Saturday, August 13, 2011

Straighter Line Adding New Courses

Straighter Line is rapidly becoming a major option for earning college credit economically. When I first found them about two years ago, they only offered a couple of English, math, and business courses. In the years since, that offering has expanded to include courses in chemistry, anatomy, pharmacology, and biology, amongst others. They now have even more courses listed as "coming soon," like US History I, Western Civilization I, and Introduction to Business. At this rate, it will probably soon be possible to do the entire core curriculum for a college degree through Straighter Line, and the price of these courses is comparable to the cost of CLEP and DSST exams. They might be a better option for people who are living far away from a testing center, which is most people who aren't living near a large city or college town in the US.

College Secrets

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Why Not Everybody Should Go to College

I wrote the following response to the article "Should All Students Got to College? The Media Obsession With the Wrong Question." over at However, the website wouldn't let me put it on there because of an incorrect capcha response when the website hadn't given me one to type in. Therefore, I thought I'd put it on this blog instead.

I have to present the opposing view that not all students should go to college. For starters, the colleges are filled with students who either don't want to be there or who don't want to be there for the right reasons. I once attended a college where the dorms were filled with rowdies. There was no quiet place to study, and I didn't feel safe there at all. A least half of the students were the tough sorts.

Secondly, it's costing a fortune in public money to have them there. Billions of dollars a year are being spent on students when half of them will never graduate, and this results in fewer resources for the serious students.

Although it's true that society benefits from having a large number of well-educated citizens, it's also worth considering Charles Murray's argument that only a minority of students have the intelligence to do college level work. Most students aren't really interested in their studies, and therefore, will forget what they've learned after the final exam. Also, a college student has already been in school for at least 13 years. Why aren't they graduating high school with the vocational skills they need along with the other general knowledge of history, civics, etc. which is needed to function as a citizen? The grade schools are also costing billions of dollars a year. What are they doing there all day, if the kids graduate without the knowledge they need in life? Earlier generations graduated high school with this knowledge.

There's also the argument that the employers keep saying that they need more college-educated employees now and in the future. If that's true, they should be making better use of the college graduates who are already around. Many graduates can't find work associated with their degrees, and many are doing jobs which don't require any college degree. There are even law school grads and MBAs in this category, and many of them have student loans which they can't pay back because of it.

I know it sounds unfair to say that not everyone should go to college.That's what I thought when I first heard that only about 15% of German young people ever go to university. However, I've lived in Germany for the past several years, and most young people learn their occupation during a three-year period in which they attend a paid apprenticeship some days of the week and attend a free vocational school on the other days. The vocational schools are considered part of the public school system. Other European countries have similar systems, which means that a European can get trained for a good job without starting life with a huge amount of debt. As most American students attend college because they want a good job, this kind of system might be worth considering in America. There's no indication that the vocational path is making people any less qualified as voters and citizens.

Friday, June 10, 2011

Free Preparation for the GRE Subject Test in Biology

The internet offers so much information for free that this blog is trying to prove that all or most of a college education can be gotten for free online, and on one's own schedule. A couple of months ago, I posted a list of free online learning materials for the GRE subject test in chemistry. There are also a wide variety of materials for biology which are listed below.


Botany Online is an extensive online textbook from the University of Hamburg.

Cell Biology

Fundamentals of Microbiology has a good amount of information in it on cell biology.


Ecology from Wikibooks.


Physical anthropology offers a lot of information about evolution.


Human Genetics

Molecular Biology

Molecular Biology Web Book

Molecular Biology-Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy (Akademos, Inc.)

Saturday, April 16, 2011

Free Preparation for the GRE Chemistry Test

A college education can be gotten online for very low cost or even for free, and one of the purposes of this blog is to discuss the various resources which are available online for that. One of the concerns that many people would have with getting a self-directed education with online resources is getting the college credit for it. Charter Oak State College offers 24 hours of college credit for passing any of the GRE subject tests, which are offered in subjects like math, biology, and English literature. I've assembled an assortment of resources for studying for the GRE subject test in chemistry, and will be doing similar articles for the other subjects.

General Chemistry

Wikibooks offers a good introduction.

Chemwiki:The Dynamic Chemistry Textbook from UCDavis is an advanced-level textbook covering various areas of chemsitry including inorganic chemistry and analytical chemistry.

Organic Chemistry

Free online textbook in organic chemistry.

Inorganic Chemistry


Physical Chemistry

Free online textbook for the first semester of a one-year course in physical chemistry.

Physical Chemistry Online

Analytical Chemistry

Analytical Chemistry Basics

Friday, March 25, 2011

Free Foreign Language Courses

The foreign language courses by the Foreign Service Institute (FSI) have had a reputation for many years as a good home study course which enables one to gain fluency in a foreign language in a short period of time. At the same time, the courses have also been quite expensive. However, many FSI courses are now in the public domain and are offered online for free. The textbook comes in PDF format and the audio tapes as mp3 downloads. The courses are offered in a huge variety of foreign languages, including such obscure ones as Igbo, Twi, and Kirundi. The more commonly studied languages are also on offer. Basic Spanish is offered in volumes 1 through 3 with both the audio files and the textbooks, along with the textbook for volume 4. Chinese is offered in the form of "modules" consisting of a textbook, a workbook, and the audio files. The modules are organized into various subject areas, such as money, transportation, arranging a meeting, and living in China. As many people are considering learning Chinese, but find it intimidating because the Chinese writing system is very different from the English one, these courses are a good way to try Chinese without risking money on it. If you're considering learning a foreign language, you can find the courses at

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Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Free Online Clep and DSST Practice Tests

The CLEP and DSST exams offer a good opportunity for independent learners to gain college credit for much less than attending college courses would cost. However, it still costs $72 to take one shot at a CLEP exam, and a similar amount for a DSST. It's a good idea to be sure of your knowledge of the subject and a feel for the test before you go to the test center. There's a website which offers practice tests for most of the CLEP exams, and some of the DSSTs. The website requires registration, but once you've registered, you can try any of the exams three times each. The exams are timed, just like in real life, but you can stop the clock and start again another time if necessary. I've tried these online tests in biology, humanities, and English composition. For me, it was the biology test that was the most satisfying. The CLEP exam in biology is worth 6 credit hours representing a year long course for college freshmen. I got a passing grade, even though I've never taken a formal course in biology and my only preparation had been reading the online biology book listed in the free textbooks section of this blog. This proved to me that learning at home is possible and effective. The only downside to these practice tests is that only 5 of the 30 or so DSSTs are available. Still, if you're planning on doing either credit-by-exam program, it might be worth visiting here for the CLEPs and here for the DSSTs.

GRE Test Simulator: Free Trial Download


Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Online Degrees Deserve More Respect

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The internet has helped to boost distance learning in many ways, and the number of degrees offered online is always increasing. To some people, the many advantages of doing an online degree are offset by the fact that some employers don't take these degrees seriously. One hears numerous stories of employers who will automatically not consider an application if the resume contains a school like the University of Phoenix or DeVry. Online degrees are sometimes looked down upon by the students of brick-and-mortar schools, especially if they come from a for-profit university.

However, this disrespect towards online degrees hasn't been earned. It's true that in the case of for-profit schools, the student often took courses which could have been done for much cheaper at the state university. At the same time, the students at the state university paid a lot of money to take courses which could have been done a lot cheaper through independent study and the CLEPs. This doesn't make the coursework at the state university look any less legitimate.

Another argument against online degrees is that for-profit schools allegedly have lenient grading systems. As their existence is dependent on customer satisfaction, they can't make it too difficult to pass the courses. Otherwise, their students won't come back next year. Although it's a disturbing thought that a student might have a qualification without having the knowledge that's supposed to go with it, this can happen at any type of school. The most popular professors at state schools are often the ones who require the least from students in order to pass the course. This is especially the case with the professors of the required courses which have large numbers of students who aren't really interested in the course content. There are many news reports of public universities dumbing down the curriculum to please their "paying customers," or disinterested students. Even with the lower standards, half of all college freshmen never graduate. The problems with dumbed down courses and/or students who don't study exist at most colleges and universities.

It's also worth considering that a graduate from a brick-and-mortar school is likely to have done at least some online courses. Most public colleges these days offer at least some online courses, and more and more are offering online degrees. If taking one or two online courses during college doesn't reduce the value of the of the qualification, why should it matter if the whole degree was done this way? Some of the best universities are offering some of their degrees online. Harvard offers a number of master's degrees that are mostly online, as does Columbia University. Online education is an extension of correspondence courses which have been around for many years. The University of London has been offering distance degrees since the 1800s.

There's no reason to believe that an online degree is any less legitimate than a degree gotten the old-fashioned way. In fact, online students often need more self-discipline as they have to organize their study schedule during their free time rather than just having to turn up in a classroom at 10 a.m. on Wednesday. A graduate with an online degree is also very likely to have met the challenge of getting the degree while juggling a lot of other things in life. Offering college courses over the internet brings knowledge to anybody who's interested regardless of where they're located or when they have time available. As we have the technology, it would be best to get the most benefit from it.



Tuesday, March 15, 2011

GRE Test Preparation

The GRE tests are well-known as a requirement for many graduate school programs, but for independent learners, the GRE subject tests serve the additional purpose as being an option for earning upper-level credit-by-exam. Offered in subjects like biology, mathematics, and computer science, these exams can give you up to 24 credit hours towards a degree in that major. The GRE subject test is one way of proving that you have the knowledge of a graduate in that respective field. There are numerous books and websites to help in preparing for these exams, including guides by the test's administrator, There's also an online simulator for all GRE exams available, which also offers the option of a free trial download. Of course, these preparation aids won't teach you the academic content of a degree in mathematics or computer science. Unless you already have a good knowledge of the subject, it's still necessary to study a good number of books on the subject. Any college website can give the information as to what topics the degree curriculum covers. Still, the GRE option is worth considering as a low-cost alternative to the traditional college route. (Akademos, Inc.)

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

A Good Source of Free Online Courses

Free online courses are always appearing on the internet, and Annenberg Learner offers an interesting variety of them. There's an assortment of traditional college courses which are presented in the form of online video documentaries. Two foreign language courses are on offer, French in Action and two levels of the Destinos Spanish course. There's also a variety of history courses. One blogger thinks that the course A Biography of America could replace traditional history textbooks. Annenberg Learner might also be considered as a way to homeschool the "tough" high school subjects, as there are courses in chemistry, physics, microbiology, and statistics. Documentary series often present the material in a more entertaining and easy-to-absorb fashion than traditional textbooks, so Annenberg Learner might be worth a look.

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Monday, February 14, 2011

When a Community College Offers Bachelor's Degrees

Community colleges have long been a low cost alternative to universities, and many students have been able to graduate from these schools with no student loan debt. Not only do they offer lower tuition, they also offer classes at more convenient times for working adults. Community colleges are normally located within a short driving distance and are easily accessable by public transportation, making the costs of a college dorm unnecessary. All of these advantages are set off by only one disadvantage. At most community colleges, the highest degree you can get is an associate's degree.

A small, but growing number of community colleges are beginning to offer bachelor's degrees. Brazosport College in Lake Jackson, Texas offers a bachelor's degree in industrial technology. According to Community College Week, it was recently named on a list of four community colleges which are about to lose all of their state funding, despite the fact that the enrollment there is higher than it has ever been. Opinion seems to be divided as to whether or not Brazosport will have to close.

I can't help wondering if this is an effort by the large universities to prevent this lower priced competitor. If all community colleges offered bachelor's degrees, the universities would see a considerable drop in their enrollment numbers. Many students do their first two years of college at a community college, and then finish the degree at a large university. This group would probably finish their bachelor's degrees at the community college if it were possible. The state universities would also suffer image wise. In recent years, they've become associated with using tax money to build rock climbing walls, gourmet food courts, and state-of-the-art sports stadiums. If community colleges became an option to get a no-frills bachelor's degree, people would question the need for the large universities, as their image as party houses would only get worse. Life on campus would continue to deteriorate as more rowdies would arrive, and the serious students would stay away.

Hopefully, Brazosport College will stay open, and the number of community colleges offering bachelor's degrees will continue to grow. These schools are proving that a college education is possible without massive costs and a lifetime of debt. I only wish that they had thought of this sooner, as I once lived near a community college where I would have gotten a four year degree had they been offered.

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Wednesday, February 2, 2011

The Hourly Cost of College

Many people are thinking about the fact that college is getting increasingly expensive. According to the College Board, the average tuition at a public four-year college is $7,605, or $3,802.50 per semester. Presuming the student is taking 12 credit hours per semester, or four courses worth three credits each, that means that each course costs approximately $950. If the course meets three times a week, that means with a total of 42 class meetings, each meeting costs $22.62. College costs nearly $23 an hour, and that's not including textbooks, room and board, or any other additional costs.

For $23, the average class meeting doesn't cover much ground. A student studying the books at home could probably cover more ground during that hour than would be covered if he spent it in a classroom.This option also saves the transportation costs, and the student doesn't have to learn at a set time. It's often possible to find a suitable self-study book for less than $23, or even for free if you use library books. If you miss a class meeting on a college campus, that $23 is gone with nothing to show for it.

The colleges must be taking in a tremendous amount of money. If a class contains 30 students, the university has taken in $690 brutto for only one hour. A class in a large lecture hall with 100 students takes in $2300 for that same hour. Now imagine this occuring simultaneously in many classrooms campus-wide, all day, five days a week, all semester. Admittedly, the colleges do have the expenses of professors, staff, maintenance, etc., but a lot of the money which the schools take in these days is spent on non-essentials like huge sports stadiums, climbing walls, and other resort-style trappings. They charge a lot of money for things which you can mostly learn at home by yourself from books and the internet. Is doing college the old-fashioned way really worth it?

Truth in Higher Education

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Low Cost Online College Courses

Full Banner Online college courses are popular with students who want to study at home, but they're frequently just as expensive as on-campus courses. Some colleges even stick on a "technology fee" for their online course offerings, thus making the online courses even more expensive. However, there is a cheaper option. Straighter Line offers many lower level college courses, and is constantly adding to their offerings. There are courses in English, math, business, and science, along with plans to add courses like anatomy and pharmacology. They offer the freshman year of college for $999, along with a subscription plan whereby if you pay $99 per month, you can get as many courses as you like for $39 each. Along with the instruction, these courses also come with the option of 10 hours of online tutoring. The courses are also self-paced. As for getting recognized credit for these courses, all three of the credit-by-exam colleges are on their list of partner colleges which accept their courses for credit. The courses are also recommended by the ACE for college credit. Straighter Line courses are worth considering for anyone looking for cheaper college options. Hopefully, they'll soon add on the sophomore year of college as well. Maybe it will one day be possible to get an associate's degree entirely through Straighter Line courses. The day in which college is only possible with massive expenses seems to be coming to an end. College Secrets