Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Excelsior College Makes $10,000 Guarantee

Magazine article Diverse Issues in Higher Education

Excelsior College Makes $10,000 Guarantee

Article excerpt

Excelsior College is ensuring students can earn a bachelor's degree for up to $10,000. The Albany, N.Y., online school launched the ambitious program Jan. 23 to help "nontraditional students" obtain a degree.

"We are where the action is today," Excelsior College President Dr. John F. Ebersole said in an interview with Diverse. "We have to find a way to have a cost where it is not five times the salary of someone to go to school."

Although the 41-year-old nonprofit college offers bachelor's degrees, a major difference of the new program is students can receive credit by examination in completing coursework and taking one of the Excelsior College Examinations (ECEs). Ebersole said this is similar to the College Board's College Level Exam Program.

A factor in making the price affordable, Ebersole said, is the school's faculty help match the exams to free online courses that come from schools such as MIT, Yale and the University of Notre Dame. Students can download the course, study on their own and take the final exam. It can cost a school around $100,000 to create its own exam, Ebersole said.

According to William M. Stewart, Excelsior's assistant vice president for institutional advancement, though students in credit-by-examination degree paths at Excelsior are not eligible for federal Title IV financial aid, veteran education benefits can be used toward credit by examination. However, Stewart adds that Excelsior does offer limited need-based institutional financial aid to students.

Students are encouraged to be their own teacher using the school's philosophy of "independent study," but each student receives help with an adviser, resource materials and 24-hour access to online tutoring, writing and other services.

The average Excelsior student is 39 years old, juggling both a job and family. Because some students have received some college education, the $10,000 price tag could be lower.

Through the new program, a student can earn a bachelor of arts degree in liberal studies with a focus in psychology or sociology; a bachelor of science degree in liberal studies with a focus in administrative/ management studies or health professions; or a bachelor of science degree in liberal studies with a focus in psychology or sociology. The focus areas are not traditional majors, however.

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Using Excelsior's online "Net Price Calculator," Dr. Paul Rowland, executive director of the Association for the Advancement of Sustainability in Higher Education, estimated the average cost to obtain a degree from Excelsior's regular program to be about $20,000. …

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