so i’ve been figuring on this for my school plan: continue taking classes at City Colleges until i earn an associate’s degree, then transfer to a 4-year school. i’ve been loosely planning on DePaul (as i mentioned previously), chiefly due to the online course availability and the experiential learning credit… meaning that i can do some sort of work based on my life experiences (cough teh computxors cough), and they give me college credit for it (yay!). depaul is not cheap; it’s a private school. so finishing out the associate’s seemed to make financial sense; at $800/semester for part-time coursework, that beats the pants off of $3500 for part-time at depaul (especially since depaul is on the quarter system, while HWC is on semesters; so depaul would cost $14k/yr while HWC only costs $2400). big difference. but there’s another big difference, and it addresses what’s been bugging me lately — the time. it absolutely chafes at me that i’ve wasted so much time, and that it’s going to take me years hence to finish this, this major obstacle to a major life goal. it especially chafes because this semester is … not nearly so difficult as i had feared. sure, that’s partly because i’m taking math for weenies and intro bio at a community college, but …

but i was concerned for making sure that my academic plans were on an efficient track, so i won’t have to repeat work (read: waste time), so i went to a depaul school for new learning informational seminar at lunch today. it was useful — they cleared up some questions i had that i couldn’t find easy answers to on the web site. like, the rate of completion. the program is comprised of what they term “competencies,” which are used as a unit measure of completion. so, rather than having to earn 120 semester hours to graduate, you have to earn 50 competencies. since this is foreign to my college experience thus far (which has all been measured in semester hours), i had no real idea how to calculate an approximation of what my transfer credit would be worth in competencies, and therefore no way to guess how long it would take to complete the course. the answer is simple… courses worth more than 2 semester hours (and scored above a C-) are worth 1 competency apiece. so as it stands now, i’ve got something like 16 or 17 competencies’ worth of coursework done.

unfortunately there’s no easy way to guesstimate what my experiential knowledge would be worth — that’s gauged based on a thesis sort of system; work with an advisor, pick a topic or topics, write a paper, get feedback, refine, feedback, present, and then get judged for credit. since that’s highly individualized the advisor/salesperson wouldn’t give any estimates — it’s basically sign up, do the work, and see what you wind up with. so that’s sort of a pain. but, at $150 per competency earned that way, it’s still cheaper than class.

then there is plain tuition cost. the depaul tuition is $440 per credit hour — HWC is $72. yikes. but the credit earned per class is different. so a SNL class is 4 credit hours for $1760, but it’s worth two competencies. a HWC course priced at $290 is also worth 4 credit hours, but is worth only one competency, and takes much longer to get (16 weeks versus 10). continuing at HWC earns 6 competencies per year versus 16.

so: fine. do the straight numbers. continuing at HWC to earn the AA, then transferring, means a total cost of about $27000, and time commitment of three years. if, OTOH, i were to transfer to depaul at the beginning of this summer quarter, rather than taking a course at HWC, it would cost me about $32000, and take only two years (or possibly less, depending on the experiential credit earned). so is an entire year worth $5k?

at the moment, i actually am starting to lean toward transferring to depaul immediately after this semester. it seems silly to take classes that are extra long and worth less for the time investment. and let’s face it, if i’m going to have to take out student loans anyways (anyone else got thirty grand they can spot me for a while? i seem to be a little short), i might as well get the entire thing out of the way sooner rather than later, right?

i don’t have to decide right now. if i were to go that way, i’d have to take the first course (which is a short, two meeting class) at the end of april/early may — that’s the first one at the loop campus that works with my schedule. then the semester doesn’t start until june. the current HWC semester ends in early may. so i’ve got a little time to figure out what i would do for money, and weigh options. just … thinky tonight.