In the previous post, we looked at how knowing where and when to go to school after high school has changed. In this section, we will look at types of credentials and preparation steps.
College Before Graduation
Most districts now offer dual credits and Advanced Placement, less expensive ways to earn college credit. Dual credit courses are offered at the high school by community and four-year colleges to high school students.
Advanced Placement courses are also college level courses offered at the high school, but involve paying for and passing a test at the end. Cost for the test can vary up to $200. Once earned, a student orders the test score sent to the Registrar at the college they eventually want to attend to get the credit posted to their academic record (transcript). Some students enter college at a sophomore level using these options.
Some students believe they can “test out” of college courses. The amount of credits accepted from CLEP (College Level Entrance Program) is limited at each institution. Most limit these to 6 credits or two average semester courses.
International students will pay a fee (usually over $100) to have their transcripts evaluated for credits to be applied toward their coursework at a college.
Before selecting a school, there are three phrases you need to understand:
Accreditation and Licensure
There are six regionally accrediting bodies of colleges. If the college you are considering is not accredited by one of these, credits will not transfer to another school.
|Middle States Commission on Higher Education
New England Association of Schools and Colleges
Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities
Higher Learning Commission (formerly North Central Assoc. of Schools and Colleges)
Southern Association of Colleges and Schools
Western Association of Schools and Colleges
Why is this so critical? State Licensure and Transfer Credits. Read on.
In the last few years, some people got the idea they could make profit from financial aid. Many feature slick advertising but tuition rates triple that of other schools, trading your money for time spent rather than quality of education.
With the explosion of online degrees, more for-profit schools (called proprietary schools) began claiming to be accredited. However some of these schools’ accreditation was more like the “buy here, pay here” of the auto dealer industry. They created groups of representatives from similar schools to rubber stamp their programs. Accreditation is meant to assure quality education for students.
Some of theses schools, which have been investigated for fraud, take hoop-jumping into a lucrative business that benefits them, not their students.
Recently some of these have gained accreditation from the six regional bodies listed above. But it’s up to the student to check it out. National American University and Phoenix are accredited at the time of this writing; Grantham is not.
Students need to know the difference in a program and a degree. A program is a specific field within a degree. A degree may be a Bachelor of Science. A program within the Bachelor of Science may be nursing.
It is not uncommon for a state department of education to select which programs are licensed in that state. If you receive a nursing degree from a program that is not licensed, you may not be allowed to practice.
If you earn credits from a school not accredited by one of the six regional bodies, your credits will be not accepted at any school within these bodies, which is the majority of legitimate schools in the country. Students may believe they are not going to transfer, but almost 40% of students transfer. Each school has its own transfer acceptance rate.
Similar to what a disclaimer for a lawyer’s advertisement states, the selection of a school is too important to be based on a 30-second commercial.
Financial Aid Formula
With jobs unavailable or low wage and social services cut, the only revenue some students choose is financial aid. Game-playing students enroll in order to get financial aid and then drop out. A college is not a bank. Financial aid regulations are quickly changing regulations to remove this practice.
Also parental income is required to be reported if the student is younger than 24 before December 31 of the award year. Students who are estranged from their parents seek to be emancipated so only their income will be considered in the financial aid award. This is a long and costly process of itself. So students who consider themselves independent at 18 have 6 more years when their parent’s income may lower their financial aid award amount.
Perhaps one of the most tempting pitches around going to college is that given by military recruiters. Pause.
Military recruiters are filling a recruiting quota for the month. Speak to ex-military about the promised funds for college. The amount you receive is based on your MOS, or military job you do while serving. Watch phrases like “up to” or others used in most advertisements. Even a few college credits (15 and up) can put you higher up when you enlist or give you more duty choices. Officers are students who enlist with a degree. So college before enlisting is still a good value.
Certificates vs 2-year Degrees
For recent high school graduates, pressures to attend a school far away look the most glamorous. Dreams of escaping home and following friends factor big in these plans. Stop right there.
Students do not realize that they owe money for the coursework even if they flunk out. $6-10,000 is too costly a party. Especially if you have no credits to show for it.
First of all, the same education for the first two years at a four-year school will cost at least twice what the community college will. These schools have articulation agreements with four-year schools so credits with transfer.
But there’s a lot of hype now that a four-year degree is not worth the money. That has not been borne out, but the field a student wants to pursue affects whether certificates or two-year degrees are more useful.
Certificates are short-term coursework, 6 months to 18 months, that prepare for a specific job field. Technology fields love certificates. Microsoft, Adobe, and other companies offer their own training certificates, which are expensive, but by earning them through community colleges or employee assistance programs, they cost you less and can be applied to more college credits if you need to down the road. Often profit schools cost three times and their credits do not transfer.
Two-year degrees often apply certificates toward coursework. Some fields like Emergency Medical Technologists (EMT) and police have agreements to convert work experience to college credits, cutting tuition costs as much as in half because of the lower number of credits needed to complete the degree.
Some students with degrees are returning to earn technology certificates because of needing to prepare for a specific job. With job fields opening and closing rapidly, shorter term degrees can help adapt more quickly. Also as industries close, government programs often pay for people to retrain in newer fields.
In the past, students went to dorms at four-year schools and stayed until their degree was completed, then entering their chosen field. Fewer than 30% now fit that model. ( 2016 College Experience Survey from Strayer University and U.S. News & World Report’s Marketing and Business Intelligence Teams). Often parents don’t want to hear that their son or daughter might not be ready to succeed, but realism saves money. But that doesn’t mean they shouldn’t begin studies after taking a break. But they should know why they are studying and be prepared to work at it. Research pays off here.
You may be wondering if all this is too much to consider. Few students think that after they have a large student loan and no degree.
An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.
Happy college shopping! Contact me for more assistance by leaving a comment. If you found this blog helpful, please let me know or pass it along. Thank you.