Posted at 8:00 AM on May, 28 2017
Debt free college is an expectation (or even a necessity) that many students and their parents have. Yet no sooner the students start out, they are cofounded with lack of right kowledge backed by proof of students who have successfully done it before them.
Less than 1% of colleges in the United States offer flexible and affordable degree programs. Therefore, the majority of people seem to have never heard about these colleges. As mentioned in previous posts, flexible colleges make it possible to complete an accredited Bachelors degree for under $10,000, and with no more student loans. They transfer unlimited number of prior credits into the program and allow many ways to earn credits such as by writing exams, work experience and so on.
Excelsior is the largest of these accredited colleges and is among the popularly-known Big-Three. The other two of the Big-Three include Thomas Edison and Charter Oak. However, there are many flexible colleges across the country, though these colleges are a small fraction of colleges across the United States. Nevertheless, the above three are well known in the flexible college circles. For more information on each of these flexible colleges and many more, please refer to our eBook.
There have been several notable alumni from each of these colleges including a Pulitzer-winning writer, leading politicians, economists, actors/directors, top army officers, and business leaders. To know more about their college alumni, take a look at the Wikipedia pages for Excelsior, Thomas Edison and Charter Oak. Also, please refer to their college websites which list profiles of students and their testimonials.
Now let’s take a closer look at 3 graduates of these flexible colleges. Please note that the student descriptions below are in no particular order and each one of these graduates is unique in her/ his own way. Also, everything about these students here is from their publicly available information. In the future, I hope to be able to interview them and share further insights on their college experiences.
Lawrie graduated from Excelsior college in the late 1990’s and she earned two Bachelors degrees, one B.A. in Liberal Arts and another B.S. in General Business. For her degrees, Lawrie met all her credit requirements via standardized exams which included CLEP, DANTES, ECE and GRE Subject exams.
Lawrie has been an inspiration to many flexible college students and has guided many students with their degrees at the Big-Three colleges. Her site BAIn4Weeks.com has a wealth of information and is still relevant today with updated information. Many past students have relied on her site and her personalized email assistance in meeting their flexible degree goals via standardized exams.
Note: In the 1990’s, the GRE Subject exams were awarded 10’s of college credits at Excelsior (when it was known as Regents college). It appears the awarding of credits for the GRE Subject exams has since been discontinued.
Justin began taking CLEP exams when he was working for the Marine Corps in late 1990’s and early 2000’s. He is also an expert on CLEP exams. His site Free-Clep-Prep.com has information on all the CLEP and DSST exams. I was extremely impressed with his site and his description on affordable books and resources for each of the exams. The site also has practice tests for many of these standardized tests.
Justin earned his Bachelors degree in Liberal Studies in 2010 from Excelsior college. Many of his degree credit requirements were met using standardized exams such as CLEP and DSST. Currently, Justin has a rewarding career in Information Technology, and has completed many industry certifications. He is also working on his Executive MBA in Maryland.
Padma graduated with her B.S. in Computer Information Systems from Excelsior college in 1999. At Excelsior, she was able to combine her prior credits from an Associates degree in Mathematics, with a number of Engineering courses from the Institution of Engineers.
Apart from these transfer of credits, she completed a few standardized exams and had a portofolio evaluation done for her non-accredited courses and work experience in Computer Software. All of these culminated in her B.S. degree at Excelsior college.
Padma has held senior technical positions in various large corporations located in California. Subsequently in 2012, she also completed her MBA from a reputed university in UK.
For the last several years, Padma has been deeply concerned with the state of higher education, especially with the high cost of college in the United States. Using what she learnt during her college at Excelsior, Padma and her associates formulated a solution to bring the flexible college solution within the reach of everyone. In the process of doing this, she discovered that flexible colleges can solve many problems in addition to college affordability. It can enable students to customize their curriculum to suit their interests, free them from unnecessary expenses of dorm life and so much more. Career-readiness also greatly improves as the student focusses on taking ownership of his/ her college degree.
Flexible College Graduates/Alumni
As of 2016, there are about 60,000 students enrolled in the Big-Three flexible colleges. In addition to this, there are 10’s of flexible colleges located in multiple US states that enroll 1000’s of students. These colleges enable affordability and flexibility for students both in the United States and worldwide.
The key to the success of flexible college graduates is that are serious about completing college. What makes them succeed foremost is the fact that they are able to study things which they enjoy. Flexible colleges provide considerable room for students to undertake courses which they have an interest and aptitude for. So they can certainly do the same for you!
As for current students, many of them work fulltime/parttime in addition to studying for college. Some are in their early 20’s, others in their 30’s, still others are much older. Some come in with just a few prior credits, others come into it with a bulk of their learning already completed via prior courses and other forms of learning.
As such, there is no restriction and students come from multiple backgrounds. Some have a family and are looking to start their career after completing their degree. Flexible colleges work ideally for many students of varying backgrounds. The only criteria is that the students need to be mature enough to study independently and to take ownership for their degree progress.
High school graduates can also greatly benefit from a degree from a flexible college. Most flexible colleges require incoming students to have atleast some college credits. Serious high school graduates can complete AP (Advanced placement) exams and CLEP exams prior to enrolling into a flexible college. CLEP tests and qualifying AP tests can be used to earn college level credits even while still in high school.
Recommended Flexible Colleges
Excelsior college is one of the largest of the flexible colleges, but there are many flexible colleges for students to choose from. Depending on a number of factors, a certain flexible college could be more suited to the individual student.
Since our only intention is to serve our students, we will focus on what works best for you. We are geared towards finding the best flexible college and college path that is right for you. Here are some factors to consider before choosing the right flexible college:
Degree Options: Though most of the colleges provide popular and relevant degree specializations, it is best to ensure that the college offers the degree you are specifically looking for. Also, be sure to do your own research on the reputation of the college for your specific degree specialization. Ofcourse, overall college reputation for all the flexible colleges is good since they are all accredited regionally.
In-state/ Out-of-state Tuition: Many of the flexible colleges have higher tuition for out-of-state residents. In case you are planning to enroll into many college courses at your flexible college, say the online courses, then choosing the college located in your state of residence will reduce costs.
But if you already have completed lots of college-level learning, or if you prefer other modes of earning credits such as standardized exams, online courses or experience, then you can choose a flexible college located anywhere.
Individualized Degree: There are some colleges, including Charter Oak, that allow the student to create their own degree plan. If you have aptitude in multiple areas and if your chosen fields have ample market demand, career chances can be greatly enhanced by undertaking an individualized degree that combines multiple specializations.
Online College Courses: Many of the flexible colleges offer online college courses inhouse. Upon reviewing some of them, I found that they can turn out to be expensive. So if you plan on earning many credits via online college courses, please ensure that your chosen college has reduced online course/ tuition fees.
Study Centers: Some of the colleges have many study centers in the state. A small number of them have study centers in multiple states and countries. In case you are interested in taking classroom courses at your flexible college, please choose a college that has centers near where you live. To better manage costs, please do not move for college. Instead make college work for you right from where you currently live.
Recurring Fees: Recurring fees or charges are something to watch out for. Some flexible colleges charge an annual or a semester fee to keep the student actively enrolled. So if you think you will need more time for degree completion, the recurring fees can keep adding up very quickly.
A good strategy would be to enroll into the flexible college after you have completed a lot of your college-level learning. Just go through the degree curriculum on the college websites for figuring out what courses/ topics to undertake. You can also contact us for further assistance with this. After completing many such courses or learning, you can enroll into the flexible college, and then quickly transfer in your credits to go for a speedy degree completion. Note that this will work in most cases, but there is a small chance that a course/two will require additional effort to be accepted at the flexible college.
Or else, choose a college that does not have recurring fees just for maintaining enrollment. Choose a flexible college that only charges for specific services, or atleast has reduced recurring fees.
Student Support: Many of the flexible colleges have above-average student support. The office staff and the student counselors tend to be helpful. But there are some smaller flexible colleges that offer exceptional and personalized student support. These colleges make the whole process easier for students who require more personalized assistance. Please refer to the CollegeOnomics eBook for more information.
Campus visits: Most of the flexible colleges have no residency requirement. However, a few of them require students to come to campus for a week or two, or once in 6 months for a week and so on. Though this time required on campus is minimal, it will add up to more travel and boarding costs. It will also mean that if you work, you will have to request time off for college, and may even lose some pay. If this is a concern, you can always choose a flexible college that does not have any campus-time requirement.
For some students, the fact that they can occasionally meet their fellow students and professors/ staff on campus can be a huge bonus. It can be time for student-bonding, for developing group-study plans, and for meeting professors to get face-to-face course assistance. So it depends on what is best for you. if this reduced campus time is something you need, be sure to clearly chart out all the expenses involved and budget for it.
Reputation & Awards: Look for accomplishments and awards earned by the colleges. You can find this information on the college websites, their referring links, from the USNews.com and via an online/ offline search. For example, Excelsior is known as a top school for Liberal Arts by PayScale, as their graduates have higher mid-career salaries.
For more indepth information on individual flexible colleges and college preparation tools, please consider purchasing our eBook. If you have additional questions or concerns, you can reach us on our Facebook page. We appreciate any feedback, comments or questions you wish to share with us!