Education Related General Reference Books

Education-Related Reference Books

Commonwealth Universities Yearbook (Association of Commonwealth Universities, London) This standard reference work covers what they refer to as all schools “in good standing” in 36 countries or areas. Many admissions departments reference this book when making admissions or acceptance decisions. More than 600 institutions are described in great detail. The H.E.P. Higher Education Directory (Higher Education Publications, 6400 Arlington Blvd., Suite 648, Falls Church, VA 22042; (703) 532-2300) Until 1983, the U.S. Department of Education published a comprehensive directory of information on colleges and universities. When President Reagan announced his intention to shut down the Department of Education, their publication was discontinued and H.E.P. began publishing an almost identical directory. It emerges toward the end of each year and gives detailed factual information (no opinions or ratings) on all accredited schools. They used to list California-approved schools as well, but stopped in 1988. The Independent Study Catalog (Peterson’s Guides) In effect, a master catalog listing all 13,000+ courses offered by more than 140 U.S. and Canadian institutions offering correspondence study. Only the course titles are given, so it is still necessary to write to the individual schools for detailed information. Updated periodically, the latest edition is the 7th, for 1998. International Handbook of Universities (Groves Dictionaries) 1,506 pages and an amazing $250 price tag. Gives detailed information on virtually every college, university, technical institute, and training school in the world. This is the book that is most used by collegiate registrars and admissions officers to evaluate schools. Accredited Institutions of Postsecondary Education (Oryx Press) Issued around the middle of each year, this book lists every accredited institution and candidate for accreditation. This is the book many people use to determine conclusively whether or not a given American school is accredited. Barron’s Profiles of American Colleges (Barron’s Education Series) A massive 1,300-page volume that describes every accredited college and university in America, with lists of majors offered by each school.

Campus-Free College Degrees (8th edition) by Marcie K. Thorson (Thorson Guides) This well-done book covers accredited schools only; does not include schools outside the U.S., even when they have U.S. accreditation.

Distance Degrees by Mark Wilson (Umpqua Education Research Alliance) Accredited schools only. While the geographical index lists only US schools, the book also covers a few Canadian and British institutions.

External Degrees in the Information Age: Legitimate Choices by Eugene Sullivan, David Stewart and Henry Spille (Onyx Press) Now why would they arrange a book on external degrees geographically, not alphabetically? A decent book, but many fewer listings than Thorson, Peterson’s, Wilson, or us. Nearly 10% of the text is devoted to one school. A very helpful chart comparing school-licensing laws in all the states.

How to Earn a College Degree Without Going to College by James P. Duffy (John Wiley & Sons) Much along the lines of our guide, but describes only Bachelor’s programs at accredited schools (fewer than 100 of them) and only wholly nonresident programs. Apparently not updated since 1994.

How to Earn an Advanced Degree Without Going to Graduate School by James P. Duffy (John Wiley & Sons) The graduate-school version of the above book lists 140 accredited nonresidential Master’s and doctoral programs. Apparently not updated since 1994.

The Internet University by Dan Corrigan (Cape Software, Box 800, Harwich, MA 02645) A comprehensive guide both to the entire practice of on-line education and courses, and to more than 2,700 actual courses available. Much of the information is also available free on-line at

Lovejoy’s College Guide by Charles T. Straughn & Barbarasue Straughn (Macmillan) Briefer descriptions than other guides, but still a huge book: 1,600 pages. In the past, the usefulness of Lovejoy’s has been marred by the listing of some real clinkers, particularly totally phony diploma mills (organizations that may grant an online high school diploma in exchange for a fee rather than the completion of a course, for example) that somehow managed to get past the editors.

Options: A Guide to Selected Opportunities in Non-Traditional Education by David Jones-Delcorde Helpful information on various professional designations, and advice for distance learning students.

Oryx Guide to Distance Learning (Oryx Press) Lists more than 100 accredited U.S. institutions, focusing on audio, video, and on-line instruction.

Peterson’s Guide to Distance Learning Programs (Peterson’s Guides) Probably the main competitor to our book, this is quite a comprehensive collection of information. Does not cover unaccredited schools or schools outside North America (except for two of the many British schools). Our real annoyance with this book is that more than one quarter of it, 150 pages, is taken up with paid advertising for schools, which is not identified as paid advertising, but simply as “in-depth descriptions.”

Peterson’s Guide to Graduate and Professional Programs (Peterson’s Guides) Five large books, each describing in detail opportunities for residential graduate study in the U.S. Volumes cover social science and humanities, biological and agricultural sciences, physical sciences, and engineering. There is also a summary volume. The series is updated annually.

Peterson’s Guide to Four-Year Colleges (Peterson’s Guides) Another massive annual directory (some 2,800 pages), covering traditional accredited schools only.

World-Wide Inventory of Non-Traditional Degree Programs (UNESCO, c/o Unipub, 4611-F Assembly Drive, Lanham, MD 20706-4391) A generally useful United Nations report on what many of the world’s nations are doing in the way of nontraditional education. Some helpful school descriptions, and lots of detailed descriptions of evening courses offered by workers’ cooperatives in Bulgaria and suchlike.

World Guide to Higher Education (Bowker Publishing Co.)
A comprehensive survey, by the United Nations, of educational systems, degrees, and qualifications, from Afghanistan to Zambia.

Credit by Life Experience Learning Books

Earn College Credit for What You Know by Lois Lamdin (Council for Adult and Experiential Learning, 223 W. Jackson Blvd., #510, Chicago, IL 60606, (312) 922-5909.) How to put together a life experience portfolio: how to gather the necessary information, document it, and assemble it.

Guide to Educational Credit for Training Programs(Oryx Press) Many nontraditional programs use this large volume, based on American Council on Education recommendations, to assign credit for more than 5,000 business, trade union, association, and government agency training programs.

Guide to the Evaluation of Educational Experiences in the Armed Forces (Oryx Press) Many schools use this 2,000-page 3-volume set (one for each service) to assess credit for non-school learning. Describes and makes credit recommendations for more than 8,000 military training programs.

Portfolio Development and Adult Learning: Purposes and Strategies by Alan Mandell and Elana Michelson (Council for Adult and Experiential Learning) Explores the eight approaches to portfolio development courses most typically used at colleges and universities, providing examples of each through a closer examination of prior learning assessment programs offered at 11 institutions of higher learning.

Prior Learning Assessment: the portfolio by Marthe Sansregret (Hurtubise HMH, 7360 Newman Blvd., LaSalle, Quebec H8N 1X2 Canada) A well-respected head of assessment for a major university told us that this is the book he asks his students to use to create their portfolios. It comes with software (Mac or DOS) to make the process more efficient.

Using Licenses and Certificates as Evidence of College-Level Learning by Harriet Cabell (CAEL, see above) A five-page summary of Dr. Cabell’s doctoral research, examining the practices of schools that award credit based on applicants’ licenses and certificates.

The Value of Personal Learning Outside College by Peter Smith (Acropolis Books) Dr. Smith, the founder of Vermont Community College and later the lieutenant governor of Vermont, has written a charming and very useful book on matters related to earning credit for non-school learning (which, he points out, accounts for 90% of what an adult knows). Many inspiring case histories of adults who pursued this path, plus appendices that help one identify and describe out-of-school learning. (Formerly titled Your Hidden Credentials).

Medical School Reference Books

Foreign Medical Schools for U.S. Citizens by Carlos Pestana, M.D., Ph.D. (P.O. Box 790617, San Antonio, TX 78279-0617) This wonderful book is now back in print in an updated 1995 edition. It gives anecdotal, well-written, and very informative write-ups on the good and less-good best foreign schools for American medical school applicants, as well as application tips and other survival advice.

The Medical School Applicant: advice for premedical students by Carlos Pestana, M.D., Ph.D. (see immediately above) Another wonderful book by Dr. Pestana, bringing his unique perspective to all the usual matters that books on medical schools have, and a great deal more, including a remarkable chapter on “Special Angles: The Dirty Tricks Department a frank analysis of unconventional pathways to a medical education.”

The Official Guide to Caribbean Medical Schools by S. K. Sarin and R. K. Yalamanchi (CaribMed, Inc., Chicago, IL, Well it’s not “official” but it is a helpful little guide (104 pages), describing what it is like to do a Caribbean M.D. (both the authors did so), with detailed descriptions of the six major Caribbean medical schools.

Religious Schools

Name It and Frame It: New Opportunities in Adult Education, and How to Avoid Being Ripped off by ‘Christian’ Degree Mills by Steve Levicoff (Institute on Religion and Law) A funny, informative, helpful, abrasive, and in some some respects, quite outrageous book, which invites the dozens of schools called ‘degree mills’ to sue the author if they don’t like their listing. According to the author, none ever has. After publishing four editions, Dr. Levicoff stopped selling his book, and now gives it away free on the Internet ( A bit out of date now; there may be a new edition in 1999 or 2000.

Walston’s Guide to Earning Religious Degrees Nontraditionally by Rick Walston (Persuasion Press, Box 847, Longview, WA 98632) “Josh” Walston and John Bear once collaborated on what they called Walston & Bear’s Guide to Earning Religious Degrees Nontraditionally. As they had planned, by the 3rd edition, John bowed out, leaving the book entirely in Dr. Walston’s hands. Walston is much more accepting than Levicoff of legal unaccredited schools, but takes a strong stand (“Shame,” he says) against the many that improperly claim accreditation.

Financial Aid Reference Books

Finding Money for College by John Bear and Mariah Bear (Ten Speed Press) We collected all the information we could find about the nontraditional and unorthodox approaches to getting a share in the billions of dollars that go unclaimed each year, including barter, real estate and tax gambits, negotiation, creative payment plans, obscure scholarships, foundations that make grants to individuals, etc. Available for sale on this website.

The Scholarship Bookby Daniel Cassidy (Prentice-Hall), Dan Cassidy’s Worldwide College Scholarship Directory and Dan Cassidy’s Worldwide Graduate Scholarship Directory (Career Press) These three books are, in effect, a complete printout of the data banks of information used by Cassidy’s National Scholarship Research Service, described in chapter 10. Tens of thousands of sources are listed for undergraduate and graduate students, for study in the U.S. and overseas.

The A’s and B’s of Academic Scholarships by Anna and Robert Leider (Octameron Associates, P.O. Box 248, Alexandria, VA 22301) Lists more than 100,000 scholarships plus advice on earning them.

Don’t Miss Out: The Ambitious Student’s Guide to Financial Aid by Anna and Robert Leiter (Octameron) A complement to our Finding Money book, this one gives excellent advice in pursuing the traditional route to financial aid.

Miscellaneous General Education Reference Books

Killing the Spirit: Higher Education in America by Page Smith (Viking Penguin) In 1990, one of John’s writer-heroes issued this extraordinary book about everything that is wrong in higher education. From page 1: “The major themes might be characterized as the impoverishment of the spirit by ‘academic fundamentalism,’ the flight from teaching, the meretriciousness of most academic research, the disintegration of the disciplines, the alliance of the universities with the Department of Defense . . . etc., and last but not least, the corruptions incident to ‘big time’ collegiate sports.” Read this wonderful book. Or listen to it: Page Smith reads it, on 8 cassettes available from audio book sources.

College on Your Own by Gene R. Hawes and Gail Parker (Bantam Books) This remarkable book, now out of print, serves as a syllabus for a great many fields, for people who want to do college-level work at home, with or without the guidance of a college. A brief overview of each field (anthropology, biology, chemistry, history, etc.) and a detailed reading list for learning more about the field. Quite valuable in preparing learning contracts. Why doesn’t some shrewd publisher put this fine volume back in print?

External Degrees in the Information Age by Eugene Sullivan, David W. Stewart, and Henry A. Spille (Oryx Press, 1997) In a sense, this is a successor to Stewart and Spille’s Diploma Mills. It discusses principles of good practice in this field, along with guidelines for identifying bad schools. (We wish the authors didn’t write such unkind things about John and about our book elsewhere.)

Getting a College Degree Fast by Joanne Aber (Prometheus Books, 1996) A decent enough book, focusing primarily on following the same path the author did: taking examinations to earn credit. Excellent information is provided on this topic, but not so useful for school and accreditation information (more than a few errors here).

Getting What You Came For: The Smart Student’s Guide to Earning a Master’s or Ph.D. by Robert L. Peters, Ph.D. (Noonday Press, 1997) Another wonderful and extremely helpful book. Quoting from chapter one [This Book Can Help (and you probably need it)], “Graduate students run into problems because they do not understand how graduate school works, nor do most undergraduate counselors and graduate departments provide enough realistic guidance. . . . This book tells you what graduate school is really like. . . . I tell you how to create a comprehensive strategy that blends politics, psychology, and planning to ensure that your hard work pays off with a degree and a job.” And he does, eloquently.

Hunter’s Guide to the College Guides by Bruce Hunter (P. O. Box 9647, Naples, FL 33941) A high school counselor has created this useful evaluation (from “Not helpful” to “Most helpful”) of scores of college guidebooks, both general (Lovejoy’s, Barrons, etc.) and specific (guides for athletes, religious students, handicapped students, African-American students, and so on). Books are described in considerable detail and no, Bears’ guide is not included. Dismissed as falling outside the scope. Such is life.

The Ph.D. Trap by Wilfred Cude (Medicine Label Press, RR2, West Bay, Nova Scotia B0E 3K0 Canada) The author was treated very badly in his own graduate program, which turned him into a reformer. Farley Mowat writes that he is “the kind of reformer this world needs. Humane, literate, reasonable, and utterly implacable, he has just unmasked the gruesome goings on in the academic morgue that deals in doctoral degrees. Any student contemplating the pursuit of a doctorate had better read The Ph.D. Trap as a matter of basic self-preservation. . . .”

Proving You’re Qualified: Strategies for Competent People Without College Degreesby Charles D. Hayes (Autodidactic Press, Box 872749, Wasilla, Alaska 99687) The author makes a strong case for competence being more important than credentials in life but, since many gatekeepers disagree, Hayes goes on to show how to, well, how to do what the title says. Ronald Gross, who writes splendid books on education himself, says that “this is the wisest and most useful book I have ever read on this subject.”

This Way Out: A guide to alternatives to traditional college education in the U.S. by John Coyne and Tom Hebert (E. P. Dutton) A delightful, if out-of-date book, now out of print, that describes a small number of alternatives in detail, with inspirational interviews with participants. Includes an intriguing essay on self-education by hiring tutors, and sections as diverse as how to study, how to hitchhike successfully, what to do when revolution breaks out in the country in which you are studying, and how to deal with large universities worldwide.

Virtual College by Pam Dixon (Peterson’s, 1996) A charming and very helpful little book (and she says nice things about ours, too), focusing on many of the issues the distance learner may face, including transfer of credits, employer acceptance, listing distance degrees on a resume, choosing technology, what it is like to be a distance student, and so on.

Winning the Ph.D. Game by Dr. Richard W. Moore (Dodd, Mead & Co.) Now out of print, this is a lighthearted, extremely useful guidebook for current and prospective doctoral students. Covers the entire process, from selecting schools to career planning. Moore’s aim is to “describe the folk wisdom passed from one generation of graduate students to the next (in order to) make the whole process less traumatic.” He succeeds admirably.

Diploma Mills

Diploma Mills: Degrees of Fraud by David W. Stewart and Henry A. Spille (Oryx) Originally this book was to provide details on specific operating diploma mills, but sadly, the authors either lost courage or were dissuaded by their attorneys, and it turned out to be only a moderately interesting survey of the history of the problem, with a once useful but now quite dated summary and evaluation of the current school laws in all 50 states.


The academic journals typically address research aspects of the field (e.g., The Effectiveness of Synchronous vs. Asynchronous Lectures on Exam Performance). The main one in the U.S. is the American Journal of Distance Education, 403 S. Allen St., #206, Pennsylvania State University, University Park, PA 16801.

The main one in Canada is the Journal of Distance Education, published by the Canadian Association for Distance Education, 205-1 Stewart Street, Ottawa, ON K1N 6H7 Canada, and searchable on Internet at

The Online Chronicle of Distance Education and Communication is published by Nova Southeastern University, and is available free on the Internet:

In Australia, the journal is Distance Education, published at the University of Southern Queensland, Distance Education Centre, Toowoomba Queensland 4350, Australia. It is searchable on the Internet at:

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