Distance Education

Review of Columbia Southern University, offering online distance education.
By Leslie Smith

At age 47 I am a college student. I am about halfway to earning my bachelor’s degree in business administration.
When I graduated from high school, I did not pursue further education. Instead I worked various jobs and did my share of loafing and adventuring. I have to admit I paid a financial price for my decisions; I have never made a lot of money. On the other hand, I did gain a load of unique and varied experiences.

After working for decades and raising a family, I finally found an opportunity to earn my degree. My pastor did some research for himself and shared the results with me. He chose Columbia Southern University. CSU is similar to University of Phoenix, perhaps the most well-known of online universities. CSU is a lot cheaper than Phoenix.

I recommend CSU for several reasons. One is excellent customer service. They do not quote policy at me when I have a question, problem or issue; they assist me and figure it out and get closure. This alone could be the deciding factor since we are far from Stateside institutions and are often at the mercy of rigid policies of these far-flung entities.
Another factor is the assignments. This is no diploma mill. Pastor Calkins told me if anything it is overkill as far as writing assignments, and he was correct. There is a lot of writing, and the assignments are graded according to a college-level rubric, not some coddling, good-enough, pass everybody kind of thing. I know that I earned every A and B. I also earned my lone C+ and my dismal C in calculus. This feeling of real accomplishment is more important to me than a diploma. I was faced with a choice of either taking easy courses (at my age, I have some built-in competencies and knowledge), or taking courses that will teach me something I don't know. I did a few easy ones, but mostly I am getting my money's worth by taking challenging and interesting courses. This decision has definitely contributed to my six-year adventure for a two-year education!

The price is constantly going up. I started with modules, a monthly payment for a group of four courses worth three credit-hours each. Now this is discontinued and I am on a per-course payment arrangement. It is about $500 per course now.

I have taken six years to do two years of courses. This is my pace and CSU is fine with it. It would have been cheaper for me to do it quicker, before the price went up a couple of times, but again, I make my choices and live with the consequences.

The courses are presented on Blackboard, a good interface for online education. Columbia Southern is located in North Carolina. The university specializes in law enforcement, fire fighting and occupational health and safety. But they obviously offer other majors and various certification courses. I am taking Business Administration.

What about accreditation? Well, CSU is accredited by DETC, or Distance Education and Training Council, which is accepted by US Department of Education among others. I do not know if credits are transferable to UOG. I do know that some student have had to fight to get their local college or university to accept CSU credits, but most are successful. These stories are found on the student forums, which are available only to registered students. DETC accreditation is credible and is definitely good enough for me. I am not really doing this to find a job. I am not expecting a great boost in my business leadership ability, but I hope for it. Mostly I do it because I want to and I can.

I do not know if CSU accepts homeschool credentials, but I am pretty sure they do accept GED. I think it's a good idea for a college-bound homeschool graduate to get a GED--just go through the motions to be compliant, a skill that is certainly useful in adult life.

Continued education is an option for homeschooled students. Distance education has been credible in this region since the 70s, and online distance education is now a mainstream educational choice. It has many benefits including working at your own pace and paying at your own pace. Advancing technology makes it painless, even fun.

My path to higher education has been a strange one, but CSU knows everyone has a story, so they just help their students get to where they want to go. And that is why I recommend Columbia Southern University. You can contact them by logging on to http://www.columbiasouthern.edu