Opinions Please! Ashworth College vs. Penn Foster (Education Direct) - Which is best?

Discussion in 'General Distance Learning Discussions' started by sean_jessica05, Jan 2, 2006.

  1. sean_jessica05

    sean_jessica05 New Member

    My fiancee is wanting a degree in Criminal Justice. I am wanting to get a degree in Business Management.

    We are up in the air as to which school to choose: Ashworth (PCDI) or Penn Foster (Education Direct).

    Please let me know which school you think is best, if you have any experience with them, what you ended up doing with your degree, and overall which seems like a better program.

    Thank you!
  2. DesElms

    DesElms New Member

    They're both nationally accredited, but I know from your words in another thread that you know that... and how it differs from regionally-accredited.

    They're also the least expensive out there. Another one that's in that price range, is also nationally-accredited, and kinda' has a better-sounding name, if that matters, is Andrew Jackson University. Be sure to check it out.

    Of the three, I like either Ashworth or Andrew Jackson ahead of Penn Foster, but that's just me. Ashworth is more like getting your degree from the educational equivalent of Wal*Mart or BestBuy in terms of customer service. Ashworth's customer service is less than perfect and may require that you get upset with them a time or two before they start taking you as seriously as you'd like to be taken... which is pretty much the way it is when you buy something at Wal*Mart or BestBuy. That said, if you have no customer support issues, Ashworth's packaging of the courses is very nice, complete, and includes text books and all other study materials. That makes Ashworth the cheapest because both of the other two make you purchase textbooks separately... which will run maybe $800 per year or thereabouts. So, for an associates degree, add $1,600 (or thereabouts) to the cost of both Penn Foster and Andrew Jackson.

    Some of Ashworth's courses utilize the most modern methods of CD-ROM/online course delivery. Andrew Jackson is very traditional distance learning wherein most of it is reading assignments and writing papers. But Andrew Jackson, despite that, is rigorous and bygolly you'll learn the material... as is true of both Ashworth and Penn Foster, too. Andrew Jackson also has quite good customer support... at least when compared with Ashworth.

    Penn Foster is really, really good at what it does, too. Make no mistake about that. And now that it's calling itself "Penn Foster" instead of "Education Direct" a degree from it sounds better, too... for whatever that's worth. Penn Foster's customer support and general responsiveness, I'm told, is quite good, too... especially when compared with Ashworth.

    As the least-expensive nationally-accredited institutions go (and these are the three least expensive), you'd not be shooting yourself in the foot with any of the three of them...

    ...or so it is my opinion.
  3. sean_jessica05

    sean_jessica05 New Member

    Thank you, that was a very in depth answer and exaclty what I was looking for!

    This all can be so confusing -- what a blessing to have found this site!
  4. gbrogan

    gbrogan Member

    Disclaimer: I graduated from Ashworth College last year.

    I investigated both schools and it may sound ridiculous, but the name that Penn Foster was going by at the time (Education Direct) was a turnoff. Worse was that the degree title was Center for Degree Studies or somesuch. It didn't sound to me like a school but more of an adult learning center. I wanted my resume to say that I graduated from a college. I don't know if the school is now called Penn Foster College but I would hope they'd realize that adding College to their name would certainly boost enrollment.

    When I enrolled in Ashworth, the customer service was bad, they had very little web presence and a lot of the complaints posted online were valid. If you look at the dates on the ripoff reports web site, they are from a few years ago. I don't think that is an accurate portrayal of where the school is today.

    I think what happened was that Ashworth was chugging along and then was hit with an influx of students that they just couldn't handle. According to the Dean there, they brought in some new people at the top who saw a lot of possibilities and made it their goal to improve the school. They did.

    The web site was revamped, a new customer service phone number was installed (I never waited more than a few minutes once the new line was put in) and overall, the messages posted online on various message boards were more students conversing about their courses than complaining about inept customer service and missing shipments. There are still occasional posts like that but that happens everywhere.

    My experience with the course material was good. One of the courses was outdated, however, I think that's changed by now. I believe the format that both schools use are the same and they are comparable in price.

    Another reason I didn't attend Education Direct (Penn Foster) was because the computer degree they offer is not as diverse as Ashworth's.

    One thing about Ashworth that really disappointed me was the degree itself. It's not hand signed and is slightly smudged. It came in a flat Fedex saver envelope with no cardboard protection or letter. You think they would include a "Congratulations...." letter. I guess that's why the price is so low; it's a no frills program.
  5. sean_jessica05

    sean_jessica05 New Member

    I have a question about the Ashworth college payment plan:

    It says you can make $39 payments each month for 20 months. Now this is for ONE quarter, correct?

    You times this by 4, correct?

    Ok, so can you continue the next quarters if you still owe on the pervious quarter, or does it take you 20 months to finish each quater at this payment rate? That wouldnt make sense...

    Let me know how it worked out for you. Thanks!
  6. gbrogan

    gbrogan Member

    When I was going through the Ashworth program, the payment amount never changed. You could start the next semester after finishing the first semester even if you were still paying off the first semester. They would not issue the degree until the bill was paid in full.

    I am not sure if that has changed since I graduated. You may want to give a call and ask.

    Good luck!
  7. sean_jessica05

    sean_jessica05 New Member

    Would you be paying double (continue paying on first semester PLUS second semester) or it would just continue as your same payment?

    Am I correct, this would take 6.5 years to pay off, making the minimum payment?

    Even if you were still paying after completing the entire course, would you still be considered 'graduated' with a degree, or do you have to have that piece of paper?
  8. friendorfoe

    friendorfoe Active Member

    Well…I will say I am a graduate of Ashworth College with an AS in CJ…that being said my experience was much like the one above…horrid customer service…but good degree program, easy to get into, the work was well laid out, mostly multiple choice tests and proctored finals.

    The feedback left something to be desired. Interaction with the staff was nil primarily due to their not (from what I understand) having an actual “faculty” on staff in the traditional sense. They hire faculty to write the degree programs and lesson plans and that’s about it.

    The difference at Andrew Jackson is that you actually have an assigned instructor for the duration of the course, who will grade your papers and provide feedback. That alone has won my recommendations for AJU www.aju.edu

    I don’t know much about Penn Foster other than it is called a “career school” which while I don’t put much stock in names…..I don’t think it’ll dress up a resume like “suchandsuch College”…though that doesn’t mean much since some of the best names for schools has been from degree mills. Either way, Penn Foster and Ashworth are probably very, very similar. Andrew Jackson is in a different class. You email your papers, you take mids, you take finals, much more like a traditional school.

    Then there is California Coast University which has some of the lowest tuition rates I have ever seen….much like AJU, Ashworth and Penn Foster. http://www.calcoast.edu/programs_asbusadmin.php which at $85.00 is $5100 for the entire AS in Business….plus you can borrow the text books from their library for a security deposit and small fee.

    The primary advantage of AJU and Cal Coast is that you may pursue your degree all the way up to the masters level….Penn Foster will not and neither will Ashworth.

    Ashworth College….about $5,000

    Andrew Jackson…..about $7,000 + fees and books http://www.aju.edu/tuition%20schedule.htm but remember, the support is much greater (instructor led) than from Ashworth…like I said, the schools are only similar in price.

    California Coast University……about $5100 plus fees for “borrowing books” which doesn’t add much…I recommend these guys as well. Dr. Barcroft is top notch. http://www.calcoast.edu/tuition.php

    Penn Foster Career School….I can’t find the link to their exact tuition…but it’s probably about $5,000.

    My choices would be

    California Coast
    Ashworth College
    Penn Foster

    In order of desirability……

    BTW ...just like above my Ashworth Diploma sucked....smudged printed...but what's in a diploma....some of the nicest ones you will ever see are fakes.:D
  9. philosophy

    philosophy New Member

    Both of these schools are nationally accredited institutions. However, Penn Foster has an advantage over Ashworth. Penn Foster is DETC (Distance Education and Training Council), and ACE (American Council on Education) recognized. This means that many colleges will accept credits from a school that has been recommended by ACE unlike Ashworth that isn't recognized by ACE (American Council on Education). I will not make the decision for you because that would be improper of me to do so. The choices as I see them is what are your intentions with getting degrees from one of these schools? If your answer is that you would like to transfer to a 4 year school and have a better chance of your credits being accepted by a 4 year school to earn a Bachelor's degree than Penn Foster would be the way to go. If your doing it for personal enrichment and have no intention of going to a 4 year school than I would say that Ashworth would be acceptable. Now, please note that I didn't say that every 4 year school will accept either Penn Foster or Ashworth credits. I have also not mentioned that none of Ashworth's credits wouldn't transfer to a 4 year school. It has just been my experience working with admissions and registrar's offices that they're more willing to take courses that have been recommended by ACE than just DETC accreditation. This doesn't mean that DETC isn't satisfactory or anything, just that with the ACE recommendations that seems to put those institutions recognized by ACE above the institutions that just have DETC accreditation. I hope that someday they will be able to get this accreditation and information so that people who are just starting out could understand. I hope I didn't make this more complicated for you, but just to give you the choices you have and you make the decision. Good luck!
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 2, 2006
  10. gbrogan

    gbrogan Member

    Disclaimer number two: I am a current student at California Coast University

    If you decide to go that route, be aware that you can get some of the textbooks at half.com or from amazon sellers for ridiculously low prices, while with CCU you have to pay $20. for a three month rental plus a $50 deposit. For one of my courses, I was able to purchase the textbook for less than $5.00 and it's not an out of date book.
  11. philosophy

    philosophy New Member

    By the way people on here have been making a big argument about name and how their degrees look. The important thing in determining what school you're interested in going to is to look at the program and make sure that it is the right one for you. The other important element is to graduate from an accredited school. This doesn't mean that there are not some sufficient unaccredited schools out there, but the rule of thumb is to go to an accredited school, and if you can go to a regionally accredited school that's the best to go with. However, the nationally accredited ones are good too. It depends what your purpose is whether for employment or personal enrichment. These are the questions you need to get answered. Penn Foster will be changing it's name to Penn Foster College sometime in March or April. It's just during this transition time that they just changed their name from Education Direct to Penn Foster Career School, and that is why it is going to take awhile. I have also been told that they will have an actual college president and that it will be more like an actual college. So to the people posing the questions. In my honest opinion for those posters who make an issue about name I wouldn't worry about it too much. I would get the questions of which school is right for you, what your purpose for the degree is, and accreditation, and whether you can afford it or not. You should be happy that you're asking the right questions, and that you're at least considering accredited and reputable schools. Good luck, and please let us know what you decide.
    Last edited by a moderator: Jan 2, 2006
  12. DesElms

    DesElms New Member

    Ashworth is on a semester system, not a quarter system. But, yes, that $39/month for 20 months is for that one semester.

    Yes, you multiply it by 4.... correct.

    Yes. When the first semester is over and you're not even done paying for it, Ashworth lets you start the second semester and as long as you keep-up the first semester's monthly payments, they let you finish the second semester and even begin the third if you like... just as long as those $39/mo payments are never late or interrupted. And so, yes, for many, many, many months after you've finished the degree you'd still be paying for it if you stuck with the minimum payment... but, gratefully, still with no interest. And, of course, you can't have your degree/diploma/transcripts until you finish paying for it. So, rather than $39/mo, you should pay around $150 to $180 per month so that you're done paying by the time you finish the two-year degree.

    So that the thread-starter will not be confused: DETC accreditation pb]is[/b] national accreditation. What philosophy is talking about/adding to the discussion is ACE approval. A nationally-accredited course or degree which might not normally be acceptable to a regionally-accredited college/university, or to a potential employer, is often quite acceptable to said regionally-accredited college/university or potential employer if it is (and/or its courses are) not just nationally-accredited, but also ACE approved.
  13. TCord1964

    TCord1964 New Member

    Disclaimer: I am a current student of Penn Foster Career School.

    OK, I have to chime in here, because you have received a bit of disinformation about Penn Foster Career School, although I'm sure that was not intentional.

    Despite what was stated earlier in this thread, you DO NOT PAY EXTRA for books and other learning materials at Penn Foster. The books and learning materials such as CD-ROMS and calculators are included in the price of tuition, just like Ashworth College. Also, I believe Penn Foster is a bit cheaper than Ashworth College as well. I pay $35 per month for my courses, and those payments are spread out over 20 months for each semester. There are also price breaks if you pay in full or allow automatic deductions from a credit card or bank account, which is what I do. If you go the automatic debit route, an Associate Degree in Criminal Justice would cost about $3,600.

    When I first enrolled, the name of the school was Education Direct. While I wasn't crazy about the name, there were two things which made me select it over Ashworth College. The first was price, although they are both comparable, but the main thing was the fact that most of Penn Foster's associate degree courses are reviewed by ACE. This is a big deal if you want to move beyond an associate degree and get a bachelor degree. While nationally-accredited degrees are accepted at some regionally-accredited colleges, I would dare say that the ACE-reveiwed Penn Foster courses would have wider acceptance for transfer credit.

    I don't have much to say about Penn Foster's customer service because I have never had to contact them about anything. My courses have been delivered in a timely manner and so far I have no complaints, other than the fact that the Business Math course is much more difficult than I though it would be, but that's just me.:D

    You can read more about my impressions of the school by doing a search of this board for a thread entitled "My studies at Education Direct".
  14. sean_jessica05

    sean_jessica05 New Member


    Do the payments work the same at Penn Foster as they do at Ashworth, where you can start the next semester and still keep the same monthy payment?

    Is it also true they will be changing their name again to Penn Foster College? If so, why now and not to begin with?

  15. TCord1964

    TCord1964 New Member

    Yes, before the semester ends you are sent a new enrollment agreement for the next semester, and you keep paying your regular monthly payment.

    As far as I know, the name of the school is Penn Foster Career School. It is on their letterhead, website and emails which I receive from the school. Other people who post to this board indicated they called the school and were told that associate degrees would indicate they were from "Penn Foster College". I don't know why they would use a name on their degrees that they don't use anywhere else, so who knows if that info is valid?

    Personally, I look beyond the name. I had to, since the previous name was Education Direct. I looked more at the benefits of this program over others, namely the ACE evaluation of its courses, which really is a big deal.
  16. DesElms

    DesElms New Member

    Ah... well... my mistake, then. I believe it has been stated here before that Ashworth was the only one that included everything in the price of tuition; but you're saying that Penn Foster does, too. Interesting.

    Last time I even bothered to look, Ashworth was pretty much $35/mo across the board; but I just looked again and in the three associates programs I spot-checked, it was $39. So there's obviously been a price increase. If Ashworth doesn't use the money to make its customer support about 300% better, I'm afraid I may have to stop being so supportive of it.

    I don't think there's any discount for paying all at once at Ashworth. I think it's the same, either way.

    I would tend to agree.

    Others here have talked about Education Direct's customer service being quite good; but I don't know if it's different now that it's Penn Foster. I can't imagine it would be.

    As for Penn Foster's name: I could not agree more that without the name "college" or "university" somewhere in it, it's problematic. Yes, one should try to look beyond the name, but I think this is non-trivial; and that Penn Foster should seriously reconsider. It's no big deal to keep the corporate name the same and to file a "dba" with the state; then to clear the use of the word "college" or "university" in the name with the state education people. I really think Penn Foster should do this... I really do. But, of course, that's just my less-than-humble opinion again... which Penn Foster is free to ignore... and why not: My ex-wife always did... still does, now that I think of it.

  17. Guest

    Guest Guest

    Just in case there is one person who doesn't know, "dba" stands for "doing business as."
  18. Guest

    Guest Guest

    Received brochures from Penn-Foster today.

    They state they have had 13 million students since 1890 and clearly state "Friendly and helpful instructional support" as well as "Over 100 faculty and student services staff" in their literature.

    Oh boy, here we go again, "more than," not "over." :rolleyes:

    Their locksmithing course is very, very thorough and offers more learning aids than the PCDI course I took and a few extras that I didn't get in the Foley-Belsaw course.

    I'd not hesitate to study with them.
  19. TCord1964

    TCord1964 New Member

  20. DesElms

    DesElms New Member

    Thank you. You're right... I should have spelled it out. My bad. I apologize.

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