The Distance Learner

Advice on earning a college degree through distance education

Are Academic Elites Communists?

Well, no, not necessarily. But what Walter Williams is arguing in this column is that many professors are against those who are anti-Communist. As Walter writes:

Leftist elites love the ideas of communism so much that they are either blind to, or tolerant of, its many shortcomings.

I certainly witnessed a small portion of this intolerance during my time in community college. I’m not saying that all professors are this way, but for those who are, academia suits them perfectly. Once tenured, they don’t have to compete with anyone or even produce anything. They have a captive audience of students whom they are free to influence without accountability.

I found it much easier to avoid the influence of such professors by taking distance education courses. I was able to be more selective in the courses I enrolled in, and the professor-student interaction was much more natural and free. I think this was due in part to the geographic separation between professor and student. It was also due to my separation from the campus environment. I didn’t feel pressure to conform to what other students were thinking, saying, or doing. I wasn’t made to feel “un-cool” if I voiced opposition to a professor’s philosophical viewpoint. And I had my friends and family around to straighten me out if they saw me drifting too far in a certain direction.

Read Walter’s article and consider that, however slim the chance might be, do you really want to risk subjecting yourself (or your son or daughter if you’re a parent) to such an influence just to earn a college degree? Distance education is one of many attractive alternatives to traditional college.

Paying for College

Another article about paying for college comes our way courtesy of Fox News. It gives some interesting statistics about the average cost of college tuition and also provides figures on other expenses parents should be prepared to pay if their child will be living on campus.

*In 2002-2003, the average annual cost (tuition, room and board) at a typical four-year public university was $9,828, while a year at a mid-range private institution averaged more than twice as much, $23,940, according to Department of Education statistics. That should put the average cost of a bachelor’s degree at between $40,000 and $100,000.

That’s a lot of money for an average middle-class family to plunk down to send Johnnie or Sally off to school. Even figuring in the possible offset of financial aid, we’re still talking about tens of thousands of dollars. The above figures don’t include room and board, transportation, books, clothing, etc.

This brings up a fundamental question: is college an investment? If it is, it should be treated like any other investment. The costs, risks, and benefits should be weighed before making a commitment. Parents who take the time to weigh all of the options are making an informed decision. They are far more likely to escape dramatic financial suprises, even if their child ends up attending a traditional college.

Risk versus reward is a basic mantra preached by almost every investment adviser, and the same logic applies when deciding whether to choose a backpack and books over a workplace ID.

If the same logic applies then it would follow that college does have a benefit. This is only common sense. Parents have different opinions about what that benefit actually is, but most would list a good job with a healthy salary as the most important.

…it doesn’t take rocket science to see that a college degree can at least double your money-making potential.

This is true, but assuming you’re treating college as an investment, what kind of return are you getting on your money? If sending your child to a traditional college costs $100,000 per year and he ends up making $50,000 per year, is that worth it? What if your child could stay home and earn his degree via distance education for $10,000 per year, earn $12,000 per year as an intern during school, and make the same $50,000 per year after graduation? Would that be worth it?

Speaking for my brother and I, it has definitely been worth it. By pursuing degrees via distance education, we’ve received the same education at much less expense. We’ve avoided the costs of room and board, transportation, parking permits, etc. We’ve earned money while going to college. I graduated 100% debt free and David is on track to do the same.

Convention says that paying for college is supposed to be hard. It doesn’t have to be. Convention says that you should send your child out of state to a “name school.” This is rarely necessary. Weigh the options, make an educated decision, and be sure that your investment dollars are being used wisely.

Read the full article at Fox News.

University Refuses Christian Groups

University of Wisconsin officials are being warned their refusal to recognize Christian student groups is illegal.

Not a surprising development considering the stance most colleges take towards Christianity. What’s interesting is that, in this case at least, the university is being publicly challenged on the issue.

There is no denying that students can still participate in similar groups off-campus, but this is typically not feasable given hectic class schedules and difficulty finding transportation to leave the campus. If the Christian students at that university were instead enrolled in distance education, they would likely have the time and flexibility needed to participate in such groups.

For more details about the school’s denial to recognize the InterVarsity Christian Fellowship as a legitimate on-campus group, read the full article on WorldNetDaily.

How Do I Find a Proctor?

Teacher with Book

Most distance education programs require that you take your mid-term and final exams under the supervision of a proctor. Finding one isn’t difficult if you know where to look. Your local library is a good place to begin your search. Any certified librarian can act as a proctor for you. This is the route I took since I have a library close by. Another option is to find a proctor at a local community college. A proctor from a college may charge a nominal fee, though. Either way is acceptable in most distance education programs. You should check what the requirements are for your specific program.

Once you’ve located a proctor, you will typically need to have them complete a short form. This is a one-time request the allows the college to verify that you chose a qualified proctor. Thomas Edison State College has an example of their proctor request form online. After submitting the form and verifying that the college has processed it, you may then begin taking your exams under the supervision of the proctor. Taking a proctored exam is no different than taking any other exam. The proctor will simply ensure that you don’t have any extra books or notes with you before you start. He or she will also typically be the one to submit your completed exams to the college for grading.

An Easy Way to Build High School Transcripts

My brother, David, and I are in the process of developing a web application to make the work of building professional high school transcripts (suitable for submission to colleges) fast and easy.

Traditionally, the process of building a transcript for a home schooler has been quite involved. My own parents and I designed my transcript using an Excel spreadsheet. It was painstakingly slow! Many books on home schooling through high school have transcript templates in them, but the process of photocopying and filling them out is time consuming.

It is because of this that we decided to create Teascript, a web application that makes generation of transcripts simple. Teascript is still under development, but we’ve put up a teaser page highlighting some of the planned features of the application. The page also allows you to sign-up to receive notification when Teascript goes live. We encourage you to take 30 seconds and check it out!

We truly want this app to be a useful service to other home schoolers. Comments or suggestions from people who will actually be using it are much appreciated. If you think the idea is worthy, please also consider sharing the link with your friends or blogging about it. The more home schoolers who know about this app, the easier it will be for them to generate transcripts.

Don’t Ask, Just Pay

So you scraped together the money to pay tuition for your child’s first year in college, and you would like to see a report card when spring semester ends this month.

Sorry. You can’t have that.

This is an excerpt from a News & Observer article published earlier this year. The article goes into detail about how parents are routinely denied information from their students’ records. Now, this isn’t so different from the way government schools frequently operate in elementary and high school, but it is a definite paradigm shift for home school parents who are used to knowing everything about their childrens’ academic progress.

Even parents of children who graduated from public school have good reason to be outraged. Apparently, these colleges will accept thousands of dollars in annual tuition from the parents, then deny them access to information that would tell them whether or not their funds are being used correctly.

The fascinating thing about this article is the apparent disconnect on the part of some parents when it comes to their treatment of the college system as “real life.” Having your annual tuition covered by your parents while you spend years in a contrived atmosphere where anti-family and anti-religious values are stressed is not “real life.”

One quote from a parent vividly illustrates this mentality:

*“You want to be available, but they need to know that this is their world now. When they are in that world, they need to solve their own problems.”** *

If it’s so important that students solve their own problems, why cover tuition for them in the first place?

Distance education is refreshingly different. Students are able to remain in close proximity to their parents. Indications of their academic progress thus become more easily available. Students are also able to cover tuition expenses themselves by apprenticing or interning in their field of study while in school, thus reducing or eliminating the need for financial assistance from their parents.

Which way is most realistic? You decide.

Read the full article: Kids in college? Don’t ask; just pay

What Is Concurrent Education?

Another question I received during my NCHE workshop was in reference to something called “concurrent education” and whether it was compatible with distance education.

I wasn’t familiar with the phrase at the time the question was asked, but after doing some research it seems that it’s just another name for what many home schoolers choose to do: enroll in college-level courses while still in high school. This is often a very smart thing to do because the credit earned can be applied towards both a high school diploma AND a college degree. However, many families choose not to opt for dual enrollment because it can sometimes put an unnecessary strain on the student. (I myself chose not to pursue this avenue during my high school years.) For some families, though, it can be an excellent fit.

Back to the original question: can concurrent education/dual enrollment programs be pursued at a distance? The answer is: ABSOLUTELY! In fact, I would venture to say that dual enrollment is most effective when done at a distance. Why?

  • Transportation expenses (gas, parking fees, etc.) are avoided.
  • A potentially lengthy daily commute is not necessary. This gives students time for other activities.
  • Students are able to stay at home where they can take advantage of the guidance and counsel of their parents. (This counsel can be especially helpful if the student is taking a dual enrollment course at a secular university and the course content is overtly anti-religious.)

For these reasons, I would encourage home school families who are pursuing a concurrent education program to consider doing it through distance education. Many colleges are quite flexible about the student’s age when applying for distance education courses. Even if a college doesn’t have a program labeled “concurrent education” or “dual enrollment,” it is likely your student will still be able to enroll in one or more courses while still in high school.

Do you have any thoughts to share? Has your family had experience in pursuing concurrent education/dual enrollment options? We’d enjoy hearing your story! Please post a comment.

In Debt Before You Start

This article published in USA Today earlier this month provides some interesting statistics on college students and debt. Did you know that the average college senior graduates with $19,000 in debt? That’s average. And, as the article highlights, the number of grads with $100,000 or more in debt is rapidly rising. Does this sound like a firm foundation to build a family and a career on? Not to me. Yet students continue getting themselves in debt by taking a conventional approach to earning a degree. By pursuing alternatives like distance education, students can minimize or even eliminate debt and graduate without that burden on them.

Is ITT Technical Institute Accredited?

One question I received after the distance education workshop at NCHE this year was if ITT Technical Institute is accredited. I assume the attendee who asked was considering them as a possible distance education provider.

The answer is yes, ITT Tech is accredited, but not by a regional accrediting body. Regional accreditation is what to look for when choosing a good distance education school because regionally accredited schools have met very high educational standards. Also, if a school is regionally accredited it is typically easier to transfer college credit into and out of the school.

This goes back to the question of what your ultimate educational goals are. If you want to earn a degree that will generally be recognized by employers as being from a quality institution, regional accreditation is a must. If your only goal in attending school is learning a skill that you will then put to use in your own business or in an employment scenario that is less strict about such things, regional accreditation becomes less important.

The bottom line is that you should opt for regional accreditation as often as possible. For more information on the various types of accreditation, check out this article.

Distance Education on the Road

Hello, folks! I’m looking forward to contributing to this blog. Thanks to Matthew, my older brother, for giving me the opportunity to participate.

During a recent one-week road trip with my family, I learned yet another benefit offered by earning a degree through distance education — the convenience factor. I’m currently enrolled in two eight-week summer courses from a state community college. Due to the short duration of each course, the material covered is fairly heavy-duty, yet I was still able to keep up with my assignments even while on the road. With the frequency of wireless internet access points nowadays, it’s a fairly simple task to carry along a portable computer and access email, post to class discussion boards, and get updated assignments. Had I been enrolled in a traditional college program with mandatory classroom attendance, I would never have been able to wing this trip. As it was, all that I needed was a laptop, my books, and some time set aside for study.

Imagine the time saved through distance education – it gives you so much more freedom to pursue other opportunities while still working toward that “piece of paper,” the college degree.