Homeschoolers deserve to get credit for all the hard work they do… college credit. How can your student build up an impressive transcript that documents advanced learning? How can you inspire your self-motivated teen? Consider all the benefits of credit-by-examination programs. These programs allow homeschooled students to earn college credit in undergraduate subjects while still in high school. There are two other big advantages: your student saves time on the path to higher education and you save significant dollars in college tuition costs.
In brief, credit-by-examination programs work like this: once students feel they have sufficient knowledge of a subject, they find a program that fits their needs, register for a test and then go take it at one of the designated test centers. These programs generally offer computer-based tests, so you get your results right away. After the test, as students apply to different colleges or universities, they can share their results and request college credit for the exams they have taken.
Think Ahead: Comparing Credit-By-Examination Policies
As your homeschooler begins the process of applying to a college or university, first find out if the institution has a credit-by-examination policy. Many institutions will grant credit but not all do. Some limit the amount of credit students can earn through exams. And different institutions may award a different number of credits – or just a requirement exemption – for the same test. It’s worth looking into well before you make any decisions.
There are many well-known credit- by-examination programs, including a new one called UExcel®, which is taking the testing model to the next level. The UExcel program was jointly created by two renowned educational entities – Pearson and Excelsior College. Pearson is a global leader in developing educational products for children, schools, universities, adults and corporations. Excelsior College is an accredited, nonprofit distance education institution with nearly 40 years of experience offering credit-by-exam and online education programs.
Advancing the Testing Model
UExcel provides some unique advantages that other credit-by-examination programs do not:
1. Students who pass UExcel exams earn a letter grade and college credit on a transcript from Excelsior College. All other testing programs simply provide a score that may be translated into credit or simply into a course waiver. Only UExcel provides students with direct credit that can be counted toward graduation requirements.
2. Because there are thousands of Pearson VUE test centers around the globe, UExcel exams can be scheduled at the student’s convenience rather than at limited times and locations.
3. You get immediate results – even on the College Writing essay exam – so students know their grade right away. After the exam, students can request formal transcripts from the UExcel website.
Most credit-by-examination programs cover a range of subjects. For example, with UExcel, students can prove their proficiency in Calculus, College Writing, Statistics, Introduction to Psychology, Political Science and Physics. A Spanish exam is set to launch later in 2010. Homeschool students can create a customized advanced high school curriculum by simply choosing the exams they are most interested in and studying at their own pace without having to take a correspondence or Internet course. To guide a student’s effort, UExcel provides free downloadable content guides, a list of recommended textbooks and inexpensive practice tests (around $18/each). Each exam is two hours long and most are in a multiple-choice format.
Calculate the Cost Savings
What about the cost? More than ever, people are trying to save money or find smart ways to make their dollars work harder. Each UExcel exam, for example, costs only $85, which translates to $14-$28 per credit, depending on the UExcel exam taken. That’s a huge savings when you consider the average community college cost per credit is $80, the average public university cost per credit is $220 and the average private university cost per credit is $820, based on an average course load of 32 credits per year (www.collegeboard.com). Taking and passing several UExcel exams can potentially save students and parents thousands of dollars while advancing the pace of the student’s academic career.
“Students and parents around the world are struggling to pay for a semester’s worth of college tuition, let alone an entire two- or four-year education,” said Randy Trask, vice president of market development, Pearson VUE. “The UExcel program is designed to help home school students quickly and affordably earn college credit for knowledge they already have, or are willing to obtain through self study.”
The Power of the Transcript
One of the biggest challenges with traditional credit-by-examination programs is that once students have taken a test, they just get a score. It’s up to individual institutions to review that score and interpret it as college credit or a substitute for a college-level class. But when students pass a UExcel exam, they receive a letter grade and credit from Excelsior College, a regionally accredited institution, on an official Excelsior College transcript.
With this transcript in hand, homeschool students can submit it for transfer credit to their desired institution. Thousands of colleges and universities accept credit-by-examination, but credit is always awarded on a case-by-case basis. Having letter grades on a transcript may smooth the way for receiving transfer credit from their preferred university. Students will need to ask their college if they can receive transfer credit, waive lower-level courses or fulfill admission requirements using their transcript.
Credit Recognition Promotes Excellence
Like other credit-by-examination programs, UExcel exams have been evaluated by the American Council on Education’s College Credit Recommendation Service (ACE CREDIT) for the award of college credit. To receive formal recognition by ACE, the UExcel program had to undergo a rigorous evaluation of test methodologies. The ACE CREDIT approval is assurance that these exams evaluate a thorough understanding of the subject matter that is worthy of college-level credit.
“Excelsior’s decades of experience and reputation in examination development and online education combined with ACE evaluation provides colleges and universities with assurance that the credit awarded is an accurate measure of expected college-level learning,” said Dr. Patrick Jones, dean of assessment at Excelsior College. “The cost benefit to students taking UExcel examinations can be significant.”
Getting ahead of the Game in College
For homeschooled children, getting into a good college can sometimes be challenging. These students have the intelligence and knowledge to do well in college, but some universities have difficulty determining just how much students have learned. Let’s face it; many schools of higher education lack confidence in the transcripts provided by homeschooled families, causing students to be waitlisted or denied admission. That’s where the UExcel exams can help because they provide a measurable and credible way for homeschooled students to demonstrate their learning. Having real college credit on an official transcript from an accredited institution, like Excelsior College, proves your student is ready for college-level coursework. A transcript provides the college admissions officer an objective point of reference for what the student has studied and how well he or she understood the material.
Succeeding on UExcel exams can actually do much more for your student than validate his or her education. It can help to demonstrate their motivation and dedication to higher education and become an extra point in their favor in the admissions process, putting them ahead of students with similar profiles. Better yet, once the UExcel exams help a student get into college, it will put them ahead of the game by saving both time and money on their college education.
Encourage Effort, Reward Achievement
You’ve chosen homeschooling for a reason: you want what’s best for your child. As you evaluate the next steps in higher education planning, consider the colleges and universities that will reward your homeschooler for all of her or his hard work. The credit-by-examination option may be just what you need to accelerate your homeschooler’s post-secondary education and save money in the process.
Learn More Now
Websites for credit-by-examination programs offer guidance on which college and universities accept credit-by-examination. They also offer complete information on registering for tests plus practice test links, downloadable content guides and lists of recommended textbooks to help students prepare for exams.
•Excelsior College Examinations http://www.excelsior.edu/exams
7 Questions to Consider when Choosing a Credit-by-Examination Program:
1. Do the tests cover subjects you already know or want to study?
2. Will your test results translate into credit at your desired institution?
3. Can you afford the expense? Will it provide a good value relative to the benefit it may bring?
4. Does the program provide exam preparation resources, like practice tests?
5. Does the program offer convenient test center locations?
6. After the test, when do you receive results?
7. What results do you receive? Scores? A college transcript with letter grades?
Key Benefits of Credit-By-Examination Testing
•Earn college credit. Credit-by-examination is accepted at thousands of universities and colleges across the country, although it is not guaranteed.
•Prove your student is prepared. Show potential institutions that your student already has the ability to excel at university-level coursework.
•Save time. Skip lower-level courses and prerequisites so your student can graduate early.
•Save money. Save thousands on college tuition costs by satisfying graduation requirements.