A Full Year of College for $999?

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A Baltimore-based for-profit company is offering online core 101-style college courses—English, statistics, algebra—for $138 per month, or at the infomercial-esque price of $999 for a full year.

A Baltimore Sun story profiles the company, called StraighterLine, and talks to a 42-year-old single mom who is a student and explains the attraction of cheap courses that she can take whenever she wants:

“Online learning, to me, is natural. If I can shop at midnight, why can’t I do my coursework then? I would much rather be using my computer to expand my horizons than buy a pair of shoes.”

Makes sense. But paying for college credits that won’t transfer toward a degree probably doesn’t make sense. StraighterLine isn’t accredited, and it doesn’t offer degrees. So before signing up for any of its classes, the smart move is to find out if StraighterLine credits will transfer to the college where you’re pursuing a degree. Skip this step and you could be spending your money for naught.

What are the chances of credits actually transferring? That’s hard to say, and decisions will probably be made on a case-by-case basis. The Sun gives these details:

StraighterLine doesn’t have direct partnerships with other higher education institutions, but it does have agreements with 22 colleges and universities across the country — none yet in Maryland — that will award credit for its students’ coursework. It also recently partnered with a company in Kentucky, which approved its coursework for tuition reimbursement for its employees. The company, however, doesn’t offer federal financial aid.

Perhaps that’s a good thing? Student loan default rates have been on the rise, recently measured at 7% overall, up from 5.2% a couple years ago. Default rates at for-profit institutions like StraighterLine are much higher, 11.6%.

College by the Numbers