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Re-thinking College

Re-thinking College

Re-thinking College

Re-thinking college is something all of us with college-aged kids should be doing! With sky-rocketing debt associated with a degree and a mushy job market, the exponentially rising costs of college, it might not be the best way to launch our young adults. But, where does that leave us? As I’ve said before, we are in the 4th Industrial Revolution, and with any revolution, there are high costs and great opportunities if you know where to look. This article will explore ways to hack college and look at viable options to do alongside or instead of college!

What are the Colleges Teaching?

I was talking to a relative this weekend. Both of his kids went to the top-rated public business school in America. They both said they learned little past what they taught in high school, now believe that socialism is better than capitalism, and have embraced a pro-choice stance. For the time and money involved, their conservative, Christian, pro-life parents are disappointed with the values, education, and return on their college investment.

The College Experience

From where I sit, I believe that the college “experience” – both educational and social- is mostly a thing of the past. Colleges and Universities are merely bastions of social reform, and the “Academy” is no longer interested in education, which includes skill-building, synergy, stewarding Christian Culture, and the Great Conversation. College might still be necessary for specific careers or fields, but it’s no longer mandatory for vocational success or a rite of passage required for upward mobility.  For many of us, college still seems like a reasonable goal. As homeschoolers, college acceptance validates the time and effort we’ve invested in our kids. As our kids launch, it’s a logical “next step” and an excellent, negotiable middle ground between childhood and adulthood.

Is the ROI of College worth it?

This experience leads us to some hard questioning if we are committed to launching our kids well. Is the traditional “4-year” college route, with debt, a smart way to go? As parents, how do we proceed in:

  • guiding and directing our young adults in a way that will position them well
  • launch them with  as little debt as possible
  • give them ever increasing responsibility and autonomy
  • utilize their talents

I believe that going through college – if your student needs that documentation for entering into a Big 10 Company, graduate school, etc., should be done as efficiently as possible. In other words, get college credits quickly and as inexpensively as you know how to do it. Work towards a degree program with clarity and focus. (For a fascinating look at most colleges’ pre-pandemic state of messy affairs, check out the book College Unbound).

College GEN ED’s 

For kids who are still preparing to graduate from a college or university, I would get General Education courses out of the way before hitting the college trail- either through Dual Enrollment or CLEP, or a combination of both.

30 Credits would be equivalent to 1 yr of College and remember that most college courses count for 3 credits:

6 Credits of English

  • Composition I*
  • Composition II/*

3-6 Credits of Math

  • College Algebra
  • Geometry
  • Accounting I or II

3- 9 Credits of Science

  • Environmental Science
  • Biology *
  • Chemistry*

3-6 Credits of Social Sciences

  • Psychology *
  • Sociology
  • Government*
  • Econ*
  • History

3-6 Credits of “Diversity” 

  • Religion
  • World Religion**

At True North Homeschool Academy, we are so committed to helping families re-think college that we offer many test prep courses. We also have a new Dual Enrollment program. Combining DE with CLEPs can save your student even more time and money- getting them on the road to independence sooner.

CLEP for College Credit

Not sure if the college or university of your choice (or should I say, within your financial reach) takes CLEPs? Some schools have it posted on their website. If you talk to admissions, but you can’t find it in print anywhere, it’s not binding, so check the website and catalog or ask the Admissions Counselor to write it on school letterhead, with a signature. Furthermore, you can always earn an Associate’s Degree from one of the “Big Three”- Thomas Edison, Excelsior, or Charter Oaks and transfer your Associate’s Degree from one of these accredited colleges. Because it’s an Accredited Degree, your credits and classes will transfer, and you can jump into upperclassman status, finish faster and not spend quite as much money.

The Importance of Learning Entrepreneurship

II encourage every young person I know to learn how to navigate the online world with at least some understanding of what it means to be an entrepreneur. Developing an online business is even better, offering an online educational program, better still. Alternative Ed is booming and will continue to do so. Online education was a $1 billion business in 2010, was expected to be a 2.1 billion dollar business in 2020 (pre-pandemic estimates), and is now projected to be a $357-$435B business by 2023-2025. Learning to sell online can position any young person well, and you certainly don’t need a degree to learn online sales and marketing.

For those still eager to attend college, I would suggest creating an ANI or other Compare/Contrast chart to evaluate your ROI for the projected schools, degrees, and job prospects. If students have been working and saving for college but aren’t’ getting scholarship dollars that will allow them to graduate without extreme debt, other types of investments might be more prudent in both the short and long term.

What is the Return on Investment for College?

College ROI should be evaluated from both a monetary, lifestyle, and values point of view. Sending kids to college who aren’t clear about what they’ll be studying, or their vocational plans ultimately lead to more debt as they change majors or leave school. Further, with no clear job prospects or way to pay back the debt. The majority of college graduates (those who do graduate, and the 50% or so who don’t), leave college with an average of $37,000 in debt. They often graduate in six years instead of four.

Strategize Higher Education Investment

Once you’ve determined if higher education is worth the investment, determine a strategy. There are some exciting scholarship opportunities available. Scholarships like the Military (leadership and vocational training, along with a regular paycheck), Critical Languages, or Community Services Scholarships. Sports and NCAA opportunities provide excellent opportunities but often take years of lead-up time, parental time and money, and political astuteness. Particularly as we now navigate transgender athletes.

Develop You Students Stand Out Factor

Being intentional about helping your kids develop their sense of “otherliness” in unique and stand-out ways

It’s a whole new world to navigate for young adults, and it’s worth spending time thinking through alternatives to a traditional college experience. Like True North’s Orienteering course, a Vocational Exploration course can save thousands of dollars literally and get kids started on a vocational path while still in High School. Practical courses that will prepare our students for the Future of Work, including the increasing “Gig” Economy, are also prudent.

Career Exploration can save you TIME and MONEY

Not sure where to start? The Orienteering Course will help students explore their strengths and skillsets, look at various educational and vocational options and develop a plan. Courses that teach marketable, real-world skills, many of which we offer at True North Homeschool Academy, like:

These courses give students real-world, marketable skills. It’s not too early to begin researching college costs, talking with your students about the lifestyle they hope to live, and strategizing the best ways to make that happen.

Typical Course of Study

Don’t overlook the importance of a solid Jr and Sr High school Academic Program, complete with rubrics, gamification (courses will use it more widely over time), and grading. Your young adults will live and work in a world where being able to think and adapt quickly and collaboratively. A solid academic program lays an excellent foundation for that time of critical thinking. Not sure where to start in developing a program? Our Academic Advising programs are designed to work with and for your family.

Lastly, for students bent on a particular job that might entail college, check out our Young Professionals Series for practical, hands-on advice and actionable steps to develop your student’s professionalism while still in high school.

Take a listen to our ReThinking College podcast!

Our Academic Advising program, designed to help you create an actionable plan, will save you time, money, and frustration now and as you launch your young adult! SPED Advising is also available! 

CLEP 101 (College Level Exam Program) for Homeschoolers

CLEP 101 (College Level Exam Program) for Homeschoolers

At True North Homeschool Academy, we are all about launching our kid successfully as young adults.  Ideally, we like this launch to be with little to no debt, and in a way that equips them to succeed vocationally, as well as in life. One of the ways we are doing this is by providing CLEP prep classes.

What is CLEP?

CLEP is College level Exam Program. There are over 33 exams available that are accepted by 2900 colleges and universities in the following areas:

  • Literature & Composition
  • World Languages
  • History & Social Science
  • Science & Mathematics

By taking a CLEP test, you can save “Hundreds of hours and thousands of dollars.” CLEP exams have been in existence for over 50 years and had over 1800 test centers. This program allows students to demonstrate mastery in college-level material and earn college credit through testing. There is no minimum age at which your kids can start taking CLEP exams and your test scores will “bank” for up to ten years!

Not every college accepts every CLEP exam, and if you know where your high school student plans to attend college, you can check with their admissions counselor or website. If it’s not stated on the website, and you are assured by someone on staff or faculty that the CLEP exam will be accepted for credit, get that in writing. In my state, the state college system will take up to 10 CLEP exams toward a degree, but it varies by major and school.

If you are interested in taking some CLEPs as upper-level high school courses, I would suggest starting with some basic general education requirements: College Algebra, English Comp I and II, Environmental or Natural Science, Psychology or World Religions or Government. Taking just 5 Clep exams totals 15 College Credits (and can go on a High School Transcript for one credit as well and can be counted for a higher weight, which affects the G.P.A.) which is an entire semester’s worth of college. Considering that even inexpensive school cost around $20,000 a year, half of that is significant savings!

If you are looking to earn you Associates degree or even entire undergraduate degree through Clepping, Dual Enrollment, and other less conventional methods, be sure to check out the “Big Three”; Thomas Edison State College, Excelsior State College, and Charter Oak State College.  All of these consider life experiences, extensive CLEP exams, and dual enrollment creidts towards an Associate of Arts or a Bachelor’s Degree.

We have a friend who got their entire undergraduate degree in two years through Clepping and then went on to Medical School.  Of course, he had terrific MCAT scores and references along with his degree, but it is doable to take an unconventionally earned Bachelor’s degree and go on to a competitive graduate program.

True North Homeschools Academy is committed to utilizing the freedom and unique opportunities we have as homeschoolers to bring classes to you that prepare your students to take CLEP exam.

This fall, for instance, we have an amazing group of young adults (10th-12th graders) meeting weekly for 90 minutes to study Psychology. This class has been challenging and thought-provoking, required a boatload of homework, reading, studying and learning vocabulary, provided great discussions and some good laughs and readied participants to take the CLEP exam at the end of the semester.

This class is offered for one semester (just like a college class would be) and uses Zoom and Moodle (also, like many college classes) and counts for 1 High School Credit.  If the CLEP exam is taken and passed 3 College Credits under the General Education requirement of Social Science will be earned. Not only are our students receiving college credit for pennies on the dollar but they are avoiding the social indoctrination that is so prevalent on College campuses, especially in the area of Social Sciences.

Why pay for these classes when our kids can study and take a CLEP test on their own?

For the simple reason, that upper-level classes are challenging, and difficult things are often more exciting and enjoyable when done with others (Ecc 4:9), the teacher brings their experience and expertise to bear,  and the kids have incentive to keep going even when the going gets tough!

If CLEP tests are not something you’ve considered before, I hope you take a look at them. We’d love to partner with you to guide your student through some fun and challenging High School classes that also prepare your students well for CLEP exams!

(This spring we will be offering Civics as well as Environmental Science– both count towards one credit of High School and are also CLEP prep classes.  Check those out today!)

Would you like your high school student to get a jumpstart on college credits?  Then you need CLEP classes!  Check out this post to find out the whys and hows of CLEP Exams for homeschool students! #homeschool #TrueNorthHomeschoolAcademy #CLEP

Earning a Debt-Free College Degree

Earning a Debt-Free College Degree

Who is Paying for College

Few conversations have such a big impact on students’ financial future as the one that starts with, “Who is paying for college?” Most students have not given this question much thought and the result is a generation of graduates buried in student loan debt that they will struggle to repay over decades. As a homeschool parent of three, I invested in finding a way for our children to graduate college debt-free. I discovered credit-by-exam, what I consider one of the best kept secrets in higher education. CLEP (College Level Exam Program) and DSST (DANTES Subject Standardized Tests) are two nationally-recognized credit-by-exam programs that allow students test out of introductory-level college courses. The programs have been available for decades, but many students and parents are unaware of this credit-earning option. With forethought and planning, students can save a significant amount of time and money earning a college degree.

Offensive Strategy

My three children took these exams in middle and high school, often using the same materials they would have otherwise, with the addition of test-prep materials. Paired with vocation exploration, we determined this was the best offensive strategy against the high cost of college, versus the traditional passive approach of hoping for scholarships or being dependent on financial aid. By taking advantage of credit-by-exam in grades 8–10, and our state’s dual enrollment option in grades 11-12, each of our three children graduated with their 4-year degrees for under $15K. Two graduated high school with their 4-year degrees, and one child obtained his degree just one and a half years after high school graduation.

Personalized Learning

These achievements are unusual; however, some students are capable and eager to challenge themselves for this level of learning. They have invested their saved time and dollars into international travel, internships that led to employment, and graduate school. CLEP was developed by the College Board. Nearly 3,000 colleges and universities accept these tests as transfer credit. DSST, administered by Prometric, is a slightly lesser-known program. The exams test different subjects, so we used both in our plan. Each exam costs under $100 and is open to students of any age. Colleges will place a limit on the number of transfer credits a student can earn, so it is always best to review the policy of the college you are considering. There is no one right way to blend credit-by-exam with homeschool as each student’s post high school goals will be different. Some students are ready for this level of learning at an earlier age, especially when they are guided by their parents. It did require us, as parents, to make a shift in our thinking. I facilitated the process as a guidance counselor would, offering opportunities, guidance, and encouragement. Part of our completion strategy meant including studies in personal finance, career exploration, and internships so that when they made a vocational decision, they were thoughtful in their choice.

“Who is paying for college?”

In our family, we told our kids that we would pay for all college credits earned while they were in high school, but the cost of the remaining credits was their responsibility. This offered a realistic expectation and helped them set their own goals. The results of this plan exceeded our expectations!

You might also enjoy High School Credit in Jr. High? You Betcha!,  Blended Learning: It Just Makes Sense  and Clep Prep.

Cheri Frame is the founder of Credits Before College and a certified Career Direct® Consultant. As an advocate for college affordability, author, and home educator for over 15 years, Cheri shares practical ideas to help students maximize their affordable credit options and graduate toward a vocation that matches their design. Course Guides and resources can be found on her website

The What and Why of Clep Exams

The What and Why of Clep Exams

Considering hacking college? You’ll want to consider Clep Prep as a tool in your toolkit. Youu many have heard of Clep exams but are not quite sure what they are. I’d like to take a minute to inform you on how this powerful little tool can save you time and money, enrich your homeschool high school and give your student a step up as they move on to higher education. What is a Clep? Clep is short for College Level Examination Program. Cleps tests are a  group of standardized tests created and administered by College Board. Cleps are accepted by over 2900 colleges and universities in lieu of college classes! Students can take Clep exams when they choose. There is no minimum age requirement and the College Board will “save” Clep scores for up to 10 years. That means that a student who has the ability and drive to take an exam can take an exam at say, age 12, and, with a high enough score, count it towards their college credit. It also means that anyone who hasn’t completed college can finish more quickly than a traditional degree might take by Clepping at least some of the required credits.. Some colleges and universities list specific Clep exams that they will accept on their web-site. It’s a safe bet to start with General Education exams such as College Composition, College Algebra, a Social Science such as Psychology or Sociology, and a basic Science exam. Cleps are not necessarily “easy,” anyone can pass them type of tests. I would encourage everyone to study for a Clep exam. You can purchase specific clep test books, or a general Clep Prep test book, or take on-line prep courses, such as what we offer through True North Homeschool Academy. Take free on-line practice tests as well. If you score 50 or above (this is not a percentage based score) then you should be in good shape to pass the Clep exam! Think Cleps are just for a class or two? We have a homeschooled friend who clepped their entire undergraduate degree and paid cash as he went. He is now happily sailing through Medical School! Cleps are for those who want the degree but not the debt, are busy running a business or want to graduate in months instead of years. If you are a college bound student or the parent of a college bound student, make sure to do your homework on Cleps; it could be a valuable part or your plan to get through college without debt! Buy True North’s Clep Prep Bundle and save! You can find out more about Clepping by visiting the College Board.
Lisa Nehring is always on the look-out for a good deal, and believes that parents should approach launching their young adults into the wide world with creativity and pray and students should consider well the rising costs of college.