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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.  Student tuition has not been increased for a few years,  despite increased costs, and even though this is the seventh consecutive year that tuition has been steady at $7,500/year.  There may be a modest tuition increase as of July 2019.

Students are not responsible for paying tuition for any portion of a year in which they are not enrolled, whether it is due to graduation or withdrawal.  Students may enroll on the first day of any month of the year.  They may graduate, withdraw, or take a leave of absence on any date, by giving written notice to WISR’s President of their decision to withdraw or to take a leave.  (See specific refund and withdrawal policies, below).

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.

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.

VERY LIMITED NUMBER OF WORK-STUDY POSITIONS: In addition, there may be one or two institutional work-study positions sometimes available.  Occasionally, WISR has some needed work that can be performed by a few qualified students at a rate of 6 hours work for $100.  At this point, work-study earnings are limited to a maximum of $500/year. Types of work include, community outreach to prospective students and organizations where prospective students might work or otherwise be involved, cataloging books for WISR’s library, or clerical and administrative assistance. Interested students will be interviewed, and selections will be made based on student skills, motivations and the student’s available time to do the needed work.

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 on the day 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, although many of our students do. All of WISR’s degree programs, even the MS in Psychology leading to the California MFT and LPCC licenses, can be pursued from by distance learning. 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 nationally and regionally accredited institutions recognized by the US Department of Education. If the student has received credit from an institution that is not so accredited, 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 accredited institutions.

No more than 80 semester units may be transferred from other institutions toward WISR’s 120 semester units required for the BS. BS students may transfer no more than a total of 30 semester units based on credit for prior experience and credit by exam, combined. No more than 6 semester units of graduate study may be transferred toward WISR’s 36 semester units required for the MS degree in Education and Community Leadership 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 MS in Psychology option may then receive up to 12 semester units of transfer credit (students enrolled in the MFT program prior to August 2012 were allowed to transfer at most 6 semester units of credit). No more than 9 semester 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.

40th Anniversary w-out 2015

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 of the 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 BS completion 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 that the student has already completed. Generally speaking, our BS students finish their BS at WISR as soon as, or sooner than, they would be able to do elsewhere as working students with family commitments, 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. In addition, faculty review student progress every six months, and students are expected to complete the BS program in a maximum of three to at most four and a half years, when they transfer to WISR with 60 semester units of previous coursework.

The MS program in Education and Community Leadership generally takes 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. Normally, students are expected to complete either program track for the MS in Education and Community Leadership in six years or less.   The faculty review process discussed above applies to all degree programs, based on the normally expected maximum length of time to complete each program.

The MS leading to the MFT license must meet an extensive list of important State requirements. That program is now, at a minimum two years 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.  Students are generally expected to complete this program in six, but no more than nine, years.

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 slightly 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.  In any case, students are expected to complete the doctoral degree in nine years, and they are required to complete the program within 10 years (even if during that time they took a leave of absence).

Faculty review each student’s progress semi-annually.  The purpose of these reviews is to help students make timely progress toward their degree and their personal and career goals.  In conducting these reviews, faculty will be mindful that during the first year or so of study, students at WISR do not typically complete courses at the same rate as they do after that.   When faculty have concerns about a student’s progress, they will negotiate with that student a progress plan for the next six months.  The purpose of the plan will be to enable the student to make better progress, and to assess whether or not it is realistic for the student to succeed in completing the program in a timely fashion.

If, after the end of a six-month progress plan, WISR faculty do not believe that it is realistic that the student can complete the program within the normally expected maximum time period, then the faculty will recommend that the student be disenrolled.  The student may appeal this decision to WISR’s Board of Trustees.

If the student is disenrolled, they will be given one opportunity, after a period of at least six months, to re-apply for admission, if they can make the case that their circumstances and/or ability to complete the program have improved.  If re-admitted, they will be given one six-month period to demonstrate good progress, and they must continue to demonstrate good progress in each subsequent six-month period. If faculty do not believe that a student is likely to finish within the maximum time allowed for that particular degree program.

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 BS 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 (!). Most WISR courses are for 5 semester units of credit, and papers for these courses tend to be 10 to 25 pages in length (papers for BS program courses tend to be shorter than papers for doctoral level courses, for example).  In addition, students write a number of short, reflective papers on the course modules and self-assessments of their learning. Some MFT program courses are for less than 5 semester units and these papers tend to be around 10 pages in length, or sometimes shorter.  Independent study projects may sometimes be negotiated for more than 5 semester units, and these papers may be quite long 40 or more pages in length. WISR faculty have observed that oftentimes students want to write more than is required or expected, because they have a lot of say, or investigate, about the projects which are very important to them, and to their future.

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. Faculty are able to give students suggestions that help them to do meaningful expansions of their drafts–for example, but directing them to points that could use elaboration, or specific areas that could be added, or oftentimes, by giving illustrative and supportive examples of some of their main points. Faculty work with students to help them write their papers, so that the writing process is a positive learning experience and results in papers that students can often use in their future work or community efforts.  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.

WISR Collage

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 Master’s 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 MS 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–whether it be changing careers, pursuing advancement in one’s existing career, becoming more capable and more meaningfully engaged in one’s existing job or career niche, and/or making contributions to others and to the larger community as an unpaid expert drawing on one’ professional knowledge, skill and talents.

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. Prospective students are encouraged to ask for names and contact information for current students and alumni, so they may discuss with these WISR learners the experiences they have had.  In addition, WISR regularly surveys its students and alumni regarding their satisfaction with WISR and their experiences in finding meaningful jobs and/or in pursuing community leadership activities. The results of these studies are posted on our web page welcoming those new to WISR.

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.

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.

Also, WISR has not entered into an articulation or transfer agreement with any other college or university.

Generally speaking, WISR students have not sought to do graduate study at another institution after obtaining a Bachelor’s or Master’s degree 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 Bachelor’s 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 degree from WISR was not a significant factor in his not being admitted. We know of one WISR Bachelor’s student who was admitted to a regionally accredited graduate theological seminary. We also know that two WISR Bachelor’s alumni were admitted to State-licensed Master’s programs approved as leading toward the MFT (formerly the MFCC) license, that three WISR Master’s 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 Master’s 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.

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