, let’s say you’ve enrolled your teen in dual enrollment courses, that’s the second point in your favor.  These credits have the best likelihood of transfer, and unlike CLEP, they’re making progress toward a degree.  Some of you will get to do this for free (tuition waivers for high school students vary by state) and some will pay tuition, but make no mistake that if you cash flow this option, you’re also helping them avoid future student loans.  Dual enrollment typically happens in 11th and 12th grade and is generally done through a community college.

Finally, some of you will even help your teen earn a full AA or AS (or more) in high school. Depending on your state’s articulation agreements, this may mean your teen is guaranteed a perfect transfer into a 4-year university.  Students in that situation are 50% closer to graduation than someone “just” graduating high school and starting from scratch.  While an AA or AS is not required on your way to a 4-year degree, it is gaining popularity!

If I had to kick a soccer ball and make a goal, I’d want to be line up as close as possible to the goal.  This is how homeschooling for college credit works- you’re not removing work – you’re not lowering the standards required to earn a college degree, and you’re not making it easy for your teen.  You’re simply starting earlier- and by doing so on your own, you are choosing your own curriculum, you’re paying cash, you’re keeping costs low, you’re selecting exams/credits that align with your homeschool program or family values.

Graduating high school with even 1 college credit puts your teen ahead of the game.


There’s one more piece of the puzzle- and that’s selecting a college. that facilitates your diligent planning and supports your child’s desire to graduate.

Selecting a college, in my opinion, shouldn’t fall entirely to the teen.  I realize that drifts into parenting advice, which is not my intent, rather I want to tell you the advantages of making this decision with or for )your teen instead of granting them autonomy.

  • Parents generally evaluate a college differently than a teen.  Parents look at cost, location, reputation, and utility of the chosen degree.   They assume a linear progression – from zero to degree in 4 years in perfect sequence.
  • Teens evaluate a college through a narrow lens.  Where are their friends attending? What colleges have they heard about?  Who is their favorite football team?  Which college would be more interesting or fun?  They imagine their lifestyle during college and an eventual degree.

I don’t hate fun.  I want my teens to have reasonable amounts of fun, but I also need to equip them to beat the odds and finish college with a degree in hand.  For me, that means taking over some of the initial filterings.   Filtering can happen first, and you’ll see that your teen still has a lot to choose from.

  • There are over 1,800 well-respected and accredited 4-year colleges in the United States. 
  • In addition, there are over 2,000 well-respected and accredited 2-year colleges in the United States.
  • This “pool” of 3,800 colleges doesn’t even include career or trade schools, most nationally accredited schools, and specialty certificate programs (ex. Real Estate licensure courses) which make the real number closer to 10,000!

Who can research 10,000 colleges for one child?  Not me, and I love doing it.

You can use any criteria you like when selecting or excluding a college, but to make the most of homeschooling for college credit, you’ll get the most bang for your buck if you consider the following (in no particular order of importance):

  1. The college guarantees transfer credit from your local community college.  This means no wasted steps or cost.
  2. The college has a written AP, CLEP, or DSST policy that you can find online.  While this doesn’t guarantee a perfect transfer when your teen eventually enrolls, it does let you know that they accept exam credit AND they are experienced at it.
  3. Look for colleges that allow at least 25% of the degree to be completed through CLEP.  Even if you don’t end up using it, that kind of flexibility is a good sign overall.
  4. Look for colleges that have face to face and online options for their common degrees (liberal arts, business, etc.). That flexibility allows your family to move without worry about losing traction.  In addition, your teen may find it’s easier to take more credits when they don’t have to physically travel to campus for every course.
  5. For those of you who know your teen will attend college fully online as a distance learner, it is my strong recommendation that you choose a college on the ACE partnership list.    ACE credit is readily accepted by colleges that are fully online and can be obtained very inexpensively.  While distance learning isn’t cheaper, what makes obtaining the degree less cost is choosing a college that allows you to cherry pick your credits.  Some colleges on this list allow you to test out or transfer in more than 75% of the degree – you can save big money that way.
  6. Exclude colleges from your list if they have a low graduation rate.

 The bottom line is that- you want a college that supports the diligent planning you’ve done, and the credit your teen earned in high school.  

Tomorrow, part 2 of College Graduation Rates will look at real numbers at real colleges. There are, believe it or not, colleges with 0% graduation rates!


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.