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College Plus! Review by Kendra Fletcher
18212 State Hwy 46 W
Spring Branch, TX 78070
866-989-5432 ext. 1

For many of us, college looms large in the futures of our home-educated students. In reality, a bachelor's degree is the bare minimum for many career paths, and there's just no getting around it. If your child is college bound, you're doubtless not only feeling the pressure of preparing him academically but also wondering how exactly that degree will come about financially.

Enter CollegePlus!, a Christian distance-learning program with the motto "Faster, For Less, For Sure." Co-founded by author Brad Voeller of the groundbreaking college distance learning primer Accelerated Distance Leaning, the CollegePlus! program assists the student in obtaining a degree in one of 30 majors. These are real degrees, regionally accredited and awarded to the student by colleges that honor distance learning.

CollegePlus! students earn their coursework credits through a combination of exams (CLEP exams, for instance, are administered by The College Board), online classes, and on-site courses from local colleges and universities. The cost savings is significant; a typical six-unit course from a private university can run from $800- $1200 (and more!) per unit*, while the cost of a six-unit CLEP test will run you $77 total. Add the cost of study materials per test (averaging $50-$100), and it's easy to see how much of a savings you will rack up over the course of a bachelor's degree earned by this method. In fact, CollegePlus! lists the total cost of obtaining a bachelor's degree through their program as just $10,000 to $15,000.

Having obtained my bachelor's degree from an expensive private university, I fully understand the dramatic chasm between traditional college expenses and utilizing an alternative program like CollegePlus! Knowing that our family could afford to help our children work through their degrees this way--and that they would come out of the whole thing free of school loan debt--got our attention immediately.

Our then-16-year-old son Hayden was ready to enroll in January of 2010. He had already taken a few CLEP exams on his own as well as a graphic design course from our local community college, but many if not most high school students who enroll with CollegePlus! do not have any college coursework under their belts. After Hayden completed his application online, it was reviewed by CollegePlus! Then a program advisor contacted him for paperwork and questions to aid them in matching him with a coach. It took four weeks from acceptance of his application to Hayden's actual start date.

Hayden's assigned degree coach was a perfect match. From the get-go, the coach was a great motivator, listener, and guide. He encouraged our son when his interest lagged a few times over the course of that first year. Having himself earned his bachelor's degree with the guidance of CollegePlus! the coach understood firsthand the ups and downs. They met for coaching calls twice a month, and Hayden's coach would offer insight into each test, how best to prepare, and what to study. He cheered him on when his scores were high, and he continued to encourage Hayden when he didn't pass a test or two.

We believe that the personalized coaching each student receives through CollegePlus! is not only the program's core feature, it is its greatest asset and selling point. Could a parents and students navigate the road of distance learning and piece together a degree themselves? Certainly. But doing so takes loads of time, knowledge of how each degree works and what each university or college requires, and a steady eye on the changes in schools' policies. Not only do the CollegePlus! coaches understand the ins and outs of obtaining a bachelor's degree through distance learning, they have up-to-the-minute information and even partnerships with schools like Bryan College.

Beyond personalized coaching, what does CollegePlus! offer? During the first two months, students actually study dynamic memory skills and speed reading. These are excellent skills to obtain, assisting students in test taking and potentially helping them get their degree in a shorter amount of time than typically expected. Students also take a life purpose planning course, which helps them further evaluate skills, opportunities, and aptitude. Once testing begins, CollegePlus! provides study guides, Internet resources, and other helpful tools. With so much guidance, a CollegePlus! student should never feel abandoned on the road to obtaining a degree.

It has been a year since Hayden enrolled with CollegePlus! He has earned 36 course units through seven CLEP tests and one junior college course, which puts him at roughly halfway through his sophomore year. He's not yet 18, so the fact that he'll likely have his bachelor's degree by 19, at a mere fraction of the cost, is a gift we know he'll fully appreciate when it comes time to take on the expenses of adult life. At this point, he's pretty certain he'd like to go on to get his master's degree, but in between degrees he'd like to work a little and travel too. Certainly, had he chosen a more traditional route, he would be working to pay back exorbitant school loans, and travel might be a dream far off in his future.

We have no reservations about College Plus! Although it might not be a perfect fit for every student and situation, it certainly has met all of our expectations and then some. In a day and age when bachelor's degrees are an expected part of the resume, earning one "Faster, For Less, For Sure" is a blessing and advantage our student will enjoy thanks to College Plus!

*Sample figures are taken from the cost estimates provided online by both the University of the Pacific in Stockton, CA and Belmont University in Nashville, TN. Online positing of tuition from Biola University in La Mirada, CA, as of January 2011 is $1202 per unit.

Product review by Kendra Fletcher, The Old Schoolhouse® Magazine, LLC, February 2011