The companies/organizations in this category sell courses “for college credit” that have been evaluated by the American Council on Education (ACE). ACE credit is not as transferable as credit earned directly through a college, but can be very transferable when used with the intention of transferring to one of the partner colleges. ACE is a third party credit evaluator that evaluates all types of learning that happens outside of a college. This kind of college credit is guaranteed to transfer into partner colleges (varies by provider) but transfers poorly outside of partnerships.
Penn Foster College is “the” originator of the nontraditional education model. They started in 1890 (that’s not a typo) as the International Correspondence Schools (ICS) and worked mainly with coal miners. So far, they have had over 13 million students! In 2006 they stopped doing correspondence education by mail and went online. They offer about 100 certificate, diploma, and degree programs.
Penn Foster holds 2 accreditations, but this is where parents have to pay attention. Their high school is regionally accredited while their career school is nationally accredited. For college credit earned in high school to transfer well, it should come from a college that is regionally accredited (RA). Since Penn Foster’s college classes are NOT regionally accredited (RA), this would normally exclude them from appearing here for our community.
PRO TIP: lack of regional accreditation (RA) doesn’t rule out a college for adults, but since career and vocational schools almost never qualify for regional accreditation (RA), a higher level of caution and wisdom must be used for teens.
Penn Foster did something special that bumps up the likelihood of credit transfer. They sought ACE evaluation for many of their courses. By obtaining ACE evaluation, that list of courses are now acceptable at a number of RA colleges that normally wouldn’t consider college credits from a nationally accredited college.
Penn Foster courses are self-paced. You have six months to complete the 5-6 exams (generally multiple choice). Some course are starting to require homework, but at the time of this writing, I can not locate a way to search this out in advance. Some of the courses have proctored exams, some do not.
For high school students, consider only courses from this list (ACE evaluated)
ACE evaluated courses transfer better than NA college courses, so sticking with this list instead of their whole catalog is your best bet.
Career Diplomas, Certificates, Degrees
Penn Foster specializes in trade occupations. Before pursuing a full credential, double check if your state requires a license to practice the occupation (not all do). If they do, be sure a nationally accredited credential can meet your state’s requirements for licensure. This extra due diligence is required for credentials like these, but if they’ll work for your state, these are an affordable and flexible option! Consider the option of using a program that includes ACE evaluated courses as part of the curriculum so you’ll retain some credit transfer if a higher degree is needed later.
Admissions requirements for specific programs (not individual classes) CLICK HERE
The following programs may lead to licensure or certification. Please review your program of interest using the links below:
- Dental Assisting Career Diploma
- Home Health Aide Career Diploma
- Medical Assistant Career Diploma
- Pharmacy Technician Professional Career Diploma
- Sterile Processing Career Diploma
- Early Childhood Education Associate Degree
- Veterinary Technician Associate Degree
Professional licensing requirements can vary by vocation and state. It is important to check with your state, local government, and/or licensing board to find out which requirements may be applicable in your field and location of employment. Learn more using the links to state and professional resources we have included below.
- District of Columbia
- Iowa (Business Licensure)
- Iowa (Medical Licensure)
- Iowa (Skilled Trades)
- Kansas (Medical)
- Kansas (Technical)
- New Hampshire
- New Jersey
- New Mexico
- New York
- North Carolina
- North Dakota
- Rhode Island
- South Carolina
- South Dakota
- West Virginia