Thomas Edison State University
Thomas Edison State University (TESU) is one of "The Big Three" schools (the other two being Excelsior Univsersity (EU) and Charter Oak State College (COSC)) that offer generous credit transfer policies with very low residency requirements (and no physical, on-campus requirement). TESU is a regionally-accredited state university located in Trenton, New Jersey.
TESU summary from Wikipedia:
Thomas Edison State University, formerly Thomas Edison State College, is a public institution of higher education located in Trenton, New Jersey. One of New Jersey's 11 public universities and colleges, Thomas Edison State University offers degrees at the undergraduate and graduate level. Thomas Edison State University was approved by the New Jersey Board of Education in December 1971, and established on July 1, 1972. The university was named in honor of Thomas Alva Edison, the inventor who lived in New Jersey for the bulk of his adult life and gained encyclopedic knowledge of many subject areas through self-directed learning. In 2015, Thomas Edison State University was awarded university status upon the approval of the state college Presidents' Council and Secretary of Higher Education Rochelle Hendricks. The school's Board of Trustees approved a resolution authorizing the change in December 2015.
For New Jersey Residents
As of fall 2022, TESU will join the Garden State Guarantee. What this means is that many New Jersey residents will be able to obtain a degree from TESU for free or for nearly free. This unlocks the possibility of obtaining degrees that would otherwise be too expensive or too difficult to get with the standard sources of alternate credit. This does not apply to students who are residents of locations outside of New Jersey.
On December 16, 2020, TESU announced a new policy for degree-seekers. Like COSC, students will be limited to 90 credits from non-RA sources such as: ACE, NCCRS, CLEP, and DSSTs. Students may still transfer in up to 114 credits. However, at least 24 of those credits must be from RA sources. For more information on what this means and how you can fill these requirements, check out the general education requirements roadmap.
Students who do not take at least 16 of their required 30 RA credits with TESU are subject to paying a residency waiver fee ($3288 as of March 2023).
Because TESU charges a flat rate for 9 or more credits taken in a single term, and this flat rate costs less than taking just the 6 credits of the capstone & cornerstone + paying the residency waiver, some students may opt to maximize efficiency by taking 16 credits in a single term. This is not necessarily a good strategy for students who are busy working adults, but can be a great money-saver if you are able to clear out your calendar for the 3 months necessary.
TESU Credit Optimization
To take all recommended 16 credits at once, you must have 100 or more credits already and have the majority of your UL credits completed.
Make sure you check the syllabus for a course before adding it to your degree plan in order to ensure that it is a good fit for you. Not all courses will be a good fit for all students. Aside from the required capstone/cornerstone courses, an effort has been made to find courses that students can at least pass with a grade of C. Although a C-grade won't do great for your GPA (and can hinder your prospects for a Master's degree), not all students care about such things. Simply being able to get a Bachelor's degree as cheaply and as easily as possible may be the entire point.
|Recommended Course||Why||Number of Credits|
|SOS-110 Information Literacy||This is the Cornerstone course that is required for all Associates and Bachelor's degrees. The only exception is for students who are obtaining a second degree bachelor's degree at TESU.||3|
|BUS-421 Business Administration Capstone or
LIB-495 Liberal Arts Capstone or
|A capstone course is required for almost all Bachelor's degrees. A notable exception would be the BS in Data Science & Analytics. If your degree does not have a capstone, you may choose a different course to make up the required number of credits.||3|
|ENG-298 Jane Austen: Pride & Prejudice or
APS-100 Medical Terminology or
PLA-100 Introduction to Prior Learning Assessment
|Because most TESU courses are 3 credits, you will probably need one more credit to bring the total up to 16. If you are an English major, you will probably want to take ENG-393 One Writer's Vision: Jane Austen for 3 credits instead of ENG-298 (you may only get credit for one or the other). If you do this, PLA-100 is reportedly an easy way to get one more credit.||1|
|CIS-107 Computer Concepts and Applications (ePack)||This is a class that is required for business degrees and for Computer Science. While you can get this requirement filled at Sophia.org very easily, the ePack & TECEP are both reportedly extremely easy ways to get RA credit. This is because they require little, if any, studying. Although both ePack & regular courses count towards residency for everyone, TECEPs do not count for residency except for active military.||3|
|ART-100 A World of Art||Should be relatively easy, especially after taking Art History I & II at Sophia.org. No exam. Final paper only counts for 20% of grade. So long as you do well on the rest of the course, you could get a C or even a B while still doing poorly on the final project paper.||3|
|COM-339 The Story of Human Language||No exam. Final project is only worth 25% of grade. Short essays only need to be 250-300 words each. For an UL course, this one appears to be relatively straightforward. Review of course available here.||3|
|CIS-351 Software Engineering||For Computer Science majors. Reportedly relatively easy as far as UL courses go. No programming. No exams. Written assignments are relatively easy to complete.||3|
|GOG-230 World Geography||No exam. Final project consists of compare/contrast two different countries. Even if you do poorly on this final assessment (worth 30% of the grade), you could still scrape by with a C and a pass.||3|
|HIS-261 Introduction to Chinese History & Culture||For History majors. Meets non-Western civilization history requirement. One proctored midterm exam. No final exam. Final paper is only worth 20% of grade.||3|
|LIB-320 The Music of War & Peace||For Liberal Studies majors. No exam. Final paper is only worth 30% of grade. Each written assessment/paper except the final paper is expected to be just 500-1250 words in length. If you enjoy music, this could be an exceptionally easy UL course to complete.||3|
|PHI-130 Introduction to Critical Reasoning||This is an easy and fun course in which there are no books to read, the discussion forums are worth 40% of your grade, the 200-500 word assignments are worth 40% of your grade, and the exams are only worth 20% of your grade. The exams you can get by with 2-5 hours of studying each. The entire course you can complete in just 20 hours. You can preview the open-source course here. Syllabus||3|
If you know of any additional "can't fail" courses, please feel free to add them to the table above along with why you feel like they should be included.
To Enroll or Not to Enroll
The application process does not automatically enroll you as a student and provide you with the full benefits of a student. You are in application status until you enroll or until 12 months have passed from your application date (at which point you'll be put into inactive status); whichever comes first. Those who are in application status are only entitled to 2 transcript evaluations. Being fully enrolled unlocks the following benefits:
- Unlimited evaluation of any transcripts you might send in. Transcripts can take a long time to arrive and you might use up your two "free" evaluations before any mailed-in transcripts are able to get to TESU.
- Access to EBSCOhost - a research platform that will be useful for finding academic sources for the papers you write at SDC and elsewhere
- Access to ProQuest - another research platform that is similar to, but different than, EBSCOhost
- Access to the New Jersy State Library research library - TESU students have access to electronic resources no matter where they might be located in the world.
How to Enroll
Once your application has been approved, students are often under the impression that they are now enrolled at TESU. This is not the case. In order to enroll, there are two things that you can do. The first is to sign up for a class; any class will do, but the cornerstone is often recommended because this is a class that must be taken from TESU itself. On the other hand, there is a less expensive option if you aren't sure that you're fully committed to TESU just yet: registering for a TECEP.
Any TECEP will do but the 1-credit medical terminology TECEP is usually recommended because it is the lowest-cost option. You do not have to pass the TECEP to become enrolled. You do not even have to take the TECEP and can drop it from your class list as soon as you become fully enrolled (you will not get your money refunded if you do this). Regardless of whether you pass or not, you will still have to pay the TECEP fee ($50 per credit). If you fail the test or drop the TECEP, the TECEP will not show up on your transcript and will not bring your GPA down.
Once you are fully enrolled, your enrollment status lasts for 12 months. At this point, you will either need to repeat the process again or graduate.
If you are confused about the actual process of signing up for a class/TECEP, there are instructions available here.
- Compiled List of Courses and Corresponding Tests
- Roadmap to meeting TESU's General Education requirements
- "Free" add-on Associates degree plans
- Plans for easily-obtainable undergraduate certificates at TESU
- Thomas Edison State University official website
- Modern catalog listing of degrees
- Pre-2021 catalog listing of online degree programs offered - Although outdated, can still be useful for helping to understand what TESU expects for degree requirements.
- DegreeForum.net sub-forum focusing specifically on discussion of the Big 3 schools