March 27, 2019

The cost of a college degree could be thousands of dollars less for students in Catholic University’s Metropolitan School of Professional Studies (MSPS), with the signing of an agreement between the school and the Washington, D.C.-based education nonprofit Saylor Academy.

Through its Free Education Initiative and “Direct Credit” program, Saylor Academy offers an extensive array of tuition-free courses online — the majority representing the 10 most popular undergraduate majors in the country, and all certified for college credit by the American Council on Education (ACE). Any necessary course materials also are provided without charge, though there are modest fees for proctored examinations associated with a course and for transcripts.

At the outset of this new partnership, the first of its kind in the Washington, D.C., region, MSPS has agreed to accept credits from 16 courses offered by Saylor Academy, in areas ranging from biology, business, and communications to environmental ethics, math, and psychology. Some, including a course in contemporary moral issues, also satisfy Catholic University core curriculum requirements.

Each Saylor Academy course carries three credits. Equivalent courses taken directly from the University would cost $995 per credit or $2,985, plus any supplies and, for some students in certain courses, the time and expense of commuting to campus. The new agreement will help MSPS more effectively serve its primary constituency of non-traditional adult learners, said Dean Vincent Kiernan.

“Even with scholarships, so many of these students still find themselves ‘against the wall’ financially. They get deeply involved in the program and then the money dries up,” Kiernan said.

“So, we want to find as many innovative ways as we can to help these students access the education they want. We look for resources that could and would provide quality coursework, especially in core subjects, and allow students to stretch their education dollars without stretching themselves into debt. This new partnership is another important addition to our toolkit.”

In accordance with standing University policy regarding extra-institutional credit, current MSPS students may receive credit for up to five courses (15 credits) taken through Saylor Academy, said John Tieso, interim student adviser. He added that to participate in the Direct Credit program, interested students also must first meet with an undergraduate adviser and obtain approval to add Saylor Academy transfer courses to their study plan.

Already, five MSPS students have registered for courses with Saylor Academy, Tieso reported. He expects that number to grow quickly to 15 to 20 at any given time.

Established in 2008 by capital area entrepreneur Michael Saylor, co-founder of the business intelligence and mobile software company MicroStrategy, Saylor Academy is committed to helping students overcome financial as well as geographical barriers to education by providing high-quality, college-level courseware online at no or marginal cost. Its list of content contributors, reviewers, and academic consultants currently includes more than 500 professors and other academic leaders from colleges, universities, and education-related organizations around the world.

“We are excited for this partnership aimed at helping working learners complete their degrees,” said Jeff Davidson, executive director of Saylor Academy. “Not only is the Metropolitan School in our home city of Washington, D.C., but also its mission to serve the District’s non-traditional students gels with ours. This collaboration will create even more opportunity for students balancing school, work, and family,”

Since 1979, MSPS has extended the educational resources and programs of the University to adult students — a growing demographic in higher education — by providing education options designed with a maximum of flexibility in mind.