If you're family is part of CC like mine, then you might be thinking about CC Plus for older kids. As we weighed this decision, I realized there's others probably having the same conversation I've had with my wife. Here's my take on CC Plus from my perspective as a CC Dad and financial advisor for Christian families.
We're not affiliated with Classical Conversations, but created these resources as a way to help other families who are weighing these decisions.
Classical Conversations Plus
The Cost of CC Plus 🧮
How to evaluate the cost of CC Plus 🔬
CC Plus Alternatives ⚖️
Is CC Plus financially worth it? 🔎
"Give instruction to a wise man, and he will be still wiser; teach a righteous man, and he will increase in learning." Proverbs 9:9 ESV
Classical Conversations Plus (CC Plus) is an offering from Classical Conversations. Classical Conversations (CC) has been a great blessing to my family for years. If you're reading this, I hope it's a blessing to your family too. Several years ago, CC started an offering designed to help Challenge students (high school level) earn college credit. This was their approach to offering college credit while still in high school, often referred to as "dual credit" or “dual enrollment.”
The idea behind their approach was to align the curriculum a CC student was already taking during the challenge years with college credit opportunities. To achieve this, CC has made partnerships with accredited universities. This partnership allowed courses to be eligible for transfer to many other universities. Today, CC Plus is partnered with two institutions: The College at Southeastern and Southeastern University.
2. The Cost of CC Plus
The question many families will ask first is the cost of CC plus. Different courses can be aligned to one university partner or the other. The cost is different for a course taken through College at Southeastern or Southeastern University. As of 2021, College at Southeastern is $450 per course and Southeastern University is $500 per course. Each course earns 3 college credit hours.
Keep in mind this fee is specifically for the college credit or dual credit purpose. This fee is in addition to whatever you are spending on challenge for the program, books, and materials.
If this sounds like a lot of money, you’re right. It is. Context is important though, so keep reading for some important things to think about as you evaluate the cost/benefit for your family.
3. How to evaluate the cost of CC Plus
College is expensive. You know that.
As a homeschool family, you know that education comes in many forms and is not one size fits all. For context on this question though, I’m using a 4-year university as a benchmark. I’m also including private and public (state schools).
Compare to potential destinations
It’s tempting to say, “we have a few years before college.” You don’t. It’s closer than you think so it’s worth beginning the conversation in your household about potential schools. To that end, research a few schools more closely in the context of CC plus. Look at tuition, fees, books, etc. for the school to get a better benchmark for comparison on the CC plus fee. Also, start to look at transferability of specific CC plus courses to schools. Some schools are more generous than others about what course credit they accept. This can also varies by course (I’m looking at you Latin). You can use free resources like Transferology and some college websites themselves to better understand what does and does not transfer.
Per course costs for a selection of schools-Data from The College Board
Buying Now and Inflation
When you’re thinking about CC Plus, it’s fair to make a comparison to current prices for tuition, fees, books, etc. at potential educational destinations for your son or daughter. It’s also good to think about future prices too. What do I mean by that? Inflation, or rising prices over time, happens with most things in our family budgets. In the college space, it’s a whole other ballgame and not in a good way. Prices have risen consistently and at a higher rate than almost anything else that we pay for in the US.
How much does the price of college go up? From 2000 to 2020, in-state tuition and fees went up, on average, 212%. If you expect that trend to continue (I do), then think about buying sooner than later in the context of college courses. Put another way, if your challenge student can eliminate a few courses now then your family has less to worry about for the rate college increases by the time a degree is finished.
Books and Materials
If we assume you plan to pursue the challenge curriculum outside of CC Plus, then you’re spending money on books and materials either way. Bear in mind that books and supplies at a typical four-year college are substantial. CC Plus has the potential for your family to pay for the books once and get high school plus college credit or two for the price of one.
Less Tangible Benefits
There’s some other benefits to weigh with CC Plus that are less tangible, but could still be important to your family. One example is college credit and the accompanying transcript could help with admissions or the scholarship process. This could be another way to differentiate your student over the competition. Another potential benefit is the possibility of a reduced course load. A few courses from CC Plus could help your student graduate earlier than peers or take fewer courses each semester. The value of these benefits is something to consider.
4. CC Plus Alternatives
CC Plus may be a great option for many families, but there are other ways for homeschool families to earn college credit. Here's a few to consider. For a more full-formed list, check out Jennifer Cook-DeRosa's resources.
Community colleges allow students after a certain age to enroll in courses and earn college credit. It varies depending on where you live, but many community colleges offer reduced tuition and in comes cases free tuition for non-adult students. Keep in mind this is tuition only. You could still be on the hook for other fees. Books and supplies are also generally your responsibility. While community college credit is often transferrable, you’ll have to confirm for a given college and course to know for sure.
Advanced Placement (AP)
Advanced Placement is an exam-based path to earning college credit. Many families assume that homeschoolers are not eligible for AP. While the program is not very homeschool friendly compared to some other options, homeschoolers are eligible. AP is pass/fail based on the final exam and does a carry a cost. The College Board administers the program, including required guidelines for the course, and has guidelines for homeschool families.
University Dual Enrollment (Local and Online)
Traditional universities have discovered a whole new constituency over the past few years: high school aged students. Dual credit opportunities have expanded tremendously in recent years. Schools close by may offer some discounted options for your homeschool student to gain college credit. Online opportunities from traditional schools have also expanded. Some, like Liberty University, have even focused on opportunities for homeschool students specifically.
College Level Examination Program (CLEP)
The College Level Examination Program is a way to study, take/pass an exam, and walk away with college credits. CLEP, in contrast to some other options, is entirely “self-study.” The only marker this College Board administered program looks for is a passing score on the exam. Because there is not prerequisite or age requirement, CLEP can be a viable option for many homeschool families.
5. Is CC Plus financially worth it?
If you plan for your son or daughter to go to college and they choose a school where some or all of their CC Plus credit transfers, then it’s very likely to be “worth it” from a financial perspective. The cost of CC Plus may not fit in with your family’s budget in given year. That circumstance is one aspect I find to be very positive about the program. It's flexible. You could do as little as one class if you wanted to. When compared to the typical cost of a class for a bachelor’s degree, even one class amounts to significant potential savings.
My own kids are not old enough for CC Plus...yet. The oldest will be soon. My wife and I plan for our children to take at least some CC Plus courses. I'll report back then and give an update. May God bless your family's decision on this path and educational endeavors.
Charles H Thomas III, CFP® Founder of Intrepid Eagle Finance, CC Dad, Veteran Memory Masters Assistant Coach, and homeschool advocate
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These resources are a creation of Charles H Thomas III, CFP® and Intrepid Eagle Finance.
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This information is educational in nature and does not constitute financial , tax, or legal advice. No action or financial decision should be taken based on this document alone. Intrepid Eagle Finance is not affiliated with, endorsed by, or in any other way associated with Classical Conversations inc. We do think they're great people who work in the spirit of Psalm 19.