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Leaving Traditional College Behind?

  • Shawn Cohen and Woody Robertson Home School Enrichment
  • Updated Aug 06, 2009
Leaving Traditional College Behind?

Homeschooling parents a few decades ago started an education revolution. They knew that government schools were not giving the next generation of leaders the kind of training necessary to positively impact American culture and society. What started as a movement of just a handful of families has grown into a worldwide phenomenon, with nearly two million homeschoolers in the United States alone.

Now there’s another revolution that’s going beyond primary and secondary education. It’s called accelerated distance learning, and it’s proving once again that parents have a say in their children’s learning—not only K-12 but throughout college as well.

Accelerated distance learning techniques take advantage of college classroom alternatives that have been available to students for decades but which have gone largely unnoticed by anyone outside the academic community.

This is not only a revolution in the content of a student’s college education, but in the cost as well. Because available alternatives to traditional higher education are so economical, entire degrees using accelerated distance learning typically cost $15,000. Last year alone, college tuition was double the inflation rate, far outpacing income increases and even rising health care costs.

Breaking Out of the College Box

A simple alternative to college can hardly be called a revolution. But accelerated distance learning is more than merely another way to get college credit. It’s a totally fresh approach to education in general—not just higher education. Before I explain how any student, whether in high school or above, can earn college credit through accelerated distance learning, take a look at the full scope of this revolution in higher education.

As is often the case, the revolutionary ideas of accelerated distance learning, or ADL for short, are really old concepts that were popular at one time but have been forgotten by later generations.  Knowledgeable mothers and fathers these days often point back to the Founding Fathers and their peers when envisioning success for their children. These men routinely did the seemingly unthinkable: graduating from universities in the colonies, they became national heroes before most students these days graduate from college. Some, like Thomas Jefferson, helped found the nation before they were legally old enough to become its president. Within today’s paradigm of education, such feats are viewed as next to impossible.

Education the Founding Fathers’ Way

Do you know that none of the Founding Fathers ever read a textbook? None of them endured four or five years of university lectures either. Instead, the Founding Fathers and their peers engaged in mentor-based training with experts in the fields they were studying. The books used in these mentoring sessions were classics like Plato’s Republic and Newton’s Principia, not textbooks from a giant publishing conglomerate. When James Monroe, Alexander Hamilton, and Aaron Burr went to college, they attended to learn and dialogue about ideas they couldn’t tackle on their own. They had already spent time learning how to process information and develop their own ideas about government, society, and life in general. These young statesmen started their university studies prepared to revolutionize their world. And they did, with the help of heavy-hitting mentors like George Wythe, Samuel Adams, and Patrick Henry.

Incidentally, the United States completely abandoned the mentor-based approach to education in the early twentieth century because of an innovative manufacturing model called the “assembly line.” This transformative change has been documented by John Taylor Gatto in his groundbreaking work, The Underground History Of American Education. According to Gatto, industry magnates like Henry Ford, Andrew Carnegie, and John D. Rockefeller, Sr. needed manpower to fuel their massive factories. They needed men who didn’t care about putting any thought into their work.

It took about twenty years, but these men, with the help of the government, were able to change the face of education in America. About this time, the idea of “high school” took hold in mainstream society. Children could learn from textbooks, have some facts crammed into their heads, and then be ready to work on an assembly line at a local factory or manufacturing plant. Much like the careers many went to work in after that, the grade-segregated system in the United States is now called a “conveyor-belt education” by some educators, as opposed to the “leadership education” that prepared the Founding Fathers to establish the most stable republic in the history of modern times.

College and High School Overlap—Why Do the Same Work Twice?

Accelerated distance learning is changing all of this. A major part of the revolution is abandoning the modern high school/college model in favor of one that combines high school and college level studies. Instead of studying algebra and biology in high school and college, students using ADL study these and other subjects in high school and then take exams that give them college credits for the work they’ve already completed.

These, the College Level Examination Program exams, or CLEP for short, have become more popular in recent years with those looking to sidestep the college classroom, save time on their college studies, or both. Anyone is eligible to sit for a CLEP exam. If the student passes the test, they are given between three and twelve credits, depending on which exam they take. Incidentally, a CLEP exam costs $80, making the per-credit cost of a degree minuscule compared to the credit cost at a state university, which typically costs $250 on up. This way, students can complete their entire degree for about $15,000 as opposed to $41,000 or $108,000, the going rate for public and private schools, respectively.

Since anyone can take a CLEP exam, high schoolers across the country are using CLEP exams to get college credit before they enroll in a college. The organization that administers the CLEP exams, the College Board, banks those credits and makes them available for transfer when the student enrolls in a college or university later on.

For most CLEP exams, including Biology, US History, and College Math, students can use their high school textbooks to prepare for exams. For instance, the Apologia Biology textbooks by Dr. Jay Wile contain sufficient information to pass the exam. When you hear someone say that the first two years of college are a review of high school, they’re not kidding!

We would suggest that every family look for a CLEP study guide to accompany their exam preparation. One of the most comprehensive sets of study guides produced is from a company called Education Research Association ( There’s one study guide per exam. These guides give the student a general idea of how to prepare for the exam as well as a couple of practice exams that closely simulate the actual CLEP test. (Note: these are study guides and are not intended to be the full resource studied.)

Later, when students have amassed a considerable amount of CLEP credit, they can transfer those credits into the college or university they want to get their degree from.

When students have maxed out the amount of CLEP credit they can get for their particular major, they can then apply to a local college or an online institution to finish out the rest of their studies through traditional or online coursework.

If gaining credit outside the classroom isn’t revolutionary enough, students and their families can take it one step further. The great thing about CLEP exams is that students are not tied down to a twelve-week semester schedule. As long as students know the material, they can take the exam—practically any day of the year except major holidays. That means that if you have a history buff in the family, he can take the exam as soon as he feels confident enough, whether that’s a day, a week, or a month. Or your daughter who just finished a biology course can sit for the biology CLEP and walk away with six college credits.

Breaking out of the semester schedule is where accelerated studies fuse with distance learning to help students finish their degrees years ahead of their peers. Some older students have finished their degrees in less than a year by combining the credit-by-exam process and online coursework. Many high school students using accelerated distance learning have graduated from college at the same time their friends are applying to traditional universities.

What Employers Are Really Looking For

These days employers look for college graduates with internship and on-the-job training, not just a bachelor’s degree. In fact, most employers use the degree requirement as a way to filter out unqualified applicants. So the actual degree a college graduate holds is becoming less and less important in the business world. If the student’s major doesn’t matter that much anymore, what do employers want?


The best way for a hiring executive to know if a candidate will work out is if the potential hire has work experience in his or her chosen career field. Seventy percent of students who engage in an internship are offered a job from the company they interned with, according to the National Association of Colleges and Employers. Additionally, 90% of employers use their company’s intern program to hire new employees. Internships are absolutely essential because they prove that, in addition to having theoretical knowledge, a college graduate understands how to apply that knowledge in practical work situations.

Alan Patty is a former executive at both Sun Microsystems and Oracle Corporation and has hired graduates from top universities like MIT, Harvard, and Stanford. He says, “Functional knowledge is what separates the winners from the duds.” According to Patty, some of his hires possessed sky high IQs but didn’t know how to meet goals without a professor looking over their shoulders. With over thirty years of sales experience, Patty says that his most successful hires “knew how to think and not only what to think” and could assimilate facts they had learned in business school with the demands of a fast-paced work environment.

Specifically referring to distance learning degrees, Patty said that as an employer, he would actually prefer a distance learning student over one who finished a degree through the traditional route. To him, distance learning students show that they have taken ownership of their education and their purpose in life. A growing number of employers agree with Patty. In 2008,, a leader in tracking employment trends around the globe, found that 81% more hiring managers look favorably on distance learning degrees than they did five years earlier. Now, some older employers still look askance at degrees earned outside the norm. However, this number is quickly dwindling as more candidates with a distance learning bachelor’s degree are applying for available positions.

Unlock Your Brain’s Full Learning Potential

In addition to applying credit-by-exam techniques for earning credit outside of the classroom, many students are also revolutionizing their studies by completing speed reading and memory skills courses. The most popular speed reading course among accelerated distance learners is from Howard Stephen Berg, the Guinness Book of World Records’ speed reading record holder. At his height, Berg could read 75,000 words a minute, and he now teaches workshops around the country on improving reading speed. Students who use Berg’s course, typically within a three to four week period, double and triple their reading speed by consistently practicing simple reading drills.

The accelerated distance learning revolution owes its inception to Brad Voeller, co-founder of CollegePlus! and author of Accelerated Distance Learning. Voeller completed his fully accredited business degree in six months using ADL methods that he devised on his own. One of Voeller’s secrets to speeding up his degree was integrating dynamic memory skills with speed reading techniques from Howard Berg. Other students have done the same and have thus been enabled to move through massive amounts of information quickly and remember the key points they need to pass the exams they plan to get college credit from.

Thousands of students have chosen to take ownership of their education and avoid the traditional campus. Cumulatively, these education pioneers and their families have saved over $30 million dollars in tuition costs. You can do the same—start today! 

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Shawn Cohen is Public Relations Manager at CollegePlus! He completed his BA in English in less than twelve months using accelerated distance learning. Shawn is a Middle East enthusiast who enjoys wakeboarding and urban outreach where he lives in central Texas. He’d love to help you earn your degree at  

Woody Robertson is VP of Sales and Marketing at CollegePlus! and is a motivational speaker at homeschooling conventions across the country. Woody completed his BS in Business Administration in 2006 after eighteen months of study. He and his wife Gina make their home outside of San Antonio, Texas. 

Editor’s Note: Please note that references to specific colleges or universities are provided for illustrative purposes only and do not constitute an endorsement by Home School Enrichment. As always, parents and students should research thoroughly before selecting a college.

Originally published in the May/Jun ’09 issue of Home School Enrichment Magazine.