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Degree Hack: Cobbling Together Credit Hours For Cheap 368

McGruber writes "The Chronicle of Higher Education has a web episode about Richard Linder, a US college student who was determined to do the impossible: earn a U.S. college degree while not taking on any student debt. Mr. Linder cobbled together an associate degree in liberal arts for a mere $3,000. He did it by transferring academic credits to Excelsior College, a regionally accredited institution that doesn't require students to take any of its own courses. Mr. Linder's earned his transferred credit hours from an array of unexpected sources: from high school Advanced Placement courses to classes taught by the Federal Emergency Management Agency and the National Fire Academy. He even managed to get one credit hour from Microsoft." I find his creativity in breadth and sources of credit-worthy instruction more interesting than the pricetag, though the commenters on the linked story are sharply divided on the value of the courses taken. While $3,000 is cheap for an associate's degree compared to many U.S. colleges, it's not unheard of; tuition for locals at a community college near me wouldn't be too far off that, even without transferring in any credits.
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Degree Hack: Cobbling Together Credit Hours For Cheap

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  • I'd hire him (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Captain_Chaos ( 103843 ) on Tuesday December 11, 2012 @01:49PM (#42252151)
    I'd hire this guy in a flash. This kind of stunt shows a level of creativity, commitment and out of the box thinking that's worth more than any college degree.
  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 11, 2012 @01:50PM (#42252175)

    You can get a degree for very cheap, even a decent one.
    1. Find a good state school
    2 Pick a degree and read all the requirements for that degree very carefully.
    3. Look in the transfer database for that school. Take every course that can transfer in exactly from a local community college
    4. Take the rest of the courses from that state school.

    I got my Engineering degree without taking a single general elective from the school. Everything came from online/summer community college courses for 1/4 the price. Most people spend to much at college because they go where it is convenient and they don't pick a degree until the 3rd or 4th year.

  • Re:Bullshit (Score:1, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 11, 2012 @01:52PM (#42252195)
    Here come the degree snobs. "You didn't really get an education unless you paid a fortune for it, like me."
  • Oh the critics... (Score:1, Insightful)

    by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Tuesday December 11, 2012 @01:54PM (#42252219)

    Let's be honest: You're getting that degree to get a better job and/or shut your parents up. There are no other reasons for the majority of students outside of highly specialized fields like engineering, medicine, or law, where you have to pass a formalized state exam and screwing up can have side effects like, I don't know, people dying. For the rest of us though, there's very little you actually need to learn, and the rest is just fluff you don't care about (and neither does any potential employer). College these days is one giant rip-off created by the rich to enslave the poor under massive debt loads.

    Anyone who can find a way around the system has my vote, nay, my standing ovation. The whole system is a joke; it's the result of colleges becoming privatized and profit-orientated. Some things simply shouldn't be... education is one such thing. That's why we're losing ground to every country that didn't take this ass-backwards "free market" approach to education. It's a right, and everybody gets it -- that's how it should be.

  • Re:Bullshit (Score:4, Insightful)

    by ackthpt ( 218170 ) on Tuesday December 11, 2012 @01:58PM (#42252261) Homepage Journal

    Here come the degree snobs.
    "You didn't really get an education unless you paid a fortune for it, like me."


    "You didn't really get an education, unless you are massively in debt, like me."

  • by Hatta ( 162192 ) on Tuesday December 11, 2012 @02:19PM (#42252517) Journal

    Any society that does not enable citizens to persue higher education if they wish fails at civilization. We do not exist merely to eat sleep shit and fuck. No everybody doesn't need to go to college, everybody shouldn't need to or have to go to college. But everybody deserves the chance to better themselves, and society as a whole benefits when they do.

    It's deeply troubling that the response to "tuitions are too high" is "not everyone needs to go to college" these days. Education is not a luxury that we can afford to go without, it is civilization itself.

  • Re:Bullshit (Score:5, Insightful)

    by ackthpt ( 218170 ) on Tuesday December 11, 2012 @02:25PM (#42252573) Homepage Journal

    No but you DO get what you pay for in life.

      A Bachelors in Liberal Arts is "almost" worthless in terms getting a job(avg . A associate degree is worth less then less half that...

    Degrees only make the Filters in HR deparments happy when screening job applicants.

    I've been on interview committees where we've scanned portfolios and been mildly impressed until we asked a few questions to see how the applicant uses that hard earned knowledge. Beats me how some people get their degrees. Some have been utter frauds. Meanwhile, some of the brightest, most energetic people I've known only have a high school diploma, associates degree, certificate from a technical school or spent some time in the armed forces doing the sort of work which is largely being outsourced by the DoD these days.

    It's what you make of it and how you spent your time while pursuing it. On the evening of my 21st birthday I was pulling an all-nighter in the computer lab while my friends were all getting drunk at a party in my honor.

  • Re:Bullshit (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PCM2 ( 4486 ) on Tuesday December 11, 2012 @02:40PM (#42252771) Homepage


    "You didn't really get an education unless you completed a full degree program."

    In the U.S., associate degrees are generally two-year college degrees. They are NOT the equivalent of a university degree. They are the kind of degrees you get if you want to go into specialized professions, like being a lab assistant, or some types of nursing (though many hospitals now require four-year degrees), and various other things.

    Don't get me wrong, it can't hurt you to get an associate degree. But an associate degree is not generally what most employers want to see when they're looking at your CV.

  • by i kan reed ( 749298 ) on Tuesday December 11, 2012 @02:43PM (#42252789) Homepage Journal

    Contempt for associates degrees is part of the mechanics that drive up the cost of college degrees. If you're ever in a hiring role, I hope you'll reconsider your position. With the huge percentage of people going to a four year school and simply not caring about academics, the distinction of a BA doesn't seem like it holds much more(if any) value than an associates.

  • Re:Bullshit (Score:5, Insightful)

    by PCM2 ( 4486 ) on Tuesday December 11, 2012 @02:47PM (#42252825) Homepage

    Don't know about that. I dropped out of an associate's degree program, so don't have any degree, and my career is doing just fine. There are plenty of people with the same amount of experience and a bachelor's who are well below me on the career ladder.

    There are always exceptions to the rule ... and I'm not even sure I agree that it's a "rule" that you need a degree.

    But, not having a degree myself, I can say that it does make things harder for you in some ways. You're going to have to struggle a bit. Your career might progress more slowly than if you had a degree. But then, on the other hand, college takes at least four years of your life to complete and it can be pretty hard, so isn't it sort of a toss-up?

    Maybe the only real rule is that if you want to get anywhere in life, you're going to have to work hard, one way or the other. Some people make the wrong choices and end up doing their hard work on a factory floor.

  • Re:Bullshit (Score:5, Insightful)

    by CaptainNerdCave ( 982411 ) on Tuesday December 11, 2012 @03:08PM (#42253033)

    I don't mean for it to appear "whoosh-like", but I found a BA in Philosophy to be something that was fairly useful.

    Much like high school calculus and chemistry don't teach anything about calculus or chemistry, but give you tools to solve problems; philosophy equips you with the ability to quickly wrap your head around things that you don't already know much about, and appreciate your own shortcomings enough to realize that you can learn something from almost everything.

  • Re:Bullshit (Score:5, Insightful)

    by The Dancing Panda ( 1321121 ) on Tuesday December 11, 2012 @03:34PM (#42253283)
    And they are all completely useless, except for as transfer credits to a 4 year university.
  • Re:Bullshit (Score:5, Insightful)

    by AlphaWolf_HK ( 692722 ) on Tuesday December 11, 2012 @04:03PM (#42253569)

    I participated in a contest held annually in Phoenix called the Avnet Tech Games. In the event I was doing, which included not only practical lab work, but also a written test, the community college students scored 90% and above. The university students were all below 70%.

    It only makes sense too when you think about it. Universities focus on the theoretical while community colleges focus on the practical. That, and community college teachers are there to teach, and genuinely care for the success of the students. Most university professors on the other hand are there to do research, and have upwards of 300 students to a class.

    I've mentioned on slashdot before about how I have zero debt and the benefits of community college, and the replies I often get are from people with terrible grammar (I've only taken one English class before, by the way) who tell me that I got a cheap education because community college sucks, though they can never offer any reason why they say that. I mean if it was Harvard or MIT, sure, but most public universities that most people attend aren't anything special, yet are still expensive.

  • by girlintraining ( 1395911 ) on Tuesday December 11, 2012 @07:46PM (#42255399)

    Education is still very affordable in most fields for anyone who bothers to take the time to plan it out before committing.

    My bullshit-o-meter just broke on that. Seriously, you killed it. Let's roll some numbers, mkays?

    • 1 bedroom apartment in my area: $650 ($7,800/yr)
    • Avg. groceries/person/month: $240 ($2,880/yr)
    • Electric: $30 ($360/yr)
    • Phone: $50 ($600/yr)
    • Transportation: $120 ($1,440/yr)
    • Tuition: $5,500/yr

    Now tuition doesn't cover the cost of books (That'll be another $600), or supplies ($250), or any incidentals you may need like a computer, car, furniture, etc. But we'll ignore those incidentals -- you're still looking at about $20 grand a year. Most of these things you aren't going to have at 18 unless your parents were affluent and gave them to you. Which means... you're gonna have to buy them to live on your own. Even with a roomate. Or several. Oh wait... you have no employable skills -- that's what you're going to college for!. Say hello to minimum wage at $9.50 an hour. And from 18-25, the student loans you can take out are capped, and although most parents do not contribute to their child's education, outdated calcuations based on your parents' income still determine eligibility for a wide variety of assistance programs. Your first year of college will be capped at $5,500 in loans. That's only a mere $14,500 short of what you need to survive your first year. But hey, let's say you take that summer job and you work a full 40 hours a week for three months straight (ahahahaa! Crazy, I know, but Republicans believe it's possible, so let's play along)... Congratulations! Your full time job has earned you... $4,936 gross. Oh wait... forgot taxes. That'll be $4,066.. net.

    OH NOES! You're still short $10,434. So about that "very affordable" and how you were "not even exceptional effort" bit? How about a nice resounding Fuck you from the Department Of People Who Can Do Basic Math. There's a reason there's a trillion plus dollar student loan crisis out there, and an entire generation going bankrupt. You don't get to just handwave and say "Well, I was smart. Everyone else was just stupid." It doesn't work that way. You got lucky. Most people didn't. Statistical. Factual. Truth.

Never tell people how to do things. Tell them WHAT to do and they will surprise you with their ingenuity. -- Gen. George S. Patton, Jr.