Friday, October 5, 2007

Down by the old mill stream.... no, wait...

I've had a bunch of education, courtesy of my job. I've also managed to take a few college courses on my own. Unfortunately, because of the nature of my work, it's difficult to enroll in a school and stay there all the way through to graduation. Fortunately, there's Excelsior College. Now, there are those who think of it as just another diploma mill, but I must beg to differ. Excelsior (formerly Regents College of the University of the State of New York) is accredited by an actual U.S. Department of Education-recognized accreditation organization. It doesn't offer credit for "life experience" or "alternative study." What it does offer is acceptance of transfer credits from other accredited institutions, in addition to its own distance-learning courses. This is a great boon to people like me. I can take my 15 credits from XYZ University, my 37 from PDQ State, and so on, and transfer them to Excelsior, who will evaluate them and give me credit toward an Excelsior degree. Just like any other school. The big difference is that Excelsior doesn't have a residence requirement. They don't insist that I earn a certain number of credits through them. They'll offer courses if I need them, but if I have enough credits for a Bachelor's degree spread around several different schools (because I've moved around a lot) Excelsior will award me that degree. It saves me having to repeat classes just to satisfy XYZ University's requirement that at least 30 credits be earned in their classrooms. The difference between Excelsior and the diploma mills is this: with Excelsior, I actually did take classes, earn grades, and learn something. With a diploma mill, you pretty much send them a check.

So why do I mention this? Well, as I said, I have had a lot of education, but it's spread out around a few different schools. I recently earned a promotion at work, and the (as yet) unwritten rule is that for the NEXT promotion, a Bachelor's degree is pretty much required. Oh, you CAN get promoted without one, but the statistics are something like 95% of promotees have one. So anyway, I decided I would finally gather up my credits and see what I needed to finish. I sent all of my transcripts to Excelsior, and waited. Last night, I got a notification that they had reviewed my transcripts, and decided that for my desired degree program (BS in Liberal Studies) I needed...

3 hours. 2 hours of "Natural Science/Math" and 1 hour of "Information Literacy."
That's not bad, not bad at all. Wow, I had no idea I was so close to being able to change the "education level" checkboxes on all the forms I'll fill in in the future. Yep. 3 hours. 2 classes. I can probably CLEP the math; I can't imagine they want me to get an upper level math for a Liberal Arts degree. That's three credits. One credit of overkill. So all I'll need is the one credit of...

Wait... what? "Information Literacy?" Yep. It seems they've (along with most other online-type schools) decided that I need a course in "how to properly conduct research in the 21st century, using the internet." Things like, if I'm researching a medical question, do I trust the AMA website more, or do I choose to get my information from some guy who thinks everyone would be healthy if only they drank their own urine every day?

This SEEMS like a reasonable request. But... it's a "self-paced" class. It's "taught" by their librarians. It's scheduled for 8-weeks, but it can be successfully completed in 45 minutes (I know at least one person who has). And it costs $270. You'd think that anyone who could find Excelsior's website, create a login, register for the school, retrieve the email and check their course progress would pretty much have demonstrated the required proficiency. But they need to know that I can do it "properly." Oh, they say they're willing to accept it as a transfer from another accreditied school, but I also know someone who tried to do THAT, and... they hoops he had to jump through? No. I'm going to pay it. Well, actually, no I'm not -- my employer is. But if you know where I work, you know who's really going to pay it.

Rest assured, however, that I will be lodging a very strongly worded complaint with the college regarding this... travesty.

Just as soon as my diploma arrives.

No comments: