Penn Foster College is a distance learning school that provides a source of course credit for those pursuing Big 3 alternative approach degrees. Penn Foster is regionally accredited, but only for non-degree-granting education. In other words, any "diploma" received through Penn Foster will not be honored by a regionally-accredited university. In this respect it is more akin to a technical/vocational school such as ITT or DeVry. In fact, the Penn Foster mission statement calls it the Penn Foster Career School.
Though it can't award academic diplomas, Penn Foster can be a source of specific courses required to fill specific slots in a particular degree plan as some of their courses have ACE -approved credit recommendation. However, always ensure any course you choose is ACE-recommended for credit during the period you will enroll. Failure to do so can result in a lot of wasted time, effort, and money as DegreeForum.net member jam123 unfortunately discovered. Below is an excerpt from the thread that should be understood by anyone seeking to use Penn Foster for credits:
- The problem is that Penn Foster is a for-profit school which means they don't play by the same rules as State run colleges, that is why their course accreditation isn't always guaranteed. Current and prospective students need to be asking why ACE removed accreditation for so many classes. This is a red flag that PF isn't providing quality, rigorous course content that is comparable to State schools.''Credit: marianne202
Bottom Line: Penn Foster can potentially be useful in gaining some credits towards Big 3 degrees, but exercise an abundance of caution, get everything in writing, do your homework, and always look for alternatives outside of Penn Foster. There are lots of other distance learning schools offering comparable courses with fewer hassles.
Additional Notes From DegreeForum.net User Mrs. B
The following was posted on DegreeForum.net by user mrs. b in response to a request for clarification of the differences between Penn Foster and TESU. Given the usefulness of the information it is reposted here for future reference.
- Penn Foster courses are self-paced. You have six months to complete the assignments / exams, and can do it all in the first week and finish early, save it all for the last week, or any combination in between as your schedule permits. I say "assignments / exams" because some courses have 5-6 multiple choice, 20-question quizzes and that's it. Others have actual assignments that are more time-intensive. Some of the courses have proctored exams, some do not. You pay around $285 (more or less, given sales, etc.) and books are generally included and sent to you about a week after you enroll in the course, making it substantially less expensive than your average TESC course, particularly once you factor in book expense.
The school is not regionally-accredited, however, so to get credit for the course, you must:
a) make certain the course is already approved through ACE,
b) make certain a TESC adviser approves the course for the degree requirement you think it will fit,
c) once you finish, have the course added to your ACE transcript, and
d) have the ACE transcript sent to TESC for transfer credit.
If you do not know the process of making 100 percent certain the course is approved through ACE, please ask. [and see link at the bottom of this page --ed.] You could waste time and money if you do not do the footwork yourself and take a PF phone rep's word for it; their customer service is said to be one of the major down sides, and their courses are currently undergoing a 3-year review from ACE, and some have not been renewed, others have, and most are in limbo (assumed still under review). Given the significant cost savings, not to mention time, however, many (who have not been burned) still believe them a great bargain.
- Penn Foster College website
- List of Penn Foster courses that are ACE-recommended for credit (this is to the actual ACE registry, so these are the officially recommended courses)
- Unofficial List of Course Equivalencies for Penn Foster & Thomas Edison State College