Many adults who graduate from high school immediately enter careers that do not require a college degree. Indeed, the majority of the adult population of the United States of America does not have college degrees. And the lack of degree is not a stigma.
Vocations usually do not require degrees. Certainly the many trade vocations in the building industry do not require college degrees, but instead either vocational training, on-the-job training, and combinations of both. The same applies to manufacturing, clerical, retail, and service positions. And one does not need a degree, college, nor indeed high school, to become President of the United States, or any other elected official!
A degree is usually required for professional positions, such as physicians, lawyers, engineers, scientists, accountants, teachers, among others. Many professions require advanced degrees, like masters, and doctoral degrees.
There may come a time, however, when an adult who is working full- time decides that it is time to pursue a college degree. There may be several reasons for such a conclusion. Many job descriptions in business and industry specify that a certain degree is required for advancement. Perhaps an airplane mechanic would like to be promoted to a management position that requires a college degree. Or a bookkeeper may wish to become an accountant. Or a nurse may desire a bachelor degree, beyond her R.N. certification; indeed, more hospitals are now requiring that their nurses hold bachelor, and in some cases master degrees.
How does a nurse, or bookkeeper, or airplane mechanic who is employed full-time pursue the required college course work that will lead to a fully accredited bachelor degree without taking up residency in a college full-time four years?
Fully accredited without residency is the objective of the pursuit of a non-traditional college degree. A college must be validated by one of six regional accreditation associations approved by the United States Department of Education in order to grant full accredited degrees. The six associations are:
New England Association of Schools and Colleges
Middle States Association of Colleges and Schools.
North Central Association of Colleges and Schools
Northwest Association of Schools and Colleges
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
Western Association of Schools and Colleges
All of the colleges and universities in this country that offer fully accredited degrees do so by authority of one of the above geographical associations. There are several colleges that offer bachelor, master, and doctoral degrees that do not come under the authority of a regional accreditation association. Some of these colleges are authorized to offer degrees by the states in which they reside, mostly in California, Hawaii, Missouri, and Louisiana. However, degrees from these colleges are usually not recognized as bona-fide by most business, industry, and professional organizations that require college degrees as a requirement for employment.
Therefore, this report will deal with the limited number of colleges in the United States that will grant a fully-accredited bachelor degree without any residency requirement. There are many other colleges that offer alternate college degrees to adults, but have a short, medium, or extensive residency requirement. These colleges will not be covered in this report. For those interested in colleges with limited residency requirements, they will find useful a manual by John Bear, Ph.D., College Degrees by Mail, [See Recommended Reading at the conclusion of this report].
REQUIREMENTS FOR A BACHELOR DEGREE
There are many Bachelor programs that can be pursued, among them: Bachelor of Arts, Bachelor of Science in Business Administration, Bachelor of Science in Applied Science and Technology, Bachelor of Science in Human Services, Bachelor of Science in Nursing, and other programs that may be specifically designed by the student and college. Most bachelor programs include specializations, such as Bachelor of Arts in Journalism, Bachelor of Science in Aviation.
Usually, 120 semester hours of credit are required for a degree. Typically, one college course, like Algebra, is worth three semester hours. Therefore, it is likely that 40 courses, each worth three semester hours will be required for a degree. This may sound simple, but it really isn’t. Virtually all colleges require proper distribution of credits. One cannot take 40 of the easiest courses and walk away with a degree. There are core subjects that are required, as English, Mathematics, History, Literature, Sociology, Psychology, Philosophy. English subjects include composition, and written expression; Mathematics include algebra, trigonometry, and perhaps calculus. Each subject has several sub- subjects that may be required for proper distribution of credits.
Following is a an example of credit distribution requirements for a Bachelor of Arts degree, whether traditional or non-traditional [see Appendix D]:
Liberal Arts Requirements…………………..60
Written Expression 6
Natural Sciences ; Mathematics12
Liberal Arts Electives 18
Area Concentration or Specialization…………33
So there are no short cuts to an accredited college degree. As a matter of fact, non-resident college degrees may be more difficult than spending four years at a resident college.
The reason is that independent study requires much self-discipline and motivation. When one attends a resident college, courses usually consist of 15 weeks of class study, in a classroom with an instructor. At the end of a course there is a final examination, and the instructor grades the student including class participation, assignments, and interim test scores, combined with the final examination. There is always an instructor at hand, and the student has an indication of how she or he is progressing.
Independent study therefore means that the you as a student are on your own, and will submit course work by mail, computer, or phone. Instructors are usually available for consultation, but it is time consuming, especially since most students who pursue independent study have full time jobs. Most educators agree that non- traditional degrees from accredited institutions of higher learning are achieved by motivated scholars with a high degree of self discipline and determination.
HOW CREDIT IS EARNED
I. LIFE EXPERIENCE LEARNING
After emphasizing that there are no short cuts to an independent degree, it should please you to know that you may already have knowledge that can count as course work. Non-traditional colleges usually award credit for life experience, work experience, on-the- job training, military service, and testing programs. This will be determined when you register and submit a portfolio that will be evaluated by the college. For instance, a Registered Nurse may be awarded as many as 60 credits toward a degree. This is half the degree requirement. A Licensed Practical Nurse may already have 30 or 40 credits. An airplane mechanic 50 credits, a bookkeeper 60 credits.
II. EQUIVALENCY EXAMINATIONS
The recommended non-traditional colleges in this report will accept successful completion of college equivalency examinations toward a degree. The most popular examination is the College Level Examination Program, or CLEP offered by the College Entrance Examination Board, P.O. Box 6600, Princeton, NJ 08541-6600. There are about 30 subjects that may be taken by CLEP, and each college has its own criteria for passing grades. CLEP tests are not easy, and you must really know your subjects well. Indeed, after taking a CLEP test, you may discover that class work is easier. But thousands of students pass CLEP tests every year. Bookstores sell course guides to help students pass CLEP tests.
III. MILITARY COURSES
Active military personnel have the opportunity to participate in the Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support, or DANTES, which administers its own exams, as well as the CLEP tests. Almost all military bases have an office of continuing education where preparatory studies are provided and tests administered. Information can be obtained from base information offices. Non- traditional colleges usually accept transcripts from DANTES.
IV. COLLEGE COURSES
Everyone lives near a regionally accredited college, either a four- year college, or a two-year community or junior college, and most colleges admit adults to credit courses, and issue transcripts that will be accepted by non-traditional colleges, if the courses meet the distribution requirements toward the degree. And for those who have previously taken college courses in the past, even if in the distant past, a transcript will likely be accepted.
V. COURSES BY CORRESPONDENCE
More than fifty colleges offer course by mail. The work is not easy, but most colleges allow one year to finish the course. Students use the required texts, and send assignments to their appointed instructors for grading and comments. Examinations are supervised by proctors in the students area, after the colleges offering the course grant approval to the proctors. Proctors perform the service as a courtesy and are usually not paid, in the spirit of America’s great educational progress. A directory of schools offering correspondence course may be purchased from books stores. It is called The Independent Study Catalog [see Recommended Reading at the conclusion of this report].
THE RECOMMENDED NON-TRADITIONAL COLLEGES
This is the most important part of this report. Selecting the right college to obtain a regionally accredited non-resident bachelor degree is essential. There are two colleges that offer degrees that do not require the student to take any courses at their campus. And students may register without ever having to go to the college. They are:
I.The University of the State of New York, Regents College, 1450 Western Avenue, Albany, NY 12230 (phone 518-474-3703).
Founded in 1784, it is the oldest college offering non- traditional degrees. Their extensive catalog is free, and their degree is offered to anyone in the world. This university is not to be confused with the State University of New York (SUNY), which is the traditional statewide system. The University of the State of New York is efficient and prestigious. A diploma from this institution has a nice ring to it. “Where did you go to college?” – “The University of the State of New York.”
2.Thomas Edison State College, 101 West State Street, Trenton, NJ 08625 (phone (609-984-1150). Established in 1972, it is similar to the University of the State of New York. They also have an extensive catalog. The writer of this report will have earned his Bachelor of Science in Aviation from this college. The college has its own equivalency examinations, called TECEP [see Appendices B and C].
Both of the above colleges are accredited by the Middle Association of Colleges and Schools, one of the six regional accrediting agencies approved by the United States Department of Education.
There are other colleges and universities that offer non- traditional degrees, but these colleges may have limitations. Some require a conference with staff as a condition of enrollment. Some have a very short residency requirement, from three days to periodic visits. The least restrictive, allegedly without residency requirements, are listed below:
Bemidji State University, Center for Extended Learning, 1500 Birchmont Drive, N.E., # 27, Bemidji, MN 56601. Phone: (218) 755-3294. Accredited by the North Central Association.
City University, 16661 Northrup Way, Bellevue, WA 98008. Phone: (206) 643-2000. Accredited by the Northwest Association.
Eckerd College, Experienced Learners Program, 4200 54th Avenue South, St Petersburg, FL 33711. Phone: (813) 864-8226.
Accredited by the Southern Association.
Empire State College, State University of New York, Saratoga Springs, NY 12866-2100. Phone (518) 587-2100. Accredited by the Middle States Association.
Indiana University, Extended Studies, 620 Union Drive, Indianapolis IN 46202. Phone: (317) 274-3943.
Accredited by North Central Association.
Ohio University, Adult External Program, 301 Tupper Hall, Athens, OH 45701. Phone (614) 593-2150. Accredited by North Central Association.
Troy State University, Whitley Hall, P.O. Box 4419, Montgomery AL 36103. Phone: (295) 241-9553. Accredited by the Southern Association.
University of Iowa, Continuing Education Credit Programs, 116 International Center, Iowa City, IA 52242. Phone (319) 335- 2575. Accredited by the North Central Association.
Western Illinois University, Continuing Education, Horrabin Hall 5, Macomb, IL 61455. Phone (309) 298-1929. Accredited by North Central Association.
The complete cost of a non-traditional college degree is not easy to calculate. It depends on what each student has already accomplished. A ballpark range would between ten and fifteen thousand dollars. Thomas A. Edison College’s administration costs that include application fee, annual enrollment fee, credit transfer fee, graduation fee, etc. comes to about $1500.
Add to that the fees per credit that colleges charge for their courses. At $100 per credit, the cost for 120 credits is $12,000. Community colleges charge less per credit, perhaps $50 per credit. Correspondence course cost about $300 each. And then there are textbooks, which can be purchased new, second-hand, or borrowed. Forty courses that require textbooks at $ 50. each comes to $2000.
Add phone calls and postage, supplies. So fifteen to twenty thousand dollars makes sense. There are bargains out there. Ohio University appears to be a bargain. Some are much more expensive.
Where can you get a college education for $12,000? Nowhere, not even state colleges can offer a complete college education within a $12,000 budget, especially when you add incidentals as food, lodging, entertainment, and travel.
This report is just a beginning. Much more detailed information can be obtained from public libraries, and local colleges, and bookstores, and, of course, from the colleges listed here. Earning a non-traditional bachelor degree requires independence, self- discipline, motivation, and hard work. It requires tenacity, and the best place to start is by researching the best non-traditional college for you. Hopefully, this report will whet your appetite.
Go to it. There is nothing more gratifying than earning a college degree. And on the trip, a new age of enlightenment will enter your consciousness. Go to it!
College Degrees by Mail, by John Bear, Ph.D,; Ten Speed Press; P.O. Box 7123, Berkeley, CA, 94707; phone (510) 559-1600. This book is almost required reading for anyone attempting to get a non- traditional degree. Dr. Bear also recommends worthy schools that are not regionally accredited, but the writer of this report recommends that only a regionally accredited degree should be considered.
The Independent Study Catalog, Peterson’s Guides for the National University Continuing Education Association. This guide lists thousands of college courses by mail from more than seventy colleges and universities [see Appendix A]
TABLE OF CONTENTS
INTRODUCTION ………………………………………..Page 1
FULLY ACCREDITED …………………………………….Page 2
REQUIREMENTS FOR A BACHELOR DEGREE …………………….Page 4
HOW CREDIT IS EARNED …………………………………Page 6
THE RECOMMENDED NON-TRADITIONAL COLLEGES ……………….Page 9
CONCLUSION …………………………………………Page 13
RECOMMENDED READING………………………………….Page 14
APPENDIX A ……Copy cover of Peterson’s Independent Study Catalog
APPENDIX B ….Copy cover of Thomas A. Edison State College Catalog
APPENDIX C …… Sample application to Thomas Edison State College
APPENDIX D ………..Copy of Transcript from Elizabethtown College