Friday, December 10, 2010

Foreign Distance Colleges Are a Low-Cost Alternative

Foreign universities have long been known to offer a more economical education than is offered in the US, but traveling to a foreign country to live there for a few years can be an obstacle in itself. Moving anywhere can be a hassle, and especially when you add on the bureaucracy of moving abroad. You also have to put your life at home on hold, leaving your job, family, home, and most of your belongings behind.

However, there's still a way of taking advantage of lower foreign tuition without the move. Many foreign colleges and universities offer degrees by distance learning at a much lower cost than the same degree would cost in the US. The University of South Africa is popular amongst distance learners who want to save money. This university offers a wide variety of degrees in the arts, sciences, business and technology. In fact, UNISA offers just about every degree which you'd expect to find at a large American university. A bachelor's degree takes three years, and only consists of courses which are directly related to the major. A computer science degree costs R7216 per semester, which is $1,054 according to That's a total of $6324 for the six semesters. The last US college I attended now charges that amount for only one semester, and it takes eight to get the degree.

India also has numerous distance learning colleges which are cheaper than in the US. Annamalai University offers a wide variety of distance degrees, and the tuition is so low that I'm sure I'm missing something. However, the tuition for a Bachelor of Communication in international business is 8250 rupees, which is $182 according to There are also MBAs on offer for 25850 rupees, or $569. Some degrees require traveling to India for a month for on-site instruction. The degrees which require this are mostly science degrees and degrees in music and dance. This website offers more information on India's distance learning schools.

An additional cost along with the textbooks would be test proctoring fees, as distance learning schools often require that the final exam be written under supervision. There's also the question of the degree being recognized back home, and there are a number of credential evaluation services which are helpful in this regard. The National Association of Credential Evaluation Services has a list of its members on their website.

With so many jobs being outsourced, outsourcing college is well-worth considering. A foreign distance degree offers yet another option of getting a college degree without putting your life on hold for four years and graduating with a lot of debt. (Akademos, Inc.)

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

The Case for Apprenticeships

When many people think of apprenticeships, they think of something from about two hundred years ago which wouldn't work in the modern world. At the very least, they see this as only being an option to train for a very small number of very specialized occupations. Still, it might be well worth considering reintroducing apprenticeships as an alternative to college in the United States for a number of reasons.

First, the main reason why most students go to college is the hope of getting a job. But very little of what one learns at college would be applicable to most jobs. Unless one's shooting towards an "academic" career like engineering or medicine, it's worth asking why so many employers demand college degrees for jobs which have nothing to do with academic knowledge. In Germany, most people learn their vocation through a paid apprenticeship which typically lasts for three years. During this time, the apprentice does on the job training a couple of days a week while visiting a vocational school on the other days. Although apprentices are only paid the equivalent of about $280 a month, it's quite a bit of money for the young people who do apprenticeships, who are normally between 15 to 18 years old at the time that they start. Also, the vocational schools are part of the public school system, so the vocational training is free.

Such a system would be a step forward in the US as it would reduce the number of young people starting out in life with a load of student loan debt. In the US, even most vocational schools charge some type of tuition. Considering the fact that a high school graduate has spent 13 years in school, it's interesting that most high school graduates have few, if any, vocational skills, when the supposed idea behind the school system is to prepare the kids for jobs. It seems that in the US, one has to go into debt in order to get vocational training if one doesn't have parents who are able or willing to pay for it. The only alternative is often unskilled, low-paid jobs which don't offer much chance for advancement.

Also, the option of paid apprenticeships would improve life on the college campuses, as the disinterested students might not be so interested in spending four years with academia when they can be spending the same time earning money. It would help to restore the universities' original image of being institutions of education and research, instead of the increasingly rowdy party image that they have. If only serious students attended colleges and universities, the degrees from these institutions would retain their value. In fact, their value might even increase, as it would be no longer necessary to dumb down the coursework and practice grade inflation for the sake of the students who really aren't college material. The campuses would also be safer, as not so many tough kids would make it in.

Finally, paid apprenticeships might reduce the costs of college. In most European and Asian countries, college is either low-cost or free. If American colleges were populated with fewer students, but students with better academic skills, it might be possible to provide American students with this same advantage.

Some people would say that it's not fair to only give the smarter kids the chance to go to college. After all, shouldn't the American value of equality give everybody an equal chance? I admit that I also thought it was unfair when I first heard that only about 15% of German young people ever attend a university. That was before I came to Germany. Most German young people aspire to an apprenticeship, and consider it a bad thing if they don't find one. On the other hand, America's colleges are filled with students who don't really want to learn. About half of them drop out before getting their degree, many of them during or just after their freshman year. As most colleges are heavily funded with public money, that's a lot of wasted tax money, let alone the money that their parents often waste. If the reason why they want to go to college is to train for a job, it would be better to use the time and money to actually teach them a trade.

As the costs of education continue to rise and the number of student loan horror stories rises with them, it's worth considering changes in the education system to lower costs. If the US is supposed to be the land of opportunity, these reforms should try to make it possible to learn a vocation without excessive costs. Apprenticeships would be one good option, as would teaching more vocational skills in the high schools, so that kids would leave the public school system with the job skills necessary to support themselves.

Teach English Abroad

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Investment Courses - Options Trading

Investment courses are worth considering, as investing can be just as risky as it is profitable. However, as there seems to be an ocean of investment advice in the form of books, newspaper articles, magazines, TV shows, etc., it can be hard to pick the right ones. Options University offers a wide variety of courses in options trading, and their courses are taught by professional options traders with at least five years experience in professional trading. The courses range from the beginner's level to pro, and they come in a variety of formats, including self-paced home study courses and live online classes. Options University also hosts live seminars around the world. Anybody who's considering stock options as an investment can find more information at Options University's website.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Is College Really a Good Investment?

In an earlier post, I discussed some of the nightmares I experienced at a public college in Memphis. If I'd had the money at the time, I would have applied to a private college there. Ideally, I would have attended Rhodes College, one of the more elite schools in Memphis which has beautiful Gothic architecture with stained glass windows. I recently looked at Rhodes' website, and although it still seems like a very good school, the costs make me wonder if I really regret not going.

The tuition is $34,000 a year, meaning that a four-year degree at this college costs $136,000. If I had gone to this college, I'd now be wondering what other things I could have done with the money. If it was invested with a 10% return, it would produce $13,600 per year, and as a frugal person, I could live well on that. $136,000 is also enough money to buy a house outright, and would therefore mean not having a rent or mortgage payment each month. Being the single biggest expense in most households, getting rid of this expense is a giant leap towards financial independence.

There's also the question of whether or not it makes sense to pay all that money for an education when the contents of it are available cheaper elsewhere. For the past few months, I've been maintaining a list of free online textbooks on this website, and I'm frequently amazed at how much stuff is out there. If I attended a brick-and-mortar college at this point, I'd feel foolish for spending money on something that I know I can get for free. Not to mention the fact that it's easier to get information online at my own convenience rather than having to go to classes at a set time.

Last but not least, there's always the never-ending supply of college horror stories. My latest find is The Five Year Party, a blog written by a former journalism professor at one of the "party colleges," who gave up after a twelve-year teaching career. His blog is filled with horror stories, and he's also written a book about his experiences. It's well worth a visit if you're considering a brick-and-mortar college.

All in all, I'm glad to be doing college homeschool-style. Although I was never in the position to apply to a private college, I'm beginning to think that it was a blessing in disguise. Amongst other things, I probably wouldn't be writing this blog, and I always enjoy seeing what cheaper alternatives there are to the traditional college experience.

StraighterLine Freshman Year Back To School 2010

Friday, October 22, 2010

The Free Online College

As a college education is normally a major investment, it's interesting to see that it's possible to get one for free. The University of the People offers free online courses to the Associate's and Bachelor's levels in Business Administration and Computer Science. As the education is free, many people will wonder what the catch is. The University of the People isn't yet accredited, and therefore, can't yet award degrees.

Still, this college might be worth considering for some. Although the college isn't accredited, it's courses do offer valuable knowledge. Amongst their computer courses are offerings in software engineering, programming, and operating systems. It might be an idea to use this knowledge to take IT certification exams, which would be widely recognized. Also, the value of this education depends on what you want to do afterwards. If you wanted to list it on a resume while applying for a traditional job, most employers would probably be wary. It would also be difficult to transfer to an accredited institution to earn a graduate degree. However, you might have more success if you listed it as a qualification to work as a freelancer. If you were using the knowledge in your own business, the lack of accreditation wouldn't be a problem.

Personally, I'm taking a serious look at this option, as the computer science courses do look good, and you can't beat getting it for free. I still don't know what this college's policies are on taking transfer credit, or in letting people enroll for individual courses rather than the entire program. I'm thinking that it might be possible to transfer the UoP course credit to one of the Big Three distance colleges, and get an accredited degree from them. At the same time, the Big Three might also not recognize college credit from an unaccredited college.

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Free Online College Core Curriculum

Over the past year or so, I've been on the lookout for free online learning materials, and have been surprised at the abundance of materials which are out there. In fact, there are so many that I've started to think that one could get a whole college education with free online learning materials. There's even one university, the University of the People, which offers a college education for free, with the only costs being for testing and a few administrative fees. I've also discovered that the core curriculum for a bachelor's degree can be gotten online for free. I've put together this list of the core courses for most bachelor's degrees, along with the name of the exam which can be used to fulfill that requirement, and a link to an online textbook or course which can be used to prepare for the exam. (More information for getting a college degree through independent study can be found at and at

Written Communication

AP English Language and Composition or CLEP English Composition 6 credit hours (Online Textbooks)

Oral Communication

DSST Principles of Public Speaking 3 credit hours (Online Textbooks)

US History

DSST Civil War and Reconstruction 3 upper-level credit hours (Yale Open Courses)

CLEP US History to 1877 3 credit hours
CLEP US History since 1865 3 credit hours
Online textbook for US History from precolonization to the present

Non-US History

CLEP Western Civilization 1 and 2, 3 credit hours each.(Online Textbook)

Global Understanding

DSST World Religion 3 credit hours (Online Textbook)

DSST General Anthropology 3 credit hours (Online Textbook)

Literature and Fine Arts

DSST Art of the Western World 3 credit hours (Online Textbook)

CLEP English Literature 6 credit hours (Online Textbook)


DSST Ethics in America 3 credit hours (Online Textbook)

Social Sciences

CLEP Introductory Psychology 3 credit hours (Online Textbook)

CLEP Introductory Sociology 3 credit hours (Online Textbook)


CLEP College Algebra 3 credit hours

CLEP Calculus 3 credit hours

An assortment of online mathematics textbooks.

Natural Sciences

CLEP Biology 6 credit hours (Online biology book)

CLEP Chemistry 6 credit hours (Online chemistry book)

I put this list together using Charter Oak's core curriculum as a guide, but the core curriculum of most other colleges is similar. My goal is to get a college degree entirely through credit-by-exam, so that my only costs will be the testing fees and the administrative fees to get the credits banked and to get the degree. It's not only possible these days to get a college degree without going into debt, it's also possible to get a degree without going to college, except to go to the testing center.

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Saturday, August 21, 2010

Learn Filmmaking Online

Filmmaking would seem to be one of those subjects which you can't learn at home on your own, like medicine. Although some smaller aspects of the process, like screenwriting, might be learnable at home, the whole process of filmmaking seems to be just too big to fit in the garage. Anybody who's ever been to a film studio has seen the warehouse-sized studios where they work, along with the room-sized equipment that's used to piece the film together afterwards. And filmmaking requires the participation of so many people. The end credits of most movies list the names of hundreds of people. All in all, it seems to be too complicated and too major a project for amateurs. The only way to learn filmmaking must be to go to an expensive film school that might be hundreds of miles away.

Some websites challenge this presumption. Wikibooks' Movie Making Manual and the Film School Online both offer free filmmaking lessons. Both websites offer a detailed description of the filmmaking process from the original idea to postproduction and marketing, and the process isn't as overwhelming as it might seem. It isn't necessary to have a warehouse full of equipment, and the film can be edited on a laptop with a software program like FinalCut. It's also possible to get background music without having an orchestra in the living room. The Film School Online has numerous book recommendations which can supplement the filmmaking course.

These websites can be an enormous help to an aspiring filmmaker who wants to start with short films and to go on to larger projects as they gain experience. Anybody who wants more hands-on experience might attend a workshop in filmmaking as a supplement to self-study and still come out of it in a shorter time and with less debt than a traditional film school student. Anybody who's planning on going to film school anyway can be familiarized with filmmaking through these websites before making a commitment to it.

There seems to be some debate as to whether or not traditional film schools are worth it. Not long ago I found a forum in which some of the posters had been through film school but wouldn't go through it again. It's been argued that most film school graduates don't work as fimmakers, but as teachers in other film schools, and that it might be a better idea to put the money that would have been spent on film school into producing an independent film. An idea might be to combine independent study in filmmaking with business subjects, which aren't usually throroughly covered in the film schools. Whether one decides to go to a brick-and-mortar film school or not, it's a good idea to do one's own research as to how the film world works before making a final decision.

More Reasons to Homeschool College

Anybody who reads homeschooling forums and blogs is well familiar with school horror stories from the grade schools, which often involve mobbing, violence, bad teachers, and/or poor academic standards. Many people believe that colleges and universities are a step above this. However, I recently found two blogs which help to prove the contrary.

Rate Your Students and College Misery are websites which are well worth visiting for anybody considering a brick-and-mortar college. Both blogs are written by college professors, and most of the comment writers are also professors. Rate Your Students gives the horror story of the day, in which a college writing class is devoted to teaching the students how to write on lined notebook paper, complete with six rules for doing so, ie, don't write to the left of the pink vertical line.

Another post at Rate Your Students is written by a professor who swears in class, partly to make her students aware that they've entered the adult world. This is a good example of the modern tendency to confuse negativity with maturity, as there are many adults, even college students, who don't swear and find it offensive. Movies which contain pornography and violence are often referred to as "adult" entertainment. This attitude ignores the act that it's only been very recently that foul language has become socially acceptable, and that even today, there are many places in the adult world where swearing isn't allowed. For instance, many TV and radio stations don't allow their anchormen to use foul language.

College Misery reveals the hostility which often exists between the professors and the students. At least one post refers to the female students to as "snowflakes," and the professors' overall view of the students seems to be that they're mostly drunk and lazy. Reading the posts, and the following comments, gives one the impression of an environment in which the professors are frustrated and burned out, and who are dealing with students who don't really want to be at college nor learn anything there. As neither of these blogs is limited to professors of only one college, it shows that the problems with today's colleges are widespread throughout many schools.

This situation might also make one wonder if the traditional college experience is really necessary. As I was reading the horror stories, I kept thinking about the expense of college, and whether the hostile environment there really offers enough benefits to be worth the trouble. At one point, I considered becoming a college history professor. These blogs make me glad that I didn't.

There's another benefit to doing college homeschool-style. There was one night last winter, when the temperature was below freezing, the sidewalks were covered with snow, it was ten 'o' clock at night, and I was studying economics. It was an enormous relief that I only had to turn off the laptop and pull out my sofa bed, instead of traipsing out into the freezing cold to get home.

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Sunday, August 15, 2010

Free Online Homeschooling Books

This is an ongoing collection of links for homeschooling books which are available for free online.

Ambleside Online - This website contains extensive information about Charlotte Mason and her approach towards education. Some of its features include copies of her books which have been translated into modern English. (Charlotte Mason lived in Victorian England.) The website also includes a Charlotte Mason curriculum going up to the 11th grade. Much of the curriculum's reading material is available online for free.

Deschooling Society - Although Ivan Illich wrote this book 1970, his ideas on the damages of institutionalized schooling are just as valid 40 years later.

The Underground History of American Education - This book by former schoolteacher John Taylor Gatto reveals the origins of the public school system and who really gained from its introduction. This book does an especially good job of showing how the real intent behind public education was to end the tradition of independent livelihoods in America through creating an institutionalized school system in order to make Americans dependent on institutionalzed jobs.

Education: Free and Compulsory This book on the Mises website is short enough to be read in one evening, and also does a good job of showing how the purpose of the school system is to create an obiedient public rather than to offer the students the path to a better life.

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Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Save Money on Textbooks

One of the best things about doing college through independent study is the fact that you can choose your own learning materials. You no longer feel obligated to buy a certain textbook which can cost over $100 at the college bookstore, even if there's another, cheaper title that you think is better. Independent students can choose how long they're going to take to complete a course. If you think that you can prepare for a CLEP exam in U.S. History within 30 days, you don't need to sign up for an expensive course that lasts for three months. Therefore, independent students have numerous options when it comes to saving money on textbooks.

The cheapest textbooks are free. An earlier post on this blog lists numerous textbooks which are available for free online. offers a wide variety of online textbooks which are supported by advertising, mostly in business, science, and mathematics. Another free source is the public library, if you can arrange things so that you're done with the book within the 3-6 weeks that you're allowed to have it out.

Buying used books is a well-known way of saving money on textbooks, but in some cases, the used book isn't that much cheaper than the used one would be. Along with the well-known Amazon and Ebay, is a good source for used books. It's worth asking yourself if it's absolutely necessary to have the latest edition of the book, as an earlier edition can often be had for only a few dollars. Although the latest one might be necessary for computer-related subjects, where the content often needs to be changed, an older book might do well for something like history.

A newer option for saving money on books is renting textbooks. A text can often be rented for a fraction of what the new book would cost, and you can pick a rental period based on how long you need the book. One book rental company offers a French textbook with a retail value of $94 at rental rates of $17 for 30 days and $27 dollars for a 125 day semester. A world religion book at the same company which sells for $110 retail is rented our for $35 per semester.

Etextbooks are another money-saving option, which normally costs about as much as renting the textbook would. These can often be dowloaded onto a device like an iPhone or iPad, making them a convenient option for those who'd like to study while on a bus or train. For a student attending regular classes, this option creates a lighter backpack than carrying a load of heavy, traditional texts. Another form of etextbooks are paid for both by advertising, like free online textbooks, and a small fee. offers a variety of textbooks in mostly business subjects starting at $4.95 with ads, and from about $6.95 for ad-free versions.

Homeschool Buzz offers an extensive listing of homeschool blogs which are worth seeing.

25% off - The Questia Online Library

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Online Courses from MIT

In a recent post, I discussed the open courses offered by Yale University. I've since discovered that MIT also offers free courses online, and that they offer a greater variety, over 2000 to be exact. MIT offers free graduate courses as well. Many of the courses on offer are technologically oriented, including advanced mathematics courses like algebraic topology, quantum computation, and assorted courses in statistics. The engineering courses include airline schedule planning, sustainable energy, and space systems engineering. Before I found this website, I thought that MIT only offered courses in science and technology, but there are many courses in other areas, including a variety of courses in micro- and macroeconomics. The foreign language courses include four levels of Chinese, along with Japanese, Spanish, French, and German. If you look at the history department, you'll find a course in "How to Stage a Revolution." Of course, there's the question of how an independent student can get college credit for this knowledge, as CLEP doesn't offer an exam in algebraic topology. One idea might be to find a university that will let you "challenge" the course, in which you take the final exam and give you the credit if you pass. At any rate, the MIT Open Courses are an excellent resource for those who are studying independently at home, and give free access to knowledge that only students with the best academic performance get access to normally.

College Blog Directory

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Sunday, July 18, 2010

Free textbooks

Here is a list of college textbooks which can be read online for free. I will be adding to this list as I find more of them.


Principles of Accounting - This textbook offers an in-depth introduction to accounting and can be good preparation for the CLEP or DSST exams in accounting.


Cultural Anthropology

Art History

SmartHistory - Free online art history textbook.


General Astronomy - Wikibooks offers an online introduction to astronomy.


Biochemistry textbook

This Online Biology Book offers a good introduction to many areas of biology, including cell biology, anatomy, and eveolution.

An Ecology textbook is offered at this website.

Creation Science - Creationists might be interested in this online book which refutes the evolutionists' arguments in numerous areas of science.

Fundamentals of Microbiology - Introductory microbiology textbook from Washington State.

Human Genetics


Chem1 Virtual Textbook - This textbook covers the first two semesters of college-level chemistry.

Chemistry Books Online - General, Organic, and Biochemistry


Blender - User Manual and free download for Blender, an open-source computer animation software.

Computer Animation


How to Design Programs: An Introduction to Computing and Programming.

Introduction to Computer Science


Dick Baldwin's website offers a large assortment of instruction in various programming languages, including Java.

Fundamentals of Java - This online book presents Java programming in a simplified manner.

Introduction to Computer Science Using Java

Introduction to Programming in Java: An Interdisciplinary Approach - Free online textbook from Princeton.

Java programming is also offered in this online textbook.


Invent Your Own Computer Games With Python might be of interest to people who want to become game designers.

Economics offers online textbooks in Macroeconomics and Microeconomics.

CyberEconomics - Introductory economics textbook.

Online Economics Textbooks - Extensive collection of economics textbooks for all levels.

English Composition

English Composition 1 Hypertextbook

English Literature

The Cambridge History of English and American Literature

The Harvard Classics - 50 volumes of literature from all historical eras. This page also contains The Harvard Shelf of Fiction, which consists of 20 volumes of classic fiction.

Luminarium: An Anthology of English Literature - This free online textbook features extensive information on British authors from the 14th century to the 19th century.


Online Ethics Textbook


Academic American History

Europe in Retrospect - Modern European history.

History of Western Art and Civilization

U.S. History from precolonization to the present.

World History from prehistory to the 20th century.


Digital Dialects - This site offers free lessons in over 50 languages, some of which I'd never heard of until I saw this site. Oroma?


Grimoire - French literature for intermediate and advanced students.

Liberte - Beginners' French textbook in PDF fromat.


Latin from Wikibooks.


Spanish 1050 - Intermediate Spanish.

Spanish from Wikibooks.


A First Analysis Course

An introduction to Statistics can be found at this website.

An Online Calculus book is offered here in PDF format.

College Algebra in PDF format.

Electronic Statistics Textbook - This is a free online version of Statistics: Methods and Applications, which sells for $80 new at Amazon.

Elementary Calculus: An Infinitesimal Approach

Multivariable Calculus in PDF format.

Statistics: Problems and Exercises


Introduction to Music Theory

Understanding Basic Music Theory - A continuation of the introduction course.


Introduction to Philosophy


Essential Physics 1 is available for free online in PDF format.

Light and Matter offers an assortment of free physics textbooks online, both for non-physics majors and engineering students.


Psychology: An Introduction

Public Speaking

Open Knowledge Guide to Public Speaking


Exploring Religions - Information about the major world religions.

Philosophy of Religion

Sacred Texts offers extensive information on many world religions, along with parapsychology, the supernatural, prophets, and related subjects.


Introduction to Sociology from Wikibooks.

Technical Writing

Online Technical Writing Textbook

Over 3 Million Full-Text Copyrighted Books, Journals and Articles (Akademos, Inc.)

Monday, June 7, 2010

Free Online Courses From an Ivy League School

The Internet offers a wealth of learning materials for independent learners. Last fall, I discovered Open Yale Courses, a website from Yale University, which offers online lectures of some of their courses for free. Although the school doesn't offer credit for these courses, it's an excellent way to get access to instruction that many people pay $120,000 over the course of four years to get. The lectures are offered in video format, but if you have a slow computer that "puffs" a lot like mine does, there are also transcripts of the lectures. I've read through the two religious studies courses, Introduction to the Old and New Testaments. One warning about these courses for conservative Christians: They do present the Bible through a secular lens, ie, they presume that the book of Daniel was written after the events he predicted had already taken place. However, they do present an interesting view of Biblical history and little-known facts about the world in which the Bible was written. One of the professors also teaches a course on the historical Jesus, and I'm hoping that it also is placed on this website. I'm currently studying the course on Financial Markets. As the world economy plays such a major role in the world, it would be good if more people had a good understanding of how the economy works. There are also courses offered in chemistry and physics which require a good knowledge of mathematics, along with courses in biology. Some of these courses would be a good aid in preparing for CLEP exams, and as they often put new ones online, it's well worth checking back periodically to see what's on offer.

PowerScore, Inc.

Saturday, May 29, 2010

Upper-Level College Credit-by-Exam

For students who are learning independently, credit-by-exam programs like CLEP and DSST are a popular way to earn college credit for their studies. As they're offered in a wide variety of subjects, it's possible to get the entire core curriculum of a bachelor's degree done through these exams, or to earn an associate's degree this way. These exams can save thousands in college tuition. However, one disadvantage to the CLEP exams is that they're only offered for lower-level courses, as are most of the DSSTs, although 11 of the DSSTs are for upper-level credit.

Anybody who wants to test entirely out of a bachelor's degree is not out of luck. There are a number of ways of gaining upper-level college credit by testing.

There are numerous Excelsior College Exams (ECEs) for gaining upper-level credit through testing. At $240 for a 3-credit exam, they're more expensive than the CLEPs. However, they are offered in a number of specialized subjects. Excelsior's website lists exams ranging from Anatomy and Physiology to World Conflicts Since 1900. An abundance of nursing exams are offered.

Another option for gaining upper-level credit-by-exam are the GRE tests. The General Test is mainly for business students, and the subject tests include Biochemistry, Biology, Chemistry, and Computer Science. A number of colleges offer undergraduate credit for these exams, including Excelsior, which offers 30 undergraduate credits if you finish in the 80th percentile, and Charter Oak State College, which offers 24 credits if you finish in the 40th percentile. The exams are offered in October, November, and April. If you live outside of the US, they seem to be offered more locations than the CLEPs. This option is also economical at $140 in the US and $160 in other countries. How much money would 30 credit hours cost at a brick-and-mortar university?

Another option which is offered by some colleges and universities is "challenging" a course, in which the student can take the final exam without taking the whole course. Even though this option is sometimes expensive, it still offers the advantages of doing the course through independent study. One distance college which offers this option is Athabasca University in Canada. A major advantage to this option is the number of courses which are available for challenge. It would be easier to list the number of courses at Athabasca that aren't avaiable for challenge.

Although testing out of upper-level courses is more expensive than testing out of lower-level ones, it's still possible and can save a fortune in tuition fees. Especially if somebody has been studying independently for years, ie home schoolers, this is probably a better option than attending classes, as one can study when they want to and at their own pace.

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Why a Traditional College Can Be a Bad Idea

As the current school year comes to an end, many high school students are considering which college they'll attend next year, and many have already applied. However, many people decide to attend a brick-and-mortar college without considering alternative ways to get their degree. When one looks at the case against attending a traditional college, other options are worth considering.

For starters, college is expensive. $2,500 per semester is at the lower end of the scale, and that comes out to $20,000 over the course of four years. These costs only cover tuition, and don't include books, housing, food, and other living expenses. Some people would include lost wages as part of the costs of attending college, and that leads to the second argument.

College can mean a lifetime of debt. As there's no guarantee that the degree will lead to a job, taking out student loans isn't always advisable. Many college graduates can't pay the loans back, which can lead to credit problems. Some employers won't hire employees with less-than-the-best credit, and this makes it even harder to find a job. Even if one can make the minimum payments, the amount due means that even with the higher income gained through the college degree, one's living standards are the same as they would have been without it. At the same time, many college graduates earn less than one might expect, or are working in jobs which don't require a college degree. Students also have to be careful who they borrow from. With some less-than-honest loan providers, the balance of the loan continues to rise even when the minimum payments are being made.

The social environment of the colleges is another argument against going, as the colleges are getting just as dangerous as the high schools. Single rooms are a rarity in the dormitories, and one often has no say over who their roommate will be. There are a lot of tough kids on campus. Anybody who was sharing a room with one would have to keep a sharp eye on their wallet and other belogings at all times. You can't just leave your wallet on the side table like you can at home. The situation in the dormitory bathrooms isn't much better. Not only do the shower stalls not have locks, but some people don't believe in flushing. Also, the kitchens must often be shared by a large number of students.

This may sound odd, but there's often no quiet place to study on campus. The dormitory I lived in at the University of Memphis usually had loud rap music pounding from somewhere, along with the tough sorts communicating at top volume, punctuated by loud screams. These people would often turn aggressive if asked to be quieter, and I often feared for my personal safety. Even the library was periodically populated by the loud and tough sorts.

There's also the issue of on-campus violence. Although massacres like the 2007 shooting at Virginia Tech are rare, violence on a smaller scale is commonplace.

Housing is often a problem for college students. Students who live more than commuting distance away from relatives not only have the costs of dorm rent. The airfare or other transportation costs to get to the university don't only have to be paid in August and May, but also during Christmas and Thanksgiving break when the dorms are usually closed and people often want to be at home. There's also spring break when the dorms are often closed.

Academic standards are going down, and this makes it easier for the tough sorts to get in. The ironic thing about college is that the coursework is best suited for somebody who enjoys studying, but the worsening environment at many colleges makes it more advisable for an academically-oriented student to study at home.

Some people would argue that the "college experience" is worthwhile in itself. If this is true, why do excessive drinking, drugs, promiscuity, and a generally bad attitude play such a major role in it? These are hardly the attitudes of people who are having fun.

Another argument is that college can give you valuable career contacts that you wouldn't get through independent study. If one is attending college for this reason, it might be an idea to do as many of the courses through credit-by-exam as possible, and only do the courses which are directly linked to the major on campus. If the school has a limit to how many CLEP and DANTES credits they'll accept, one could take the courses for the major on campus, and then transfer the credits to a school which is more generous in this area, such as Excelsior or Thomas Edison State College. Another idea might be to do the bachelor's degree through independent study, and then go to a brick-and-mortar university for graduate school.

The purpose of this blog is to discuss cheaper alternative ways of earning college credit and college degrees without going into debt. It has just been moved from I'm currently studying for the CLEP exams in chemistry and biology.

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