"Post-BA" programs
January 22, 2012 2:24 AM   Subscribe

Question about "post-BA" programs

When I lived in New York, I took a class at Columbia University through a program they call "post-baccalaureate studies." It was not a typical "continuing ed" program with separate faculty, just a way for adults who already have a BA to take ordinary college classes on an a la carte basis. Not "auditing" either -- I handed in homework, took the tests and got a grade and official transcript and everything. We could sign up for anything in the course catalog and even some graduate level courses, although enrolled students had priority for crowded classes. I had a student ID, was eligible for student insurance, libraries -- basically everything except receiving a degree. I had to pay the full per-course tuition of course, but the 'admissions' process was basically a rubber stamp, I think they just made sure I had a BA and wasn't a felon. Nothing like being admitted to an actual graduate degree program.

So my question is: what other schools in the US offer this option? Bonus points for places with better weather than NYC : )

(Or do most universities allow this, and Columbia just markets it more openly than others?)
posted by pete_22 to Education (12 answers total) 5 users marked this as a favorite
All universities I'm familiar with have this, call the registrar of your school of interest and ask to be sure.
posted by pseudonick at 3:03 AM on January 22, 2012

Most universities in Australia offer what they call 'non-award' study. It's basically the same thing - you do all the assessments, but your courses won't count towards a degree. (Some universities will give you credit for non-award courses if you later decide to fully enrol).
posted by embrangled at 3:03 AM on January 22, 2012

pseudonick -- can you give an example or two? I'm aware that all universities have something like this, but there's usually a catch or two -- like the credits won't always transfer, as embrangled alludes to. I'm talking about a situation where there's virtually zero difference between degree and non-degree students.
posted by pete_22 at 3:09 AM on January 22, 2012

The usual term is non degree seeking student.

Here is the page for University of Michigan

Here is the page for Oregon State University

Here is the one for Harvard

They won't give you financial aid, there are often some limitations with how many courses you can transfer if you are later admitted to a graduate program in the same university. But that is generally more up to the graduate program than anything else.

There is no downside to the school. They get full tuition, pay out no aid, fill up some extra seats in their classes. All schools emphasize that you are not a normally admitted students and are in no way eligible for any sort of degree. Harvard even states you aren't eligible to apply for normal admission. But it's a good way to improve your grad school applications.
posted by pseudonick at 3:34 AM on January 22, 2012

Every university that I've ever been associated with (UGA, UNC, NCSU, and Duke) offers this, and many smaller liberal arts colleges do as well. I also think community colleges generally welcome everybody. Look for the term "post-baccalaureate" as well as non-degree seeking.

It is most commonly used by people preparing for medical/dental/vet school. I took some post-bacc pre-grad school classes at NCSU, and my lab partners were always other people doing this. Besides getting the course credits, I was immensely grateful for the health insurance, which I would not have otherwise had. As pseuodonick says, I think there is zero downside for the university.
posted by hydropsyche at 4:49 AM on January 22, 2012

Thanks, guess I was just searching for the wrong terms. The people running this program at Columbia certainly talked like it was something unusual, but I guess it's not.
posted by pete_22 at 5:28 AM on January 22, 2012

The reason you may not see it promoted as much lately is that due to budget cuts, universities are offering fewer course sections and have precious few spots available for non-degree students.
posted by Sweetie Darling at 5:45 AM on January 22, 2012

That may be true for smaller schools, but as freshmen admits reduce over the next few years, a lot of the bigger universities will be pushing non-degree options because they are pure bank for the school without having to worry about federal regs regarding financial aid.
posted by Think_Long at 8:02 AM on January 22, 2012

Another term commonly used is special student. I was a special student for the first few semesters of college (longer story), and it was a catch-all designation for the 10-15 students who hadn't been through the standard admissions process. Since already having a degree disqualified one from the standard process, this was the avenue by which post-baccs took classes.

I suspect nearly all schools in the US have this kind of program, though you might need to convince someone (in my case, the Deans of Admission and Special Students) that what you're looking to do makes sense.
posted by backupjesus at 8:23 AM on January 22, 2012

I've done this at the University of Chicago. They call it "graduate student at large" and require an admissions essay, but I think it was really a formality.
posted by steinwald at 9:38 AM on January 22, 2012

"Precious few spots" often translates to "dead last in the hierarchy of registration periods," so look into that (especially if you want to study something that's popular at that particular school--if classes tend to be full or have waiting lists, there may be a problem).

On the other hand, as long as you're paying full tuition and doing the tests, some schools offer "second bachelor's" programs -- I was looking at the Japanese program at San Francisco State University, and you can basically not worry about taking English 101 etc. over again but pick up a second BA in Japanese. Just mentioning it. :)

Also, some continuing ed programs are better than others, too.

At any rate, it would be helpful if we standardized the terminology. One problem I have when trying to help international students coming here to study is that every university is organized differently, uses different terms, puts majors in different colleges, etc. What a nightmare!

Good luck with whatever you're up to!
posted by wintersweet at 11:43 AM on January 22, 2012

Yeah, this is totally different than what I thought you meant by post-baccalaureate program. I know of a post-bac at Johns Hopkins that's more for students who are interested in going to medical school but didn't take the pre-requisites in undergrad. Just another take.
posted by kat518 at 12:10 PM on January 22, 2012

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