New Option for College at Home at Penn State

from Dr. Howard Richman

from (Copyright 1996) Pennsylvania Homeschoolers

Penn State University announced at their high school at home workshop that they have reached a cooperative agreement with the University of Iowa so that you can get a liberal arts diploma entirely by correspondence by beginning at Penn State and finishing at Iowa. This new homeschooling option should appeal to homeschool graduates, 8% of whom are currently homeschooling for college, according to our surveys.

Those interested could pursue an Associate in Liberal Arts from Penn State for their first 68 credits (about 23 courses), and then transfer to the University of Iowa for their remaining 56 credits (about 19 courses). They would then graduate with a Bachelor of Liberal Studies degree from the University of Iowa. Cost is $102 per credit (plus book fees) from Penn State and $77 per credit from Iowa plus a $15 application fee -- a total of less than $12,000 for a college degree!

Both the Penn State and Iowa programs have been around a long time. The Penn State program was originally designed to let people do the first 2 years at home before coming to Penn State main campus for their junior and senior years. The Iowa program was originally designed to help adults finish up their college degrees. Now, with the two programs working together, you can go all the way through at home. The Iowa program has found that 83% of their graduates who apply get into their graduate school of choice.

Each Penn State course has a textbook and study guide and some also have videos and audio tapes. Written assignments are mailed to the instructors and 2 or 3 exams (per course) are taken at a local Penn State campus. Each course is normally completed in a half year, though students can proceed at their own pace and take up to a full year if necessary. Final grades go on standard Penn State transcripts without any indication that they are correspondence courses, and credits can be transferred to any college that accepts Penn State credits.

Unfortunately, for most of these courses, students will have little contact with their instructors except for instructor's brief responses to their written assignments. Both Penn State and Iowa are currently taking steps to permit communication with instructors and/or between students by e-mail and some instructors are already available to students by phone or e-mail.

If current high school students want to get started on college-level work before they graduate, they can do so. They could later transfer their credits to any college that accepts Penn State credits. They would need to show Penn State they are ready for college work. To apply, homeschooling high school students should:
  1. Fill out a request and sent it in without payment.
  2. Attach letters of recommendation from their parent and/or from their evaluator indicating that the student has the ability to do college level work.
  3. Send in a copy of their current home education transcript and evaluations, and copies of any available SAT or PSAT scores, AP scores, etc.
  4. Meet specific course pre-requisites, such as passing grades on Penn State's placement tests or on AP tests.

As home education continues to grow, we look forward to continuing expansion of the options available for college at home.

Special thanks to Howard Richman for permission to reprint this article.