Homeschooling offers almost total educational freedom for families . . . right up to the end of high school. Then we smack into that "Gotta pick just one college and take all their courses" wall.
Or do we?
Allow me to introduce you to a name I expect to become much more familiar to homeschoolers, as more of our children reach college age: Regents College.
For 29 years Regents College, "America's First Virtual University," has been pioneering alternative, fully accredited, approaches to college. The college offers three services of interest to homeschoolers:
- Regents College Examinations are accepted for course credit at over 1,000 accredited U.S. colleges and universities. Do well on a test and save a bundle on tuition most anywhere you might attend!
- Regents College credit-banking services provide a central transcript of all the college-level work you have done to date, regardless of where you took the courses. This service is most useful for those who do not intend to obtain a college degree, but want to show employers the college-level work they have done to date. It may also be helpful for homeschoolers who do a good bit of college-level work before attending college, and want to pull it all together in a form that is easy to submit to admissions officials.
- Regents College degrees are available at the Associates and Bachelor's level in Business, Liberal Arts, Nursing, and Technology. You may earn the fully-accredited degree via a combination of credit-by-examination, portfolio assessment, and by taking distance learning courses from a menu of over 9,0000 courses offered by other accredited institutions. There is absolutely no residency requirement. This option introduces an incredible amount of flexibility into your college plans, as suddenly you can pick the courses you want, not just the courses one particular college offers.
Let's discuss these options.
Regents College Examinations
Regents College exams are available for "upper level" (junior and senior year) or "lower year" (freshman and sophomore) credit. Prices vary per exam: some are $60, some $90, some $120, some $150, and so on up to $240. A few exceptions cost more.
Exams can be taken at Sylvan Technology Centers in the U.S., Canada, American Samoa, Guam, Puerto Rico, Saipan, the Virgin Islands, and numerous overseas locations. Just pick a time convenient for you: Sylvan Technology Centers are open up to 12 hours a day, 6 days a week.
To prepare for the exam, a free Regents Regents College Examination Content Guide for any particular exam may be ordered at no cost via phone, fax, or mail, or downloaded from their web site. The guide provides an outline of the material covered on the test, plus a bibliography of books for suggested study. These books are available through the Regents College Bookstore.
Guided learning packages are also available. Think of these as "a course in a package." These self-study curriculum packages each include a content guide, plus one or more of the following:
- course guide with lesson assignments
- anthology of readings
- books on the required reading list
- audiocassettes or videotapes
- computer software
We looked over the English Composition guided learning package, and were quite impressed. The ringbound course guide was attractively laid out, with clear, concise instructions and assignments. The accompanying books included three textbooks (The St. Martin's Guide to WRITING, Work in Progress, and Writing Across the Curriculum), a tabbed Writer's Reference book that shows you how to follow the new MLA and APA usage guidelines, a book of exercises to accompany A Writer's Reference, and an answer key for those exercises. I can well believe it will take 270 hours to complete all this coursework, and that the successful tester who gets a grade of "C" or above on the English Composition exam will deserve six college credits - the amount earned in two semesters of a freshman English Comp course.
Regents College Credit Banking/Credit Review
For $200 ($75 of which can be applied towards enrollment in the next 12 months), Regents College will put together a master transcript of college-level work you have completed to date. This can include
- Courses from regionally accredited college and universities, including both campus-based and distance-learning courses. "Regionally accredited" means "officially accredited by one of the regional accrediting agencies recognized by the U.S. government."
- Credit by examination: CLEP, GRE, DANTES, AP, Regents College Examinations, Ohio University Examinations, University of North Carolina Examinations, New York University Foreign Language Proficiency Tests, Thomas Edison College Examination Program, and all examinations recommended by the American Council on Education (ACE) Center for Adult Learning and Educational Credentials.
- Business, industry, military, and other training programs reviewed by the ACE College Credit Recommendation Service
- Portfolio assessment of your real-world skills and knowledge insofar as they correspond to college-level courses. Also called "credit by evaluation," this is a lengthy process administered by your choice of Empire State College, Charter Oak College, or Ohio University. Regents will accept "life experience" credits granted by these three institutions. Generally, this credit is granted to for learning that corresponds to content of individual courses. Your learning will have to be documented via certificates, letters of recommendation, Continuing Education Unit transcripts for training you received through your job or elsewhere, etc. Regents College has their own Flexible Assessment advisors; their portfolio assessments are geared to those who have extensive knowledge of a single discipline. This is not a simple or cheap way to get oodles of credit for your bread-baking skills, so unless you have extensive knowledge and experience in a well-recognized subject area, and/or lots of documented corporate training in your background, portfolio assessment is actually a tougher road to travel than credit by examination.
A credit review provides the same master transcript as the credit banking service. Cost is $165 for all degree programs except Technology, which is 200. Again, $75 of the fee can be applied to enrollment within the next 12 months. The difference is that a credit review is intended as a first step towards a degree, and includes information about what courses you would need to complete in order to accomplish your degree goal. It's a way for you to find out just where you stand, credit-wise, at least as far as Regents College and those accepting Regents credits are concerned.
Regents College Degree Program
Over 83,000 people have earned Regents College degrees to date, 33,000 of them from the military. Regents College fees are reduced for all military students, family members, veterans, and DOD personnel. Plus, Regents College exams are free to military personnel. Cost for enrollment for the rest of us: $685 for an Associate's degree; $800 for a Bachelor's. You get $100 off if you enroll before April 15, 2000. For each additional year you remain enrolled, there is an annual service fee of $325 (Associate's) or $350 (Bachelor's). This covers your initial credit review, academic advisory services, and online support services.
Enrolled Regents College students may join the Regents College Electronic Peer Network (EPN), a web-based forum that includes real-time chat, online study groups, and a used textbook barterama. You can connect with an EPN study buddy by combing their online membership directory for a student with similar interests, and check out their database of other distance-learning courses that have been reviewed by Regents College students. Fee-for-service tutorial help is also available.
Overall, Regents offers 32 degree programs. The mix of degrees and majors compares favorably to those offered at most colleges. Business types can earn Bachelor's degrees in General Business, Accounting, Accounting/NYS CPA Track, Finance, International Business, Management of Human Resources, Management Information Systems, Marketing, and Operations Management, as well as two different Associate's degrees. Liberal Arts Bachelor's degrees offer concentrations in Area Studies, Biology, Chemistry, five different types of Communications, Economics, Geography, Geology, History, World Language and Literature, Literature in English, Mathematics, Music, Philosophy, Physics, Political Science, Psychology, and Sociology. Nursing degree candidates can get a Bachelor's, a Master's, two types of certification, and two Associate's degrees. Finally, the brand-new Technology degree program includes a whole array of Associate's degrees and specialties, plus Bachelor's degrees in Computer Technology, Electronic Engineering Technology, Nuclear Engineering Technology, Technology with Specialty, and Computer Information Systems.
The worth of any of these programs depends largely on the courses you will choose. Unfortunately, you have to enroll to log on to the course database, so we were unable to check out the course selection. If it's as varied as it seems it must be, with over 9,000 courses from over 100 accredited institutions, it should be possible to get a two-year "Associate" degree at home and bypass the political correctness and humbug that permeates most college campuses today.
Freshman year, and to a lesser extent, sophomore year are when most colleges require you to take strange, offensive, or ridiculously remedial courses. By junior year, you're into the technical part of your major, whatever it is, and the course content on campus has generally become more professional and less polemic. Regents will not require you to take "Why All Men are Evil 101" or "Toleration of Warped Behavior 102," as many colleges these days seem to do. Rather, you will choose a certain number of courses that meet "humanities" requirements (or other discipline requirements of your major) with the help of your advisor, from the large number available. It will then be your job to contact the institutions from which you want to take the courses, go through their regular enrollment and fees process, take the course, and have the course transcript forwarded to Regents to be made part of your file.
So there you have it. A solid, fully accredited way for homeschooled kids to finish half or all of college at home. Graduate schools and businesses accept Regents graduates. (They'd better; remember, Uncle Sam is strongly behind this program.) Colleges accept Regents "transfers." Although the program was originally designed for adults seeking higher education (such as you, Mom and Dad), it should work equally well for a young high-school graduate who needs more "seasoning" at home before heading off to an expensive campus.
If your last years of high school are already geared to AP and CLEP exams, it won't be that much of a stretch to add some more distance courses and Regents College Examinations. You may get two years of college under your belt sooner than you think - at home!
For more information, request a free copy of A Student Guide to Credit by Examination at Regents College from:
7 Columbia Circle
Albany, NY 12203-5159
888-RCEXAMS or (518) 464-8500
TDD: (518) 464-8501
Fax: (518) 464-8777
A downloadable version is on their website, www.regents.edu.
Regents College Bookstore:
(800) 466-1365 or (740) 594-2274.
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