No-frills bachelor’s degrees

Some private colleges are offering “no-frills degrees” to cost-conscious students, reports the Christian Science Monitor.  Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU), a private college, charges $10,000 a year for its “Advantage” program, which meets in an office building.

Forget about campus housing. Or a meal plan, or a gym with a climbing wall. This program is about the basics – core courses at a bare-bones satellite campus. But the price is less than one-third of what it costs for tuition and room and board at the main campus in Manchester.

Students attend class and talk to professors and advisors four mornings a week for five hours at a time.  That allows them to put in more paid work hours than most full-time students. College officials say students get more attention than they would at a community college, which is even cheaper.

Pennsylvania’s public college system may offer a no-frills alternative.

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  1. Cardinal Fang says:

    How does this no-frills education differs from a community college (other than that California community colleges are cheaper)? Like community college, it only offers freshman- and sophomore-level classes.

  2. Community college is a cluster f*ck unless you can very aggressively work the system. I don’t think I got that much face time with any of my profs at an Ivy.

  3. I attended a community college for my 2-year degree, then transferred to a 4-year college (the same one I eventually received my Master’s from).

    The biggest advantage? Money, naturally.

    However, there were other advantages.

    1) I was able to commute. That allowed me to keep my family in the same location throughout my college years. That’s no small advantage – I had 3 kids before I finished.

    2) I left with only a small loan to pay off, and most of that was forgiven when I became a teacher.

    3) Once you get past the large auditorium-sized classes (the introductory classes), your experiences are about the same as at other colleges and universities – the ratio of students to professors is similar.


    4) You won’t have the “name” of a prestigious university on your diploma. For the elite snobs, that’s a HUGE disadvantage. In hiring, you won’t benefit from the “oh, you went to X college? So did I!” factor.

    5) You can go on to a doctorate, but you won’t get hired. Hiring committees are notoriously snobbish about WHERE you were educated from, and a mediocre record of publishing with a degree from an Ivy will trump a stellar record of publication from Podunk U.

    Now, about that no-frills degree:

    For the first few years, the prestige won’t change. Later, the differences will be magnified, to protect the value of the “degree with frills”. It’s all about the $$$$$$$$.

    For technical majors (engineering, science, math), you might find the degree a good deal. In those fields, your technical expertise will trump the prestige. For other majors (business, liberals arts and humanities, fine arts), spend the $$$$$$$$$$ and go to the “frills” school. In fact, paying for the snob factor is the best investment you can make. In those fields, it’s really who you know that makes you, and you need the connections.

    Education? If you’re planning to move up into administration, go elite. If you just need the degree to teach, or to move up the salary scale, go cheap.

    That holds true for most teachers, but if you teach social studies or other over-crowded fields, go for the more expensive option – you need every edge you can get.

    Science, special ed, or math? Fuggedabout it – save the money.

  4. Cardinal Fang says:

    In the US, there are more community colleges than four-year colleges, so generalizations based on one community college can be deceptive. But here’s one data point.

    My son attends a local community college. He’s a homeschooler and the community college is his high school, so he takes the kind of courses bright high school students take (Calculus, American History, Western Civilization, English, foreign language), plus some other classes. He will be a freshman at a four year college next year, but as it happens he has about enough credits to transfer to a UC as a junior. Of all his classes, only two have been large auditorium lecture classes. If he had taken the same classes at a UC, more of them would have been big lecture classes.

    I take classes at the same community college, just for fun, and have about a year’s credit in academic classes. I have had no large lecture classes.

    So judging by our experience, a California student who wanted smaller classes and more interaction with professors would be better off taking the first two years at community college and then transferring to a UC.