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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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  • by kdataman ( 1687444 ) on Tuesday December 11, 2012 @02:02PM (#42252299)

    When I decided that my music degree wasn't going to give me the career I wanted, I decided to get an accounting degree. I used Thomas Edison State College in NJ which is regionally accredited but was all non-resident at that time. I was able to use CLEP, ACT, and other similar tests to test out of 75 accounting and business credits over 2 years. TESC combined those with my liberal arts credits from my music degree to award my accounting degree. When I went to Trenton State for graduate study I was prepared to explain my degree, but I didn't need to. The admissions person said that they had very good luck with Thomas Edison grads because they knew how to study on their own.

  • Re:Bullshit (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 11, 2012 @02:03PM (#42252313)
    I got my PhD without any debt along the way or money from my parents. Go to a good undergrad that gives grants instead of loans to cover most of financial need (the annual price tag was $30+k, but few people actually paid anywhere near that...). Work a summer job to cover the rest, which doubles as gaining experience by working in a lab, etc (which often would be enough to cover most state university programs without any grants). Then most engineering and science programs will pay you to go to graduate school if you work as a TA, or better, as an RA essentially be paid to get your thesis done and papers to pad your resume.
  • I've got that beat (Score:5, Interesting)

    by oodaloop ( 1229816 ) on Tuesday December 11, 2012 @02:06PM (#42252343)
    I received a BS in Liberal Arts from Excelsior College without having taken a single college class, for a total of about $600. I took 30 CLEP, DANTE, and Excelsior exams and transferred some military credits.
  • Re:Oh the critics... (Score:3, Interesting)

    by SJHillman ( 1966756 ) on Tuesday December 11, 2012 @02:32PM (#42252663)

    Education is still very affordable in most fields for anyone who bothers to take the time to plan it out before committing. The problem stems from people also wanting a big screen TV and all the major consoles at the same time as working for their degree. I can't speak for most other states, but NY's state university system offers a huge range of degrees and the vast majority of the population lives within a short distance of at least one - often more - two-year state school. Four-year state schools are only a little less common and still very affordable.

    I went to a four year state school, got a great education, and am almost out of debt after 30 months of paying on loans in spite of making some horrible financial credit card decisions the six months right after school. It's definitely do-able for anyone willing to put forth just a bit of effort... not even exceptional effort, just a bit.

  • by Anonymous Coward on Tuesday December 11, 2012 @03:47PM (#42253415)

    What an AA is. By me.

    An AA degree is nothing more than a place-holder, a chad to be punched, a hole dug in the earth without a cornerstone or even an architect's plan. An AA degree can be the first step in getting a higher degree but is nearly useless as a degree in itself. When you receive an AA degree you have done no work in a specific narrow field, you have merely stepped through a broad and shallow pool of knowledge in order to get a feel for the dizzying breadth of knowledge available to the common, educated person.

    When you receive an AA it is an agreement with education that says "I will continue until I know a lot about one thing". Afterwards you will enroll in courses towards your B.A. or B.S. and begin to narrow your focus. From there, if you decide to continue, you narrow your focus even more. But now, at the Master level you dive down into the depth of one field and let everything else fade away. If you then go for your Phd., the goal becomes intimate knowledge of your field from the very basics all the way to the most up-to-date and detailed sub-analysis of the latest facts.

    So, no. Contempt for an AA degree does ot simply drive up the cost of college degrees. Having an AA degree proves nothing more than the person once expressed an interest in higher education. I am very sorry if you are one of those people who have been deluded into believing otherwise. If you are, however, please return to school and finish. It is worth it.

  • by Miamicanes ( 730264 ) on Tuesday December 11, 2012 @06:53PM (#42254967)

    > You can knock out a lot of your gen ed *before* going to the better, more expensive four-year college where you intend to complete your degree.

    Assuming that you, unlike roughly 97% of your peers, have the *slightest* idea what you actually want to do for the next 40 years when you're 19 or 20. That's the whole problem with the "get your general education credits out of the way" plan of community colleges... by packing all of your "major" courses into two years, and by extension DEFERRING nearly all of them until years 3 and 4, you've raised the stakes considerably, and made changing your mind about your major a much, much more disruptive and expensive process.

    If you wait until the fall semester of your third year to take your first real courses in your major, then discover you don't actually LIKE your major after all, you've just *incinerated" at least one semester... maybe two. In contrast, if you've taken the first 4 courses in your major by the middle of your sophomore year, then discover you don't really like it after all, you've only REALLY wasted one or two of those classes, because the others ended up satisfying your general-ed requiremends anyway.

    That's why most private colleges and universities encourage you to spread out your general-ed classes, and to begin taking your "major" classes early and often, and why they encourage you to satisfy many of your "general ed" classes with classes that do double-duty as the "intro/survey/101" courses for other majors. They have every incentive to help you graduate in 4 years... they're expensive, they know it, and they know there's a nontrivial chance you might not graduate at all if they seriously derail you. They know that 70% of their students change their majors at least once before year 3, and most of them have had more than a hundred years to refine the formula and get it right.

    The generic community-college scenario only really works for two groups of students... those whose only goal is "a degree", regardless of what it might be in, and those for whom community college is a second chance to shine, catch up, and redeem themselves. A student who's already at the top of his high school class and a shoo-in at just about any university is basically just wasting his time, and is actually INCREASING his odds of stumbling and losing his way before graduation.

    The fact is, the "2+2" formula just doesn't work for the majority of students.

"If you lived today as if it were your last, you'd buy up a box of rockets and fire them all off, wouldn't you?" -- Garrison Keillor