Finding a way to deal with the rising costs of college is a primary concern for many homeschool parents. As a result, there is a growing interest in solutions that can help students and their families make a college education more affordable.
College credit-by-examination programs — such as CLEP exams — is one option that many parents consider. These programs cover many of the general education course areas (courses taught in the first two years of a college degree) and allow students to earn college credit through satisfactory scores on a comprehensive exam. For CLEP, students study independently, often using an official study guide and suggested online resources, and then schedule their examinations when they are ready. After taking the exam, students send their scores to the college(s) of their choice to receive credit (individual institutions set their own credit policies). The exam costs for credit-by-examination programs include the exam fee, an administrative fee charged by the testing center, and any study materials, such as the official study guide an a recommended textbook.
Some homeschool parents opt to enroll their students in dual-enrollment courses, often through an on-campus class at a local community college or through an online course. These courses are term-based (meaning they take place on a fixed semester or term schedule), and provide instruction and instructor-feedback. Students receive college credit from the institution and can transfer that credit to another college or university by sending an official transcript of their work (the college or university receiving the transcript set their own guidelines for how to apply the credit). The costs for these courses generally include tuition (different at each college), student fees (including technology fees), and any course materials such as a textbook or courseware package.
I’m a big fan of these programs, as well as other options like them that make earning credit more affordable and flexible. They have certainly influenced my thinking about how our organization can best serve homeschool parents and their students.
At TEL, we’ve worked hard to design a solution that is uniquely suited for homeschool families — a high-quality, affordable option that provides the independence and flexibility afforded through credit-by-examination programs, as well as the structured learning and dual-enrollment advantages provided by traditional college courses.
What does such a solution include? Here are six key components of our dual-enrollment, college-credit courses for homeschool.
1. They are highly affordable — Our courses cost $75, all-inclusive. That means students pay only $75 for all course materials, instruction, grading, proctored exams, and support. Students will also pay a one-time transcripting fee when they choose to transfer earned credits to a college or university of their choosing.
2. They are incredibly flexible — Our courses give families and students the flexibility to set their own schedules and pace-of-study. This approach accommodates a variety of scheduling needs, including family travel, sports commitments, special project opportunities, and emotional or physical challenges. We also provide printable versions of our course materials, which allows students to work even when they have no Internet connectivity.
3. They provide robust instructional guidance and support — TEL courses provide multiple layers of instruction and instructional guidance. This ensures that students have the guidance and just-in-time support they need to master course concepts. In addition to a course Instructor, students receive feedback and support from our qualified Instructional Specialists and our Support Specialists. Our approach provides students access to a team of experts that gives them the instruction and support information they need when they need it.
4. They are designed for dual-enrollment — From the outset, we align the learning outcomes for our courses with applicable state standards for high school. Since many of our students are completing their first college coursework, we also work to make our presentations, readings, and assignments understandable to students with limited college experience. Along those lines, beginning this summer, we will offer a 1-hour College Readiness course to help students bridge the gap between high school and college coursework.
5. College credit for our courses is provided by a regionally accredited institution — Students completing TEL courses will receive transcripted college credit directly from Excelsior College, a regionally accredited, not-for-profit online college based in Albany, New York. Excelsior is accredited by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education and enrolls approximately 36,000 students in a variety of undergraduate and graduate degree programs. Our collaboration with Excelsior means that homeschool students taking our courses receive actual college credit that can be applied toward a degree.
6. TEL courses allow parents to participate in the oversight and instructional process — Some homeschool parents want to have an instructional role in their students’ coursework while others prefer their students to work in a self-directed manner with the support of TEL instructors and instructional support. We support both options and provide a set of discussion guides for each course to help parents guide their students in the learning discovery process.
Rob Reynolds, Ph.D.
Executive Director, TEL Library