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FAQ

Here are the Frequently Asked Questions addressed below:

*What are WISR’s Tuition and Fees?
*Do you have any Financial Aid?
*When Can I Enroll and Begin Studies at WISR?
*Do I have to live in the Bay Area to study at WISR? Is there a Distance Learning Option?
*Can I Transfer Credit to WISR that I have received from Other Institutions?
*Can I receive Academic Credit at WISR for Prior Life and Learning Experiences?
*How Long Does It Take to Complete a Degree at WISR?
*How Big and Difficult are WISR Dissertations?–I’ve Heard Such Bad Stories from People Who Have Had to do Dissertations at various institutions.
*How Long are other Papers at WISR?
*What Kinds of Jobs can I get with a WISR degree?
*So, what do WISR students find to be the Most Valuable Benefit of pursuing a WISR degree, in terms of their Future Lives?
*Can I Transfer Credit from WISR, or use my WISR degree, if I wish to later study at an Accredited college or university?

What are WISR’s Tuition and Fees?

WISR’s tuition is $625/month. Students who make semi-annual payments receive a $200 discount for each six month period, and pay $3,550. Students who make annual payments receive a $600 discount for the 12 month period, and pay $6,900 as of July 1, 2012.

Entering students must pay an initial $600 enrollment fee. The re-enrollment fee for students who have taken a break (leave of absence) of six-months or longer from WISR is also $600. Tuition is increased only every two or three years, and then in very modest increments–usually no more than $25 to $50 per month.  See the section on Tuition and Fees for more information go to the section on Tuition and Fees.

Do you have any Financial Aid?

No. Fortunately, our tuition is much more affordable than the tuition at most other institutions, and students may make monthly payments throughout their enrollment at WISR. WISR’s partial tuition deferment program has been suspended for the time being–those few students who are already participating in this program may continue in the program so long as they remain continuously enrolled at WISR. If WISR is able to generate additional funds for its Revolving Loan Fund, in a few years, we may again provide the opportunity to defer $200/month tuition—to two or three new students each year.

Because WISR is very small by design, and is not accredited, our students are not eligible for Federal and bank-funded student loans. Furthermore, lending institutions are not required by law to defer student loan repayments that WISR students may have acquired elsewhere prior to enrolling at WISR. In some cases, WISR students have successfully negotiated this with lenders, but because WISR students are not eligible for student loan monies, the lenders are not obliged to defer the student’s payments.

When Can I Enroll and Begin Studies at WISR?

Students may enroll and begin any month of the year at WISR. WISR operates on a year-round calendar and students may begin any month, and similarly, they graduate in the month in which they complete their studies. There is no need to wait for a semester to begin or end.

Do I have to live in the Bay Area to study at WISR? Is there a Distance Learning Option?

You do not have to live in the San Francisco Bay Area. Now. all of WISR’s degree programs, even the MA in Psychology leading to the California MFT and LPCC licenses, can be pursued from afar. Some students live in other countries around the world. Read more.

Can I Transfer Credit to WISR that I have received from Other Institutions?

Subject to the specific qualifications and limitations listed below, students may transfer credit to WISR from other California State licensed programs and from regionally accredited institutions. If the student has received credit from an institution that has neither of these statuses, then WISR faculty will evaluate the student’s work and/or other evidence regarding the quality of the student’s work at the previous institution to determine if it is comparable in quality to the work typically done in California Approved and regionally accredited institutions.

No more than 90 semester units may be transferred from other institutions toward WISR’s 124 semester units required for the BA. No more than six semester units of graduate study may be transferred toward WISR’s 32 semester units required for all MA degrees offered by WISR. For WISR’s MFT program, students who have completed academic work which clearly meets State guidelines and WISR’s descriptions of the core courses required for WISR’s MFT MA in Psychology option may then receive up to six semester units of transfer credit. No more than 21 units of doctoral level credit may be transferred toward Doctoral studies at WISR.

For more details about transferring credit to WISR, read more in the section on “Admissions.”

Can I receive Academic Credit at WISR for Prior Life and Learning Experiences?

No. WISR does not simply give credit for prior life experiences. Virtually all of our students come to WISR with a rich background of significant life experiences which have involved considerable learning. WISR gives academic credit for the additional learning that happens while a student is enrolled at WISR. However, for this reason, students often do get academic credit at WISR for writing papers involving further critical reflection and analysis of previous experiences they have had. Such papers often address questions like, what are the main insights and theories that I have developed in my areas of involvement, how did I come to these insights, what are the important problems and questions to address in the future, and how can others benefit from and use what I have learned? Indeed, we actively encourage to undertake such projects for academic credit at WISR, in order to become more conscious of and better able to articulate the knowledge that one has developed in areas of expertise and experience, over the years.

How Long Does It Take to Complete a Degree at WISR?

Since WISR’s programs are individualized and self-paced, this depends a lot on each student, and his or her learning style and other involvements. Most all students at WISR are very busy adults with significant work, family and personal commitments. WISR students tend to complete studies in a timely fashion, but many choose to move at a gradual pace over a number of years. Regardless of the pace that a student chooses to move at, they receive lots of faculty support and guidance to help them finish as soon as possible, but WISR is not a route to a quick and “easy” degree.

Here are some broad guidelines.

The BA program is a minimum of one year, and sometimes as little as two or three years if the student is actively engaged and persistent in their studies, depending on the number of previous academic credits, if any, the student has already completed. Generally speaking, our BA students finish their BA at WISR sooner than they would be able to elsewhere, because we don’t have a structured class schedule and students get lots of personalized attention. However, as is the case with all of our degree programs, students proceed at a pace comfortable to them, and with lots of faculty support and assistance.

The MA programs, other than the MA program leading to the MFT license, generally take intensely engaged students at least two years. Many students choose to take longer, and a few complete the program in as little as 15 to 18 months. The MA leading to the MFT license must meet an extensive list of important State requirements. That program is now, at a minimum two and a half years, but realistically most students will take at least three years, even if they work very hard at  it. This will be especially the case, in light of the State’s new 60 semester unit requirement. Of course, many students choose to move at a slower pace and take longer.

The Doctoral program is at least three years in length (beyond the Master’s), even for intensely and energetically engaged students. In rare cases, a few students have finished in less than three years. Some students take longer, but at WISR when students take longer than six years it is because they choose to do so, rather than because of difficulties in navigating what feels like extraneous or not so meaningful requirements as is so often the case for students in many institutions.

How Big and Difficult are WISR Dissertations?–I‘ve Heard Such Bad Stories from People Who Have Had to do Dissertations at various institutions.

WISR students receive lots of faculty support for all their projects, including the dissertation. There is no cut-and-dried answer to the question of how many pages they are. Most dissertations at WISR are in the range of around 150 to 200 pages. Some are slightly less, and a number are quite a bit longer.

We try to help students design dissertations that will be very meaningful to them personally, and of some practical use and importance to others. We work with students to help them to design dissertations (as well as Master theses and culminating BA projects) that will build bridges to the next significant thing(s) they want to be involved in or want to accomplish. Sometimes dissertations are designed to be books or handbooks or manuals that students want to write to share their knowledge, experiences and insights with others.

We always want our students to pursue and examine several questions that are important to them (and usually to others) and to which they don’t yet have the “answers.” We also don’t expect that the dissertation will necessarily lead to definitive answers to those questions but perhaps that they will at least provide new insights or even new questions that will pertain to those questions.

Also, we help students to break their dissertation into manageable “chunks” or chapters, so that even though they may not have written such a long document before, they can do it 20 to 30 pages at a time, in a sequence that seems meaningful and manageable. We are more concerned with substance than form, and encourage and support students to write in their own voice, rather than using what a colleague of mine referred to as “academic monkey talk.”

How Long are other Papers at WISR?

Papers at WISR do vary enormously in length–some as short as two or three pages, and some as long as 70 pages (!). Perhaps 75 percent of the papers are between 10 and 25 pages, if that helps give you a general image. One of the reasons papers vary some widely in length is that some projects, by design, are smaller in scope–still very good projects, but not intended to involve as much experience, reading, professional practice, community involvement or interviewing and they require less writing. Those projects tend to be awarded one or two units of credit. By contrast, sometimes students find they become involved with a very large, very multifacted, complex project, involving a lot of reading, thinking, interviewing and/or practice/experience–and they have a lot to write about. Those projects tend to be over 20 or 25 pages, and tend to have 5, 6, 7 or 8 (and rarely, but occasionally) more units awarded by faculy when they finish. Most projects are awarded 3 to 5 semester units of credit, involve substantial reading, thinking, experience/practice and/or interviewing, and these projects are typically 10 to 25 pages in length. . . .

We don’t want students to “pad” their papers to make them look long, but instead WISR faculty work supportively with students in giving them guidance on how they communicate their ideas, their learning process, and the substantive content with which they are engaged. We encourage students to express their own criticisms, insights and questions. Furthermore, we often ask students to make their general insights and conclusions more tangible by telling stories and giving examples that make their knowledge more real and useful to others. All in all, the important thing is to make the project, and the paper, a length that grows out of each student’s purposes for what she or he wants to learn and accomplish with that project.

What Kinds of Jobs can I get with a WISR, California State-licensed degree? And, what are the risks of an unaccredited degree like this?

All prospective students should understand that WISR’s degree is unaccredited but State licensed, and that this results in risks for some prospective students but not others. For this reason, we alert all prospective students to the strengths and limitations of WISR’s State approved degree. Furthermore, as recent economic times have shown, students are advised to never believe that an academic degree will guarantee them a job, and whether or not it increases their chances for a job depends on many variables. However, over the decades, our students have been very, very successful in using their WISR degrees for employment in non-profit agencies and also in setting up their own consulting practices, and in many cases, also in pursuing occasional grants and outside funding.

In particular, we caution prospective students that in many cases, public agencies (Federal, State, and local) are not interested in receiving applications from people who hold unaccredited degrees. Specifically, a degree program that is unaccredited or a degree from an unaccredited institution is not recognized for some employment positions, including, but not limited to, positions with the State of California. We want all prospective students to know that in this area of employment, having a State licensed degree is likely to be a liability in many cases, at least.

Furthermore, in terms of doing more advanced graduate study in the future at an accredited institution, or in seeking a faculty position at an accredited college or university, there is definitely some risk, although in our experience, some of our alumni have been admitted to accredited graduate schools, and more than a few have been employed as faculty in accredited institutions. Most of our alumni so employed have held part-time positions, many of them in community colleges. Several of our PhD alumni have obtained full-time, tenure track positions in accredited universities. Other things being equal, our alumni are at a disadvantage when applying for graduate study or faculty positions in a traditional, accredited institution, partly just because “WISR” doesn’t have “big name recognition.” In our experience a lot depends on the particular attitudes of the particular faculty making decisions in a particular department, in a particular institution during a particular year. It is hard to generalize, but clearly a WISR alumnus is likely to be at a disadvantage unless he or she is being evaluated by a fairly progressive group of faculty.

We have one MA degree program option that is approved to meet the academic requirement for the California MFT license, as well as for the new LPCC license, and for these purposes, it has equal status with accredited degrees. Over the years, our MFT alumni have performed exceedingly well on the State MFT licensing exams, and they have usually been very successful in their professional practices. Nevertheless, those prospective students contemplating moving out of State should learn about the reciprocity laws and arrangements with California. Generally speaking, those who are interested in practicing as a counselor in another state will find that their odds of being able to do so increases dramatically if they first get the California license and then move, rather than trying to use their WISR MA degree in another state without first getting the California license. Nevertheless, a bit over 10 years ago, one of our alumni obtained her Colorado, and then her Arizona, license without first obtaining the California license. We do not know whether or not this would still be the case.

So, what do WISR students find to be the Most Valuable Benefit of pursuing a WISR degree, in terms of their Future Lives?

To a large extent, WISR’s history is indeed the stories of our students successfully building bridges to the significant things they next want to do in their lives. Our alumni have used their academic projects at WISR to network with professionals and community groups, to create new programs and even new agencies, to carve out distinctive and well-recognized specializations and consulting practices, and to obtain professional positions that carry significant and meaningful responsibilities. In sum, our alumni have generally been very, very satisfied with how well they have been able to use the combination of their WISR learning and their WISR State licensed degree to accomplish their goals, and indeed, to do more than they even aimed to do when they first enrolled at WISR. The profiles of our alumni that can be found on our website and in our catalogue attest to these successes.

Can I Transfer Credit from WISR, or use my WISR degree, if I wish to later study at an Accredited college or university?

Despite the striking successes of WISR alumni in the workplace, students considering enrollment at WISR should be aware of the risks of transferring credit from one institution to another, especially from WISR, which is very small, non-traditional, and has State licensure rather than regional accreditation. Prospective students are discouraged from seeing WISR as a stepping-stone to further studies at other institutions, because of the risks involved, unless they first check with the specific institution(s) to which they plan to transfer. The risks are especially high for students who do not complete an entire degree program, and then wish to transfer credits to another institution where they would complete their degree.

NOTICE CONCERNING TRANSFERABILITY OF CREDITS AND CREDENTIALS EARNED AT OUR INSTITUTION
The transferability of credits you earn at the Western Institute for Social Research (WISR) is at the complete discretion of an institution to which you may seek to transfer. Acceptance of the degree or academic credits you earn in the Western Institute for Social Research (WISR) is also at the complete discretion of the institution to which you may seek to transfer. If the credits or degee that you earn at this institution are not accepted at the institution to which you seek to transfer, you may be required to repeat some or all of your coursework at that institution. For this reason you should make certain that your attendance at this institution will meet your educational goals. This may include contacting an institution to which you may seek to transfer after attending WISR to determine if your credits or degree will transfer.

Generally speaking, WISR students have not sought to do graduate study at another institution after obtaining a BA or MA at WISR. The above noted, very real risks, notwithstanding, the WISR graduates who have applied elsewhere have oftentimes been successful. We know of only one alumnus who was turned down by another graduate program. After receiving his BA in Psychology at WISR, he applied to a Master’s program at Hayward State. He was not admitted, although based on follow-up conversations that one of our Board members had with faculty at Hayward State, it seems likely that his BA from WISR was not a significant factor in his not being admitted. We know of one WISR BA student who was admitted to a regionally accredited graduate theological seminary. We also know that two WISR BA alumni were admitted to State-licensed MA programs approved as leading toward the MFT (formerly the MFCC) license, that three WISR MA graduates were admitted to State-licensed PhD programs approved as leading toward the Clinical Psychology license, and that a fourth was admitted to a regionally accredited PhD program in Clinical Psychology. Another WISR MA alumnus, with the primary objective of obtaining her Doctorate in Naturopathic Medicine was successful in being admitted to, and them completing, the program at John Bastyr Medical College in Seattle. The majority of our alumni keep us informed of their endeavors, and we are not aware of other attempts by WISR graduates to gain admission to other institutions.

Nevertheless, prospective students should take seriously the risks involved in having as a main objective, gaining admission to a more conventional graduate program after receiving a degree from WISR or completing coursework at WISR. Prospective students are encouraged to ask questions and to talk further with WISR faculty, alumni and students about their questions regarding the uses of a WISR degree in their future, hoped-for professional and academic endeavors.