Straighterline Can Help You Obtain a Degree
Credit: Morguefile photo by hmm360

There are new and creative ways to earn a college degree. Straighterline is one such option.

This company offers low-cost college courses for students who'd like to earn general education credits. Others,who are just a few courses shy of their degree, can also use Straighterline to accrue enough credits to obtain their diploma.

The company has been around for a few years. When it started, some observers wondered if it would revolutionize higher education.

Although that hasn't happened, Straighterline is a very interesting concept.

One point to stress, though, is that it's not a college and it doesn't have the ability to grant credits.

Instead, it's a private company that produces online courses at low cost and offers extra instruction if needed. These completed courses can then be transferred, for credits, to a four-year institute.

Right now, several dozen colleges, including some for-profit institutes, are affiliated with Straighterline. Degrees from a for-profit college, however, generally do not enjoy the same prestige and recognition as those from a mainline university.

However, Straighterline courses are very affordable. The introductory offers put out by the company tend to change. But the ballpark figure is usually around $99 per month for as long as a student is enrolled. Then, there is an extra $49 for each course. And there is an additional charge for textbooks.

Straighterline Courses Can Be Transferred to a Brick and Mortar School

You might be able to transfer Straighterline credits to a traditional college.
Credit: Morguefile photo by shannontanski

Complete Courses at Your Own Pace

Students may finish their online courses quickly, or they may decide to work at a slower pace. But this comes with a cost, as you pay a $99 fee for each month you are enrolled.

The courses offered by Straighterline are what you'd find as part of the general education curriculum at any college or university across America. These offerings are pretty standard, and include such courses as Introduction to Psychology and Introduction to Sociology.

All of the courses being sold by Straighterline are approved by the American Council on Education (ACE). This is the same organization that accredits the courses that you find on traditional campuses.

So, What's the Catch?

This would all be too good to be true, if it wasn't for just one catch. The actual transfer of credits can be problematic, if you don't elect to work with and enroll in one of the Straighterline partner colleges. None of these institutes, which definitely accept credits, are among the most elite colleges, but they are all accredited.

These partner colleges are a mix of public, private and for-profit. For profit-institutes, in particular, are not known for giving good financial aid packages.

Straighterline, however, reports that its credits have also been accepted elsewhere, at hundreds of other public and private colleges around the nation. But, since there are no guarantees, students are urged to check with the designated institute before signing on with Straighterline.

Most traditional students fresh out of high school would probably have little use for Straighterline, unless they planned to attend one of the partner colleges, or could find a college they wanted to later attend, which would take their credits. This could, conceivably, save thousands of dollars in room and board if the student had mediocre grades in high school, and wouldn't be in line to receive a lot of aid in the form of merit scholarships.

Someone looking to take an online college course for no credits might also like Straighterline offerings.

Straighterline CEO Burck Smith

Are There Straighterline Professors?

Some students want more personalized instruction than what most of the packaged Straighterline self-directed courses offer.

For an extra cost, they can enroll in an online class led by a real, but virtual, professor. Straighterline doesn't quote a price for this service because the professor sets the cost, which is then split between the students who enroll in the course. This cost will be in addition to the oft-quoted base price of $49 for each course, plus the $99 monthly fee.

Straighterline Chief Executive Officer Burck Smith acknowledges in an interview (see the video above) that students who use his services will not get the "college experience." However, he notes, this is not what they are generally looking for.

He said he's able to keep his courses affordable by reducing the overhead associated with a traditional campus. His courses, he explains, are all based upon the same textbooks used by many of the real American colleges and universities.