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Correspondence Schools

By Joyce Swann
Printed in Practical Homeschooling #15, 1997.

Joyce Swann tells us how college distance learning worked for her family.
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Joyce Swann

Two Swanns pose for their graduation photo
In 1981, when Alexandra began earning her bachelor's degree through home study, not a lot was available in the way of university extension degrees. In fact, if someone had not suggested that we check out Peterson's Guides: Who Offers Part Time Degrees?, we might never have found a suitable program. Fortunately, the past fourteen years have seen a veritable explosion in the home study market, with a wide variety of correspondence programs now available through the mail, on cable television, and on the Internet. One thing that has not changed, however, is that anyone wanting to earn a degree through correspondence should proceed with caution.

When looking for a correspondence program, we soon became aware that all university extension programs are not created equal. In fact, many institutions offer individual courses through correspondence, but they offer no degrees through home study. As a result, a correspondence student may find that he has spent several thousand dollars and many hours of hard work taking courses that are not going to apply toward a degree - remember, it is possible that none of these credits will be accepted at another institution. If a degree is the goal, the prospective student would be wise to reject any program that does not offer a fully accredited degree as the end product.

At the time we began earning university degrees through home study a lot of people believed that a diploma earned through correspondence was not worth the paper it was printed on. We added an element of credibility by choosing top universities with impeccable credentials. Today, I still believe that great thought should go into the selection of the university as well as the selection of the correspondence program. After all, a degree is only as credible as the university through which it is earned.

Another important consideration when earning a degree through correspondence is finding a program which will help the student reach his educational/career goals. Everyone seems to take it for granted that when earning a degree on campus a student finds a college or university that offers a program geared to meet his specific needs. For instance, an engineering student, a music major, and a medical student are likely to have different educational needs, and each will look for an institution which is geared to help him reach his goals. The same is true with the correspondence student. He should look for an institution which provides precisely the kind of program he needs to reach his goals.

Where Are They Now?

After fourteen years of working in university correspondence programs, I am glad that my family opted for college the homeschool way. Because my children were only eleven when they entered the university, John and I decided that a good liberal arts program would be best for them. We believed that it would give them a broad educational base and prepare them for a number of career choices. As it turns out, we were right. Here is what the older Swann children are doing now:

Alexandra (26) worked four years as a history and remedial writing instructor at the El Paso Community College where she began teaching at age 18. She then spent sixteen months as a developmental editor for a publishing house which produces nursing and pharmacological texts. When the company moved to Denver, Alexandra turned down their offer to go with them. She now works for Cygnet Press and is the sales manager for the Canon dealership in El Paso.

Christopher (25) is a photojournalist and weekend director for the ABC television affiliate in El Paso. Several of his stories have gone national, and he was voted by the Associated Press as the best news photographer in New Mexico.

Francesca (23) began teaching history at the El Paso Community College when she was seventeen. She worked as an assistant principal at a private school in El Paso, and is now back teaching at the college level.

Dominic (22) is a photojournalist for the NBC television affiliate in El Paso, directing local programming and all local commercials.

Victoria (20) is interested in merchandising. She works as a supervisor for Wal-Mart Corporation.

Benjamin (18) became the Youth Sunday School teacher and assistant Youth Pastor at the First Baptist Church in Canutillo when he was sixteen. He has brought the True Love Waits program to several area churches and often preaches at our church when the pastor is out of town. Benjamin has always known what he wants to do - be a pastor. He also works as a substitute teacher in a local elementary school.

Israel (17) works as a news-type editor for the local ABC affiliate with his brother Christopher.

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