About a year ago, at 39, she resolved to complete a degree. In a kind of a higher-education sprint, she took a number of college equivalency exams, earning 54 credits in 14 weeks.
“I tried to do an exam a week at the University of Indianapolis test center,” where the exams could be proctored, she said. “Each test cost about $80.”
Ms. Hunt estimated that her degree in business administration, plus a simultaneous associate degree in applied science, had cost her $5,300, including books and fees. There are almost as many routes to a Thomas Edison degree as there are students. In a way, that is the whole point of the college, a fully accredited, largely online public institution in Trenton founded in 1972 to provide a flexible way for adults to further their education.
“We don’t care how or where the student learned, whether it was from spending three years in a monastery,” said George A. Pruitt, the college’s president, “as long as that learning is documented by some reliable assessment technique.” . . . 
At a time when student debt has passed $1 trillion, such institutions seem to have, at the very least, impeccable timing. Thomas Edison, New Jersey’s second-largest public college, and two like-minded institutions — Charter Oak State College in Connecticut and the private, nonprofit Excelsior College in New York — are all growing. Thomas Edison’s graduating class last fall was a third bigger than the class five years earlier. And the idea of measuring students’ competency, not classroom hours, has become the cornerstone of newer institutions like Western Governors University in Utah. At Thomas Edison and the other such colleges, almost all students are over 21, many are in the military, and few have taken a direct path to higher education. . . . 
Thirty years ago, when Dr. Pruitt became president, the Thomas Edison approach was controversial. Some academics, in particular, were skeptical, he said, almost believing that “if we didn’t teach it to you, you couldn’t have learned it.”
Results have quieted most naysayers, Dr. Pruitt said. For example, Thomas Edison graduates had the highest pass rate on the exam for certified public accountants in New Jersey, in the latest national accounting-boards report. . . .      
Most Thomas Edison students arrive with some credits, at times earned many years earlier. Others get credits by submitting a portfolio of their work or passing standardized exams like the College Level Examination Program, administered by the College Board. Many complete online college courses from Thomas Edison or “open courseware” sources like the Saylor Foundation. Many bring transcripts from the American Council on Education’s credit recommendation program, certifying their nontraditional programs. . . .
David Esterson, 45, of Whittier, Calif., started taking college classes while in high school, attended the University of Washington for a year, was a photographer in Los Angeles, then started a music business. About three years ago, when his nephews began talking about college, Mr. Esterson decided he should complete his degree.
He took online courses at the University of Minnesota and the University of Phoenix before trying a couple of California community colleges and an acupuncture school. He finally earned a bachelor’s degree in liberal studies from Thomas Edison in September.
“It sounded like a scam, but the fact that it was a state school, and accredited, made it more real,” Mr. Esterson said.
And it has been real, he said: “Nobody I contacted about graduate programs seemed to look down on the Edison degree, and I got into every grad school I applied to.”
Now enrolled in two graduate programs — an online master’s in leadership at Northeastern and a dual-degree executive M.B.A. program from Cornell University and Queen’s University in Canada — Mr. Esterson is a booster for his alma mater. “I’ve never been there, but I did buy a sweatshirt,” he said."
Summing Up
The time is long overdue to tear apart the prevailing high cost and low quality way to acquiring a college degree in America.

Japanese car manufacturers long ago taught American auto makers and consumers that higher quality and lower costs naturally go together. This "miracle" is accomplished by providers focusing on the customer and offering improved products through innovation and ongoing productivity gains.
Accordingly, equating cost with quality is a wrongheaded way of looking at things. Stated another way, discovering new ways to do old things by eliminating inefficiencies is the key to attaining "perfection by subtraction."

Or if you don't like the phrase perfection by subtraction, then substitute the term that Joseph Schumpeter used and which is labeled "creative destruction."

In either case, the status quo represents that which is being destroyed. Whatever it's called, the basic idea is to discover new ways of doing old things and by so doing, eliminate waste -- wasted time, wasted effort and wasteful habits. And much lower costs will result, often accompanied by higher quality outcomes as well.
Of course, that's the very reason those vested interests who will benefit from continuing to do things the way they've always been done will strenuously resist improvements to the way work is done.
For examples as to how this fierce support of the status quo works, just consider government agencies, unions, public schools and other entrenched bureaucracies, for example.

Schools like Thomas Edison State College represent an idea whose time has come.
That's my take.
Thanks. Bob.