February 18, 2020

Purdue launches Fast Start program for Indiana high school students

Partnership with ModernStates.org can help families save thousands of dollars a year on college tuition

  • Free online courses and exams can save students up to one full year
  • Five exams can save almost $11,000 and assure admission into Purdue
  • Partnership with ModernStates.org philanthropy and Klinsky family creates affordable “on-ramp to college” for all Indiana residents and sets a new role model for nation

WEST LAFAYETTE, Ind. — In a move aligned with Purdue University’s land-grant mission, President Mitch Daniels announced Tuesday (Feb. 18) the Purdue Fast Start program, designed to help Indiana high school students earn access to up to a year of college credit through free online courses and the corresponding College Level Examination Program (CLEP) exams. The program is the result of a partnership with ModernStates.org, a philanthropy dedicated to making a college degree more affordable and accessible. Modern States will offer the free, high-quality online courses and pay the test fee for up to 10,000 CLEP exams taken by those enrolled in the Fast Start program.

Fast Start is available to all residents of Indiana but will be especially beneficial to students in rural Indiana and those enrolled in inner-city schools that often lack access to the full offering of Advanced Placement courses, and those for whom college education is less affordable. Purdue will assure admission to students who pass a minimum of five CLEP exams through the program.

“Too many young Hoosiers miss out on college either because of its cost or simply a disbelief that they can succeed there,” Daniels said. “Our Purdue-sponsored high schools are one attempt to open a new pathway to Purdue, and this new venture is another, with special relevance to rural and small-town youth.”

Steve Klinsky, CEO and founder of Modern States, said, “Modern States and my family are pleased to partner with Purdue to make college more attainable for students throughout Indiana. Purdue has long been a leader in innovations to help students, and we hope this effort will both help families throughout the state and create a model for many other universities nationwide.”

The College Board, which administers Advanced Placement exams as well as the CLEP exams, announced earlier this month that the biggest shortage of advanced placement courses is in rural America. The Fast Start program is an on-ramp to helping these students attain their educational goals, leading to better jobs and higher earnings for their lifetimes.

 “Purdue continues to lead in making college more affordable for all families,” said David Coleman, CEO of the College Board. “In this visionary partnership with Modern States, Purdue opens up college pathways for all students. At this time when lower- and middle-income families are struggling with the cost of college, the College Board strongly supports the use of CLEP to speed students toward successful graduation.”

CLEP exams can help students receive credit for up to 30 hours of general education courses, or about one full year of college credit. However, many students have been blocked in the past by lack of courses to learn the material and the $89 test fee per course. Today, ModernStates.org provides the necessary courses for free to everyone; the more than 30 courses are like a digital public library, and a new $1 million gift to Purdue from Steve and Maureen Sherry Klinsky will cover the cost of 10,000 CLEP exam fees for Indiana students. Maureen Sherry Klinsky is a trustee of Modern States.

Fast Start will allow Hoosier students to take the online courses and CLEP exams at no cost, meaning a participant could easily save their family thousands of dollars on tuition by providing the equivalent of a full semester or even a year of college for free. Passing five CLEP exams – the equivalent of one semester – can save students and their parents a semester, and almost $11,000. Passing 10 CLEPs – the equivalent of one full year – can save more than $21,000. Every individual CLEP passed is a big savings as well. The Fast Start option also can move them toward early graduation and early entry into the workforce.

Purdue Fast Start will offer support to high school students enrolled in the program, helping guide them through taking courses and tests, and navigating admittance to Purdue. The students also will have access to Purdue alumni and friends for mentoring if desired. Once Fast Start students accept admission into Purdue, they will be known as Klinsky Scholars. The program officially launches in the fall of 2020, with the first students being granted admission for the fall 2021 semester.

As Purdue Fast Start  begins outreach to prospective students this spring, Purdue Extension, which has offices in every Indiana county, will be a vital resource in helping reach students and their families.

“This is a great opportunity for us to improve the lives of Indiana residents by working with students to increase educational attainment all across the state,” said Jason Henderson, senior associate dean and director of Purdue Extension.

ModernStates.org, with 200,000 registered users, is the largest “free college for credit” program in the nation. Students can access the Modern States expansive library of online courses, taught by top college professors, at no cost. The professors who teach Modern States courses include experts from Johns Hopkins, Columbia, Tufts, George Washington University, American University, State University of New York and other leading universities. 

Those who successfully complete a Modern States course will receive a voucher to pay for the corresponding College Board CLEP exam and be reimbursed for test center fees. Students who pass a minimum of five CLEP exams are then assured admission to Purdue.

Administered by the College Board, CLEP exams are similar to Advanced Placement exams. CLEP has historically been taken by adults, especially active duty military and veterans. Passing scores on CLEP exams are accepted for credit by more than 2,900 colleges and universities, and the exams have been used for more than 50 years.

For more information, go to the Fast Start website at https://purdue.university/faststart, or call 765-494-1776 or (for hearing impaired) 800-743-3333.


Additional voices:

From Teresa Lubbers, Indiana Commissioner for Higher Education

“The commission supports efforts for students to demonstrate competencies in different ways, leading to credit and advance standing awarded by institutions. Purdue’s Fast Start program provides a way for all students, especially students from rural and inner-city areas, to save time and money and increase the likelihood of college completion.”

From Indiana State Rep. Bob Behning, chair of House Education Committee 

“Purdue continues to be an innovative leader in making higher education a reality for many students. This is an excellent opportunity to get ahead in courses, save money and learn, even if you don’t pursue college in the future. This partnership will also go a long way to help students in more rural communities access courses not traditionally available at their school.”

From Indiana State Sen.  Jeff Raatz, chair of Education and Career Development Committee

“Purdue Fast Start offers a unique opportunity for high school students across Indiana to earn college credit. The use of online courses corresponding to CLEP exams provide a meaningful path forward for students pursuing college credit. This program will benefit students in all areas of our state, whether they plan to enroll at a university after high school, or choose to pursue technical education to advance their career.”

From Jason Bearce, vice president of education and workforce development for the Indiana Chamber of Commerce

“Given that 99% of jobs created since the last recession have required at least some education beyond high school, we welcome efforts — like Purdue Fast Start — that offer students affordable pathways to earn postsecondary credentials aligned with Indiana’s workforce needs.”

From Christopher Lagoni, executive director, Indiana Small and Rural Schools Association

“The Indiana Small and Rural Schools Association has been advocating for the use of the Modern States Education Alliance college courses to provide college credit opportunities for our member schools for multiple years. We promote the use of CLEP to help students earn college credit. We are excited to support Purdue's Fast Start Program and the innovative methods it uses to remove barriers for all students to access high-quality college credit no matter where they live or the size of the school.”


About Purdue University

Purdue University is a top public research institution developing practical solutions to today’s toughest challenges. Ranked the #6 Most Innovative University in the United States by U.S. News & World Report, Purdue delivers world-changing research and out-of-this-world discovery. Committed to hands-on and online, real-world learning, Purdue offers a transformative education to all. Committed to affordability and accessibility, Purdue has frozen tuition and most fees at 2012-13 levels, enabling more students than ever to graduate debt-free. See how Purdue never stops in the persistent pursuit of the next giant leap at purdue.edu.

About Modern States

The Modern States Education Alliance is a NYC-based philanthropy dedicated to making a college degree more affordable and accessible for everyone. Its first initiative is “Freshman Year for Free”: more than 30 online college courses available tuition-free for credit, from top university professors available to anyone with an Internet connection. Students can use these courses to earn college credits by preparing for and taking AP and CLEP exams, as offered by the College Board. Learn more at ModernStates.org.

About Steven and Maureen (Sherry) Klinsky

Steve Klinsky, the founder and CEO of the ModernStates.org education philanthropy, is a New York-based businessman and education reformer. He serves as chair of Harvard University’s Program for Education Policy and Governance and, with his wife, Maureen, endowed the Professorship of Leadership and Progress at Harvard Law School. He attended public schools in the Detroit area, and graduated from the University of Michigan in 27 months in part by passing credit-bearing exams, before earning his law degree and MBA at Harvard. Maureen Sherry Klinsky attended public schools in Rockland County, New York, and finished Cornell in three years using college-level courses passed during high school, before earning her Master of Fine Arts from Columbia. Steve is the founder and CEO of New Mountain Capital, a growth-oriented private equity firm that has added or created over 43,000 jobs at its companies with no bankruptcies or missed interest payments ever. Maureen is a best-selling novelist and writer under her maiden name, Maureen Sherry. Together, they live in New York and have four children.  

Media contact for Purdue: Tim Doty, 765-494-2080, doty2@purdue.edu

Media contact for Modern States: Jennifer Leckstrom, 215-681-0770, jleckstrom@rosecomm.com 

Source: Mitch Daniels, president@purdue.edu

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