Charter Oak State College (COSC), named for Connecticut’s famous Charter Oak tree, is a nontraditional public liberal arts college headquartered in New Britain, Connecticut. Sixty-nine percent of COSC’s students are Connecticut residents, although there is no residency requirement. COSC was founded in 1973 by the Connecticut Legislature as a distance learning college for assisting adult students, many of whom already have some college credits, to complete their degrees. The college is part of the Connecticut State Colleges and Universities system, collaborating with and complementing the missions of other Connecticut colleges and universities, and regionally accredited by the New England Association of Schools and Colleges.
Recognizing that learning takes place in many forms, COSC provides a flexible approach to higher education. COSC is one of the “big three” colleges that offer online degree completion programs. (The others are Thomas Edison State College in New Jersey and Excelsior College in New York.) COSC’s “school without walls” offers no in-classroom instruction and holds only distance learning courses. While COSC has 250 online courses of its own, it also accepts credits from other universities and colleges — whether online or in traditional classrooms — as well as offering students a chance to earn credit for life experiences or by taking a test. This flexibility enables working students to conveniently and economically meet their educational, career, and personal goals.
Through its Credit Assessment Program, the college’s professional faculty evaluates students’ academic achievements regardless of how or where such learning is acquired. COSC credit may be awarded for course work completed successfully at other accredited institutions and through video-based and online courses, testing, portfolio assessment, contract learning, independent study, work experience, military training, non-collegiate-sponsored instruction, technology-mediated learning, and for learning acquired through many licensure and certification programs. COSC’s qualified faculty members also serve as mentors and instructors for online courses, contract learning, and practica.
To enhance its ability to facilitate the success of a diverse student community, COSC actively seeks to identify and recruit professional educators and other experts who themselves reflect an awareness of the value of broad and diverse experience. COSC provides a variety of academic support services for its students including program planning, online tutoring, technical support for online courses, and evaluation. The college serves as a testing center and provides credit registry services, professional certificate and credential programs, as well as information regarding other educational opportunities. COSC also assists other Connecticut colleges or universities seeking to provide their students with alternate ways to validate college-level learning.
Charter Oak is authorized to award the Bachelor of Science in Health Information Management and four General Studies degrees: Associate in Arts, Associate in Science, Bachelor of Arts, and Bachelor of Science. The associate’s degrees require a minimum of 60 credits; the bachelor’s degrees require 120 credits. The content of the bachelor degree programs is structured to provide the foundations needed for advanced study, since a large number of alumni continue their education in graduate school. A bachelor’s degree in General Studies requires you to complete a concentration of at least 36 credits in a field of study based on your specific career goal. A wide range of workforce relevant concentrations in popular fields such as Business, Early Childhood, Health Care, Public Safety, Information Systems, and more may be completed using COSC’s online courses exclusively. Additional customized concentrations can be completed by combining COSC’s online courses and other sources of credit.
COSC is open to any person 16 years of age or older, regardless of their level of formal education, who demonstrates college-level achievement by having earned nine acceptable college credits. Homeschooled 14- or 15-year-olds may take courses from a local community college to earn high school credit, and then transfer those credits to COSC for college credit once they turn 16. The total undergraduate enrollment at COSC is 1,644. The current student body is 65% female and 35% male, ranging in age from 17 to 72. The college’s average in-state tuition and fees are $8,100 (2013-14); out-of-state tuition and fees are $10,530 (2013-14). Financial aid is available to degree-seeking students in the form of scholarships, grants and/or loans.
Edward Klonoski, who has been president of COSC for the past five years, said the college is a “convenient, low-cost, flexible way to achieve degree completion.” According to Klonoski, students pay $770 for a course. Or, if they have prepared themselves, they can simply take a test, at a cost of $150, and get credit for the class. To get credit for work, training, or life experience, a student creates a portfolio, a process which he says is structured to show how the experience equates to a particular course.
Matt Fleury, a student who didn’t have “a lot of time to spend on the road commuting” and “didn’t have a lot of money,” said COSC was excellent for him. Having acquired some credit for his life experience, he also tested out of some courses and took some classes. “There’s a tremendous flexibility to it academically in terms of your ability to put together a degree that builds on the things you know and have experienced,” Fleury said, “and amplifies that with things you want to know and experience.”