Alternative Way

ED 426 235 AUTHOR TITLE INSTITUTION PUB DATE NOTE AVAILABLE FROM PUB TYPE JOURNAL CIT EDRS PRICE DESCRIPTORS IDENTIFIERS ABSTRACT DOCUMENT RESUME CE 077 892 Green, Kathleen Nontraditional Education: Alternative Ways To Earn Your Credentials. Bureau of Labor Statistics (DOL), Washington, DC. 1996-00-00 17p. U.S. Government Printing Office, Superintendent of Documents, Mail Stop: SSOP, Washington, DC 20402-9328. Journal Articles (080) Reports General (140) Occupational Outlook Quarterly; v40 n2 p22-35 Sum 1996 MF01/PC01 Plus Postage. Access to Education; Adult Education; Bachelors Degrees; *Credits; *Experiential Learning; *External Degree Programs; *High School Equivalency Programs; Higher Education; *Nontraditional Education; *Nontraditional Students; Prior Learning; Standardized Tests; Transfer Policy General Educational Development Tests Nontraditional education credits can be earned in many ways. Some methods of assessing learning for credit are objective, such as standardized texts; others are more objective, such as a review of life experiences. Options for earning a high school diploma without spending 4 years in a classroom are as follows: General Educational Development programs; skills demonstration through the National External Diploma Program; and correspondence and distance study. The college picture includes credit through classwork or experience and college degree programs. Adults can receive college credit for what they know by passing examinations and documenting experiential learning through credit: credit for prior college coursework; credit for noncollege courses; credit by examination, including five national testing programs, college and university credit-by-exam programs, and government institute proficiency exams; and credit for experience. Nontraditional students who choose to earn a college degree should evaluate colleges' nontraditional programs based on their accreditation, program features, residency requirements, and tuition and other expenses. (A resources section lists four organizations who can provide information on programs and describes nine publications/guides to nontraditional education. Sources for additional information on all options for earning credits are provided in the text.) (YLB) ******************************************************************************** Reproductions supplied by EDRS are the best that can be made from the original document. ********************************************************************************

Transcript of Alternative Way

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ED 426 235







CE 077 892

Green, KathleenNontraditional Education: Alternative Ways To Earn YourCredentials.Bureau of Labor Statistics (DOL), Washington, DC.1996-00-0017p.U.S. Government Printing Office, Superintendent ofDocuments, Mail Stop: SSOP, Washington, DC 20402-9328.Journal Articles (080) Reports General (140)Occupational Outlook Quarterly; v40 n2 p22-35 Sum 1996MF01/PC01 Plus Postage.Access to Education; Adult Education; Bachelors Degrees;*Credits; *Experiential Learning; *External Degree Programs;*High School Equivalency Programs; Higher Education;*Nontraditional Education; *Nontraditional Students; PriorLearning; Standardized Tests; Transfer PolicyGeneral Educational Development Tests

Nontraditional education credits can be earned in many ways.Some methods of assessing learning for credit are objective, such asstandardized texts; others are more objective, such as a review of lifeexperiences. Options for earning a high school diploma without spending 4years in a classroom are as follows: General Educational Developmentprograms; skills demonstration through the National External Diploma Program;and correspondence and distance study. The college picture includes creditthrough classwork or experience and college degree programs. Adults canreceive college credit for what they know by passing examinations anddocumenting experiential learning through credit: credit for prior collegecoursework; credit for noncollege courses; credit by examination, includingfive national testing programs, college and university credit-by-examprograms, and government institute proficiency exams; and credit forexperience. Nontraditional students who choose to earn a college degreeshould evaluate colleges' nontraditional programs based on theiraccreditation, program features, residency requirements, and tuition andother expenses. (A resources section lists four organizations who can provideinformation on programs and describes nine publications/guides tonontraditional education. Sources for additional information on all optionsfor earning credits are provided in the text.) (YLB)


Reproductions supplied by EDRS are the best that can be madefrom the original document.


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Nontraditional Education:Alternative Ways To Earn Your CredentialsU.S. Department of LaborBureau of Labor Statistics

Reprinted from the Summer 1996 issueof the Occupational Outlook Quarterly

U.S.U. DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATIONOffi of Educational Research and Improvement


This document has been reproduced asreceived from the person or organizationoriginating it.

El Minor changes have been made toimprove reproduction quality.

Points of view or opinions stated in thisdocument do not necessarily representofficial OERI position or policy.


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So, you think college is no place for adults?

Think again.


According to the U.S. Depart-

me t of Education, the per-

tage of 25- to 34-year-olds

enrolled as college under-

graduates increased by nearly

one-third between 1972 and

1994. In the even shorter

erical het wee 1976 and

1994. the percentage of

dergraduates age 35 and

alder also increased by about



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Nontraditional Education:Alternative WaysTo Earn Your


by Kathleen Green

Students returning to school as adults bring more variedexperience to their studies than do the teenagers who begincollege shortly after graduating from high school. As a result,there are numerous programs for students with nontraditionallearning curves. Hundreds of colleges and universities graqtdegrees to people who cannot attend classes at a regular cam-pus or have already learned what the college is supposed toteach.

You can earn nontraditional education credits in manyways:

Passing standardized exams,Demonstrating knowledge gained through experience,Completing campus-based coursework, andTaking courses off-campus.

Some methods of assessing learning for credit are objective,

Kathleen Green is a contributing editor to the 00Q, (202) 606-5717.


such as standardized tests. Others are more subjective, such asa review of life experiences.

With some help from four hypothetical charactersAlice,Vin, Lynette, and Jorgethis article describes nontraditionalways of earning educational credit. It begins by describingprograms in which you can earn a high school diploma with-out spending 4 years in a classroom. The college picture ismore complicated, so it is presented in two parts: one on gain-ing credit for what you know through course work or experi-ence, and a second on college degree programs. The final sec-tion lists resources for locating more information. The stepsyou need to take to turn your educational dreams into adiploma or degree are outlined in the accompanying box,"Roadmap to a Degree."

Earning High School CreditPeople who were prevented from finishing high school asteenagers have several options if they want to do so as adults.Some major cities have back-to-school programs that allowadults to attend high school classes with current students. Butthe more practical alternatives for most adults are to take theGeneral Educational Development (GED) tests or to earn ahigh school diploma by demonstrating their skills or takingcorrespondence classes.

Of course, these options do not match the experience ofstaying in high school and graduating with one's friends. Butthey are viable alternatives for adult learners committed tomeeting and, often, continuing their educational goals.

GED ProgramAlice quit high school her sophomore year and took a job tohelp support herself, her younger brother, and their newly wid-owed mother. Now an adult, she wants to earn her high schooldiplomaand then go on to college. Because her job as headcook and her family responsibilities keep her busy during theday, she plans to get a high school equivalency diploma. Shewill study for, and take, the GED tests. Every year, about halfa million adults earn their high school credentials this way. AGED diploma is accepted in lieu of a high school one by morethan 90 percent of employers, colleges, and universities, so itis a good choice for someone like Alice.

The GED testing program is sponsored by the AmericanCouncil on Education and State and local education depart-ments. It consists of examinations in five subject areas: Writ-ing, science, mathematics, social studies, and literature and thearts. The tests also measure skills such as analytical ability,problem solving, reading comprehension, and ability to under-stand and apply information. Most of the questions are multi-ple choice; the writing test includes an essay section on a topic

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of general interest.Eligibility rules for taking the exams vary, but some States

require that you must be at least 18. Tests are given in Eng-lish, Spanish, and French. In addition fo standard print, ver-sions in large print, Braille, and audiocassette are also avail-able. Total time allotted for the tests is 71/2hours.

The GED tests are not easy. About one-fourth of those whocomplete the exams every year do not pass. Passing scores areestablished by administering the tests to a sample of graduat-ing high school seniors. The minimum standard score is set sothat about one-third of graduating seniors would not pass thetests if they took them.

Because of the difficulty of the tests, people need to preparethemselves to take them. Often, they start by taking the Offi-cial GED Practice Tests, usually available through a localadult education center. Centers are listed in your phonebook's blue pages under "Adult Education," "ContinuingEducation," or "GED." Adult education centers also haveinformation about GED preparation classes and self-studymaterials. Classes are generally arranged to accommodateadults' work schedules. Study materials are available inlibraries, schools, and bookstores, in addition to adult educa-tion centers. A television series, "GED on TV," is broadcaston many public television stations; call 1 (800) 354-9067 tofind out which channel in your area carries it.

School districts, colleges, adult education centers, and com-munity organizations have information about GED testingschedules and practice tests. For more information, contactthem, your nearest GED testing center, or

GED Testing ServiceOne Dupont Circle, NW., Suite 250Washington, DC 20036-11631 (800) 62-MY GED (626-9433)(202) 939-9490.

Skills DemonstrationAdults who have acquired high school level skills throughexperience might be eligible for the National ExternalDiploma Program. This alternative to the GED does notinvolve any direct instruction. Instead, adults seeking a highschool diploma must demonstrate mastery of 65 competenciesin 8 general areas: Communication; computation; occupa-tional preparedness; and self, social, consumer, scientific, andtechnological awareness.

Mastery is shown through the completion of the tasks. Forexample, a participant could prove competency in computa-tion by measuring a room for carpeting, figuring out theamount of carpet needed, and computing the cost.

Before being accepted for the program, adults undergo an

evaluation. Tests taken at one of the program's offices measurereading, writing, and mathematics abilities. A take-home seg-ment includes a self-assessment of current skills, an individualskill evaluation, and an occupational interest and aptitude test.

Adults accepted for the program have weekly meetings withan assessor. At the meeting, the assessor reviews the partici-pant's work from the previous week. If the task has not beencompleted properly, the assessor explains the mistake. Partici-pants continue to correct their errors until they master eachcompetency. A high school diploma is awarded upon provenmastery of all 65 competencies.

Fourteen States and the District of Columbia now offer theExternal Diploma Program. For more information, contact

External Diploma ProgramOne Dupont Circle, NW, Suite 250Washington, DC 20036-1193(202) 939-9475.

Correspondence and Distance StudyVin dropped out of high school during his junior year becausehis family's frequent moves made it difficult for him to con-tinue his studies. He promised himself at the time he droppedout that he would someday finish the courses needed for hisdiploma. For people like Vin, who prefer to earn a traditionaldiploma in a nontraditional way, there are about a dozenaccredited courses of study for earning a high school diplomaby correspondence, or distance study. The programs are eitherprivately run, affiliated with a university, or administered by aState education department.

Distance study diploma programs have no residencyrequirements, allowing students to continue their studies fromalmost any location. Depending on the course of study, stu-dents need not be enrolled full time and usually have moreflexible schedules for finishing their work. Selection ofcourses ranges from vo-tech to college prep, and some pro-irams place different emphasis on the types of diplomasoffered. University affiliated schools, for example, allow qual-ified students to take college courses along with their highschool ones. Students can then apply the college credits towarda degree at that university or transfer them to another institu-tion.

Taking courses by distance study is often more challengingand time consuming than attending classes, especially foradults who have other obligations. Success depends on eachstudent's motivation. Students usually do reading assignmentson their own. Written exercises, which they complete and sendto an instructor for grading, supplement their reading material.

A list of some accredited high schools that offer diplomasby distance study is available free from the Distance Education


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and Training Council, formerly known as the National HomeStudy Council. Request the "DETC Directory of AccreditedInstitutions" from

The Distance Education and Training Council1601 18th Street, NW.Washington, DC 20009-2529(202) 234-5100.Some publications profiling nontraditional college programs

include addresses and descriptions of several high school cor-respondence ones. See the Resources section at the end of thisarticle for more information.

Getting College Credit For What You KnowAdults can receive college credit for prior coursework, bypassing examinations, and documenting experiential learning.With help from a college advisor, nontraditional studentsshould assess their skills, establish their educational goals, anddetermine the number of college credits they might be eligiblefor.

Even before you meet with a college advisor, you shouldcollect all your school and training records. Then, make a listof all knowledge and abilities acquired through experience, nomatter how irrelevant they seem to your chosen field. (EarnCollege Credit for What You Know, by Lois Lamdin, is a use-ful guide; ordering information is at the end of this section.)Next, determine your educational goals: What specific field doyou wish to study? What kind of a degree do you want?Finally, determine how your past work fits into the field ofstudy. Later on, you will evaluate educational programs to findone that's right for you.

People who have complex educational or experiential learn-ing histories might want to have their learning evaluated by theRegents Credit Bank. The Credit Bank, operated by RegentsCollege of the University of the State of New York, allowspeople to consolidate credits earned through college, experi-ence, or other methods. Special assessments are available forRegents College enrollees whose knowledge in a specific fieldcannot be adequately evaluated by standardized exams. Thefee for transcript evaluation and 1 year's registration is $225;subsequent updates are $105 annually. For more information,contact the Regents Credit Bank at

Regents College7 Columbia CircleAlbany, NY 12203-5159(518) 464-8500.

Credit For Prior College CourseworkWhen Lynette was in college during the 1970s, she attendedseveral different schools and took a variety of courses. She did


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Determine What You Need To Do

Transfer credits?Take exams?Have experience evaluated?Take new courses?

7Determine Where You Want To Go

Field of study?Kind of degree?

Determine How To Get There

Traditional ProgramNontraditional Program


Determine Where You Are

What credits do you have?What noncollege courses

have you taken?What skills do you have?

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well in some classes and poorly in others. Now that she is asuccessful business owner and has more focus, Lynette thinksshe should forget about her previous coursework and startfrom scratch. Instead, she should start from where she is.

Lynette should have all her transcripts sent to the collegesor universities of her choice and let an admissions officerdetermine which classes are applicable toward a degree. A fewcredits here and there may not seem like much, but they addup. Even if the subjects do not seem relevant to any major,they might be counted as elective credits toward a degree. Andcomparing the cost of transcripts with the cost of collegecourses, it makes sense to spend a few dollars per transcript fora chance to save hundreds, and perhaps thousands, of dollarsin books and tuition.

Rules for transferring credits apply to all prior courseworkat accredited colleges and universities, whether done on cam-pus or off. Courses completed off campus, often calledextended learning, include those available to students throughindependent study and correspondence. Many schools haveextended learning programs; Brigham Young University, forexample, offers more than 300 courses through its Departmentof Independent Study. One type of extended learning is dis-tance learning, a form of correspondence study by technologi-cal means such as television, video and audio, CD-ROM, elec-tronic mail, and cornputer tutorials. See the Resources sectionat the end of this article for more information about publica-tions available from the National University Continuing Edu-cation Association.

Any previously earned college credits should be consideredfor transfer, no matter what the subject or the grade received.Many schools do not accept the transfer of courses gradedbelow a C or ones taken more than a designated number ofyears ago. Some colleges and universities also have limits onthe number of credits that can be transferred and appliedtoward a degree. But not all do. For example, Thomas EdisonState College, New Jersey's State college for adults, acceptsthe transfer of all 120 hours of credit required for a baccalaure-ate degreeprovided all the credits are transferred fromregionally accredited schools, no more than 80 are at the juniorcollege level, and the student's grades overall and in the fieldof study average out to C.

To assign credit for prior coursework, most schools requireoriginal transcripts. This means you must complete a form orsend a written, signed request to have your transcripts releaseddirectly to a college or university. Once you have chosen theschools you want to apply to, contact the schools you attendedbefore. Find out how much each transcript costs, and ask themto send your transcripts to the ones you are applying to. Writea letter that includes your name (and names used during atten-


dance, if different) and dates of attendance, along with thenames and addresses of the schools to which your transcriptsshould be sent. Include payment and mail to the registrar at theschools you have attended. The registrar's office will processyour request and send an official transcript of your courseworkto the colleges or universities you have designated.

Credit For Noncollege CoursesColleges and universities are not the only ones that offerclasses. Volunteer organizations and employers often provideformal training worth college credit. The American Council onEducation has two programs that assess thousands of specificcourses and make recommendations on the amount of collegecredit they are worth. Colleges and universities accept the rec-ommendations or use them as guidelines.

One program evaluates educational courses sponsored bygovernment agencies, business and industry, labor unions, andprofessional and voluntary organizations. It is the Program onNoncollegiate Sponsored Instruction (PONSI). Some of thetraining seminars Alice has participated in covered topics suchas food preparation, kitchen safety, and nutrition. Althoughshe has not yet earned her GED, Alice can earn college creditbecause of her completion of these formal job training semi-nars. The number of credits each seminar is worth does nothinge on Alice's current eligibility for college enrollment.

The other program evaluates courses offered by the Army,Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard, and Department ofDefense. It is the Military Evaluations Program. Jorge hasnever attended college, but the engineering technology classeshe completed as part of his military training are worth collegecredit. And as an Army veteran, Jorge is eligible for a servicethat takes the evaluations one step further. The Army/Ameri-can Council on Education Registry Transcript System(AARTS) will provide Jorge with an individualized transcriptof American Council on Education credit recommendationsfor all courses he completed, the military occupational special-ties (MOS's) he held, and examinations he passed while in theArmy. All Army and National Guard enlisted personnel andveterans who enlisted after October 1981 are eligible for thetranscript. Similar services are being considered by the Navyand Marine Corps.

To obtain a free transcript, see your Army Education Centerfor a 5454R transcript request form. Include your name, SocialSecurity number, basic active service date, and completeaddress where you want the transcript sent. Mail your requestto

AARTS Operations Center415 McPherson Ave.Fort Leavenworth, KS 66027-1373.

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Recommendations for PONSI are published in TheNational Guide to Educational Credit for Training Programs;military program recommendations are in The Guide to theEvaluation of Educational Experiences in the Armed Forces.See the Resources section at the end of this article for moreinformation about these publications.

Former military personnel who took a foreign languagecourse through the Defense Language Institute may requestcourse transcripts by sending their name, Social Securitynumber, course title, duration of the course, and graduationdate to

Commandant, Defense Language InstituteAttn.: ATFL-DAA-ARTranscriptsPresidio of MontereyMonterey, CA 93944-5006.

Not all of Jorge's and Alice's courses have been assessedby the American Council on Education. Training courses thathave no Council credit recommendation should still beassessed by an advisor at the schools they want to attend.Course descriptions, class notes, test scores, and other docu-mentation may be helpful for comparing training courses totheir college equivalents. An oral examination or otherdemonstration of competency might also be required.

There is no guarantee you will receive all the credits youare seekingbut you certainly won't if you make no attempt.

Credit By ExaminationStandardized tests are the best known method of receivingcollege credit without taking courses. These exams are oftentaken by high school students seeking advanced placement forcollege, but they are also available to adult learners. Testingprograms and colleges and universities offer exams in a num-ber of subjects. Two U.S. Government institutes have foreignlanguage exams for employees that also may be worth collegecredit.

It is important to understand that receiving a passing scoreon these exams does not mean you get college credit automat-ically. Each school determines which test results it willaccept, minimum scores required, how scores are convertedfor credit, and the amount of credit, if any, to be assigned.Most colleges and universities accept the American Councilon Education credit recommendations, published every otheryear in the 250-page Guide to Educational Credit by Exami-nation. For more information, contact

The American Council on EducationCredit by Examination ProgramOne Dupont Circle, Suite 250

Washington, DC 20036-1193(202) 939-9434.

Testing programs. You might know some of the fivenational testing programs by their acronyms or initials: CLEP,ACT PEP: RCE, DANTES, AP, and NOCTI.\(The meaningsof these initialisms are explained below.) There is some over-lap among programs; for example, four of them have introduc-tory accounting exams. Since you will not be awarded creditmore than once for a specific subject, you should carefullyevaluate each program for the subject exams you wish to take.And before taking an exam, make sure you will be awardedcredit by the college or university you plan to attend.

CLEP (College-Level Examination Program), administeredby the College Board, is the most widely accepted of thenational testing programs; more than 2,800 accredited schoolsaward credit for passing exam scores. Each test takes 90 min-utes, costs $42, and covers material taught in basic undergrad-uate courses. There are 5 general examsEnglish composi-tion, humanities, college mathematics, natural sciences, andsocial sciences and historyand 29 subject exams. Mostexams are 6ntirely multiple choice, but English compositionexams may include an essay section. For more information,contact

CLEPP.O. Box 6600Princeton, NJ 08541-6600(609) 771-7865.

ACT PEP: RCE (American College Testing ProficiencyExam Program: Regents College Examinations) tests are givenin 38 subjects within arts and sciences, business, education,and nursing. Each exam is recommended for either lower- orupper-level credit. Exams are 3 hours long, contain eitherobjective or extended response questions, and are gradedaccording to a standard score, letter grade, or pass/fail. Feesvary, depending on the subject and type of exam; multiplechoice tests cost $45 to $80, and essay tests are $140. For moreinformation or to request free study guides, contact

ACT PEP: Regents College ExaminationsP.O. Box 4014Iowa City, IA 52243(319) 337-1387.

New York State residents must contact Regents Collegedirectly.

DANTES (Defense Activity for Nontraditional EducationSupport) standardized tests are developed by the EducationalTesting Service for the Department of Defense. Originally

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administered only to military personnel, the exams have beenavailable to the public since 1983. About 50 subject tests coverbusiness, mathematics, social science, physical science,humanities, foreign languages, and applied technology. Mostof the tests consist entirely of multiple choice questions. Eachtest is $27; schools determine their own administering fees andtesting schedules. For more information or to request freestudy sheets, contact

DANTES Program OfficeMail Stop 31-XEducational Testing ServicePrinceton, NJ 085411 (800) 257-9484.

The AP (Advanced Placement) Program is a cooperativeeffort between secondary schools and colleges and universi-ties. AP exams are developed each year by committees of col-lege and high school faculty appointed by the College Boardand assisted by consultants from the Educational Testing Ser-vice. Subjects include arts and languages, natural sciences,computer science, social sciences, history, and mathematics.Most tests are 2 or 3 hours long and include both multiplechoice and essay questions. Each exam is $72, with a $22reduction available for qualified students in financial need. APcourses are available to help students prepare for exams,which are offered in the spring. For more information aboutthe Advanced Placement Program, contact

Advanced Placement ServicesP.O. Box 6671Princeton, NJ 08541-6671(609) 771-7300.

NOCTI (National Occupational Competency Testing Insti-tute) assessments are designed for people like Alice, who havevocational-technical skills that cannot be evaluated by othertests. NOCTI assesses competency at two levels: Student/jobready and teacher/experienced worker. Standardized evalua-tions are available for occupations such as autobody repair,electronics, mechanical drafting, quantity food preparation,and upholstering. The tests consist of multiple choice ques-tions and a performance component. Costs range from $12.50for student/job ready skill assessments for students to $150 forteacher/experienced workers for people in business and indus-try. Other services include workshops, customized assess-ments, and pretesting. For more information, contact

NOCTI500 N. Bronson Ave.Ferris State University

1 0

To becoMe,anengineer; h'must have abachelor'sdegree; but

_be-cause he isaccustomed to

hands-onlearning, Jorgeis interestedin gettingexperience ashe gains more ;techriidal skills. ;


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experience for credit assessment. Earn College Credit forWhat You Know, by Lois Lamdin, discusses how to organizeand present your experience, including creating a portfolio. Italso has advice on career planning, skills and prior learningevaluation, choosing a college or university, and college sur-vival for returning students, along with worksheets, study tips,and additional resources. The 256-page book is available for$21.50, plus $5 shipping and handling, from

The Council for Adult and Experiential Learning243 S. Wabash Avenue, Suite 800Chicago, IL 60604(312) 922-5909.

Earning a College DegreeNontraditional students often have work, family, and fmancialobligations that prevent them from quitting their jobs to attendschool full time. Can they still meet their educational goals?

Yes.More than 150 accredited colleges and universities have

nontraditional bachelor's degree programs that require stu-dents to spend little or no time on campus; over 300 othershave nontraditional campus-based degree programs. Some ofthose schools, as well as most junior and community colleges,offer associate's degrees nontraditionally. Each school with anontraditional course of study determines its own rules forawarding credit for prior coursework, exams, or experience,as discussed previously. Most have charges on top of tuitionfor providing these special services.

Several publications profile nontraditional degree pro-grams; see the Resources section at the end of this article formore information. To determine which school best fits youracademic profile and educational goals, first list your criteria.Then, evaluate nontraditional programs based on their accred-itation, features, residency requirements, and expenses. Onceyou have chosen several schools to explore further, write tothem for more information. Detailed explanations of schoolpolicies should help you decide which ones you want to applyto.

Get beyond the printed wordespecially the glowingwords each school writes about itself. Check out the schoolsyou are considering with higher education authorities, alumni,employers, family members, and friends. If possible, visit thecampus to talk to students and instructors and sit in on a fewclasses, even if you will be completing most or all of yourwork off campus. Ask schocl officials questions about suchthings as enrollment numbers, graduation rate, faculty qualifi-cations, and confusing details about the application process or

Alice wants to .

attend lecturesbut has anunpredictable'schedule. Herbest course ofaction will be to.Seek'out

short residencyprograms thatrequire studentsto attendseminars onceor twice asemester.


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academic policies. After you have thoroughly investigatedeach prospective college or university, you can make aninformed decision about which is right for you.

AccreditationAccreditation is a process colleges and universities submit tovoluntarily for getting their credentials. An accredited schoolhas been investigated and visited by teams of observers andhas periodic inspections by a private accrediting agency. Theinitial review can take 2 years or more.

Regional agencies accredit entire schools, and professionalagencies accredit either specialized schools or departmentswithin schools. Although there are no national accreditingstandards, not just any accreditation will do. Countless"accreditation associations" have been invented by schools,many of which have no academic programs and sell phonydegrees, to accredit themselves. But 6 regional and about 80professional accrediting associations in the United States arerecognized by the U.S. Department of Education or the Com-mission on Recognition of Postsecondary Accreditation.When checking accreditation, these are the names to look for.

For more information about accreditation and accreditingagencies, contact

Institutional Participation Oversight ServiceAccreditation and State Liaison DivisionU.S. Department of EducationROB 3, Room 3915600 Independence Ave., SWWashington, DC 20202-5244(202) 708-7417.

Because accreditation is not mandatory, lack of accredita-tion does not necessarily mean a school or program is bad.Some schools choose not to apply for accreditation, are in theprocess of applying, or have educational methods too uncon-ventional for an accrediting association's standards. For thenontraditional student, however, earning a degree from a col-lege or university with recognized accreditation is an espe-cially important consideration. Although nontraditional educa-tion is becoming more widely accepted, it is not yet main-stream. Employers skeptical of a degree earned in a nontradi-tional manner are likely to be even less accepting of one froman unaccredited school.

Program FeaturesBecause nontraditional students have diverse educationalobjectives, nontraditional schools are diverse in what theyoffer. Some programs are geared toward helping studentsorganize their scattered educational credits to get a degree as

quickly as possible. Others cater to those who may have spe-cific credits or experience but need assistance in completingrequirements. Whatever your educational profile, you shouldlook for a program that works with you in obtaining your edu-cational goals.

A few nontraditional programs have special admissionspolicies for adult learners like Alice, who plan to earn theirGED's but want to enroll in college in the meantime. Otherfeatures of nontraditional programs include individualizedlearning agreements, intensive academic counseling, coopera-tive learning and internship placement, and waiver of someprerequisites or other requirementsas well as college creditfor prior coursework, examinations, and experiential learning,all discussed previously.

Lynette, whose primary goal is to finish her degree, wantsto earn maximum credits for her business experience. She willlook for programs that do not limit the number of creditsawarded for equivalency exams and experiential learning. Andsince well documented proof of knowledge is essential forearning experiential learning credits, Lynette should makesure the program she chooses provides assistance to studentssubmitting a portfolio.

Jorge, on the other hand, has more credits than he needs incertain areas and is willing to forego some. To become anengineer, he must have a bachelor's degree; but because he isaccustomed to hands-on learning, Jorge is interested in gettingexperience as he gains more technical skills. He will concen-trate on finding schools with strong cooperative education,supervised fieldwork, or internship programs.

Residency RequirementsPrograms are sometimes deemed nontraditional because oftheir residency requirements. Many people think of residencyfor colleges and universities in terms of tuition, with in-Statestudents paying less than out-of-State ones. Residency alsomay refer to where a student lives, either on or off campus,while attending school.

But in nontraditional education, residency usually refers tohow'much time students must spend on campus, regardless ofwhether they attend classes there. In some nontraditional pro-grams, students need not ever step foot on campus. Othersrequire only a very short residency, such as 1 day or a fewweeks. Many schools have standard residency requirements ofseveral semesters but schedule classes for evenings or week-ends to accommodate working adults.

Lynette, who previously took courses by independent study,prefers to earn credits by distance study. She will focus onschools that have no residency requirement. Several collegesand universities have nonresident degree completion programs

1 4

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for adults with some college credit. Under the direction of afaculty advisor, students devise a plan for earning theirremaining credits. Methods for earning credits include inde-pendent study, distance learning, seminars, supervised field-work, and group study at arranged sites. Students may have toearn a certain number of credits through the degree-grantinginstitution. But many programs allow students to take coursesat accredited schools of their choice for transfer toward theirdegree.

Alice wants to attend lectures but has an unpredictableschedule. Her best course of action will be to seek out shortresidency programs that require students to attend seminarsonce or twice a semester. She can take courses that are tele-vised and videotape them to watch, when her schedule per-mits, 'with the seminars helping to ensure that she properlycompletes her coursework. Many colleges and universitieswith short residency requirements also permit students to earnsome credits elsewhere, by whatever means the studentchooses.

Some fields of study require classroom instruction. AsJorge will discover, few colleges and universities allow stu-dents to earn a bachelor's degree in engineering entirelythrough independent study. Nontraditional residency pro-grams are designed to accommodate adults' daytime workschedules. Jorge should look for programs offering evening,weekend, summer, and accelerated courses.

Tuition and Other ExpensesThe final decisions about which schools Alice, Jorge, andLynette attend may hinge in large part on a single issue: Cost.And rising tuition is only part of the equation. Beginning withapplication fees and continuing through graduation fees, col-lege expenses add up.

Traditional and nontraditional students have some expensesin common, such as the cost of books and other materials.Tuition might even be the same for some courses, especiallyfor colleges and universities offering standard ones at unusualtimes. But for nontraditional programs, students may also payfees for services such as credit or transcript review, evalua-tion, advisement, and portfolio assessment.

Students are also responsible for postage and handling orsetup expenses for independent study courses, as well as forall examination and transcript fees for transferring credits.Usually, the more nontraditional the program, the moredetailed the fees. Some schools charge a yearly enrollment feerather than tuition for degree completion candidates who wanttheir files to remain active.

Although tuition and fees might seem expensive, most edu-cators tell you not to let money come between you and your

educational goals. Talk to someone in the financial aid depart-ment of the school you plan to attend or check your library forpublications about financial aid sources. The U.S. Departmentof Education publishes a gUide to Federal aid programs such asPell Grants, student loans, and work-study. To order the free74-page booklet, The Student Guide: Financial Aid from theU.S. Department of Education, contact

Federal Student Aid Information CenterP.O. Box 84Washington, DC 200441 (800) 4FED-AID (433-3243).

Another pamphlet, Money for Adult Students, focuses onstudents over age 25. It provides suggestions on how andwhere to look for financial aid and what to think about inpreparing for school financing. The I 9-page guide is availablefor $2.95 from

Energeia Publishing, Inc.P.O. Box 985Salem, OR 97308-0985(503) 362-1480.

ResourcesInformation on how to earn a high school diploma or collegedegree without following the usual routes is available fromseveral organizations and in numerous publications. Informa-tion on nontraditional graduate degree programs, available formaster's through doctoral level, though not discussed in thisarticle, can usually be obtained from the same resources thatdetail bachelor's degree programs.

OrganizationsAdult learners should always contact their local school system,community college, or university to learn about programs thatare readily available. The following national organizations canalso supply information.

American Council on EducationOn6 Dupont CircleWashington, DC 20036-1193(202) 939-9300.

Within- the American Council on Education, the Center forAdult Learning and Educational Credentials administers theNational External Diploma Program, the GED Program, theProgram on Noncollegiate Sponsored Instruction, the Creditby Examination Program, and the Military Evaluations Pro-gram.

Council for Adult and Experiential Learning


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243 S. Wabash Avenue, Suite 800Chicago, IL 60604(312) 922-5909.

Distance Education and Training Council1601 18th Street, NW.Washington, DC 20009-2529(202) 234-5100.

National University Continuing Education_AssociationOne Dupont Circle, Suite 615Washington, DC 20036(202) 659-3130.

PublicationsIn addition to the resources available through organizationsmentioned in the article, there are numerous guides to nontra-ditional education. Check your library's career and college ref-erence section. Publications include the following.

Bear, John B. and Mariah P. Bear. Bears' Guide to EarningCollege Degrees Non-Traditionally (1995; updated annually),336 pages. Ten Speed Press, P.O. Box 7123, Berkeley, CA94707; 1 (800) 841-BOOK (2665). Now in its 20th year, this12th edition of Bears' Guide describes over 1,600 schools andseparates the accredited from the unaccredited. Chaptersinclude discussions on accreditation, nontraditional education,scholarships and financial aid, methods of earning credit, theRegents Credit Bank, alternative high school diploma andgraduate degree programs, and diploma mills. Related booksby the Bears include College Degrees by Mail and FindingMoney for College. Both are also available from Ten SpeedPress.

Thorson, Marcie Kisner. Campus-Free College Degrees:Thorson's Guide to Accredited Distance Learning DegreePrograms (1996; updated biennially), 256 pages. ThorsonGuides, P.O. Box 470886, Tulsa, OK 74147; 1 (800) 741-7771. A detailed guide to accredited high school diploma andcollege degree programs that require students to spend little orno time on campus. Also includes discussions about accredita-tion, addresses for State higher education agencies, alternativegraduate degree programs, methods of earning credits, and theRegents Credit Bank.

In addition to the American Council on Education's Guide toEducational Credit by Examination, available directly from itsWashington, DC., office, the Council has a number of publica-tions available through Oryx Press, 4041 North Central

Avenue, Suite 700, Phoenix, AZ 85012-3397; 1 (800) 279-ORYX (6799). They include the following.

Burgess, William E. The Otyx Guide to Distance Learning(1994), 424 pages. Information about nearly 300 accreditedinstitutions that offer over 1,500 courses through audiocas-settes, audiographic conferences, electronic mail, videocas-settes, broadcast television via local cable stations, computertutorials, and online interaction via modem.Sullivan, Eugene. The Adult Learner's Guide to Alternativeand External Degree Programs (1993), 228 pages. Descrip-tions of almost 300 nontraditional degree programs, includ-ing admission requirements, limits to credit awards, esti-mated average completion time for degrees, and percentageof bachelor's degree holders admitted to graduate school.The 1994 Guide to the Evaluation of Educational Experi-ences in the Armed Services. The three-volume set includescredit recommendations for courses offered by the Army,Army Reserve, and Army National Guard in volume 1 (624pages); Navy in volume 2 (484 pages); and Air Force, CoastGuard, Department of Defense, and Marine Corps in volume3 (356 pages).The National Guide to Educational Credit for Training Pro-grams, 1995 Edition (1,120 pages). A publication of the Pro-gram on Noncollegiate Sponsored Instruction of the Ameri-can Council on Education's Center for Adult Learning andEducational Credentials. Describes and gives_ credit recom-mendations for more than 2,000 high-quality educationalprograms conducted by businesses, labor unions, profes-sional and voluntary associations, and government agencies.

The National University Continuing Education Associationsupports distance and extended learning programs through itsmembership institutions. Its Internet home page ( provides information and links to colleges and uni-versities offering courses and degree programs. The Associa-tion also has developed two books that are available throughPeterson's, P.O. Box 2123, Princeton, NJ 08543-2123; 1(800)338-3282.

The Electronic University: A Guide to Distance LearningPrograms (1993), 256 pages. Profiles programs that delivercourses by satellite, cable and broadcast television, and com-puter. Also includes sections on how to make the most of dis-tance learning and what services are provided by colleges todistance education students.The Independent Study C'atalog: A Guide to Over 10,000 Cor-respondence Courses (1995), 320 pages. Describes coursesand programs at over 100 colleges and universities, certificateand external degree programs, and indexes by subject.



Occupational Outlook Quarterly/Summer 1996 35


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