Check out the latest edition of the Newman Guide: Choosing a Catholic College. Our Angelicum Online Great Books Program is featured in the guide. Here is an excerpt: “It offers something entirely new to Catholic higher education: worldwide access to a relatively inexpensive, authentically Catholic, high-quality, liberal arts program…” We are excited to join the list of Catholic colleges recommended by the Newman Guide.
Innovations in online learning are announced every year, but with the Angelicum Great Books Program and its new network of affiliated colleges and universities, Catholic students in particular stand to benefit.
To our knowledge, there is nothing quite like the Angelicum Great Books Program, which has educated teenage and young adult Catholics for nearly 10 years. It offers an entirely online and distance education curriculum that can be studied from home or anywhere else at low cost, while still hewing to a classical approach to education, including reading directly from the Great Books and Socratic discussion groups (via live communications over the Internet). Inspired by Thomas Aquinas College (also recommended in The Newman Guide) and the former Pearson Integrated Humanities Program at Kansas University, the series of eight courses combine high academic standards with a strong and faithful Catholic emphasis.
Angelicum, not to be confused with the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome also profiled in this Guide, does not grant degrees; instead it offers a series of undergraduate-level online courses that can count toward a degree program elsewhere. The American Council on Education (ACE)—a national association of colleges and universities serving about 80 percent of students in the U.S.—has evaluated Angelicum’s program and recommended that colleges grant six credit hours for each course, which are offered one per semester.
Although many colleges accept ACE-recommended credits, not all do; students should inquire with colleges they may be considering. To address the uncertainty, Angelicum has forged agreements with three colleges to guarantee acceptance of credits from Angelicum and, in some cases, the other participating institutions. Two of the colleges—Campion College in Australia and Catholic Distance University—are in this edition of The Newman Guide. In the coming years, Angelicum hopes to expand its network of credit-sharing colleges, which it has dubbed the Universities of Western Civilization.
The result is a solid Catholic program that offers great flexibility, even allowing ambitious students to get started early with college. High school students can enroll for one Angelicum course per semester as early as age 14, earning as many as 48 credit hours toward a bachelor’s degree before graduating from high school. This can be part of a home school curriculum, or it can be accomplished independently by any high school student. Angelicum has even worked with schools that enrolled entire classes in the Angelicum Great Books Program.
Students who wait to start Angelicum’s program until after high school will need four years to complete 48 credit hours, more than a third of the way toward a degree. But some colleges—including Catholic Distance University—will allow students to take Angelicum courses at the same time or even after their own courses; students will simply have to prove completion of the Angelicum courses before earning a degree. Other students may be content to spread out their studies over time, thereby reducing annual costs and simultaneously getting a head start on a career or exploring a religious vocation.
The Angelicum Great Books Program is the brainchild of philosopher Dr. Peter Redpath, educator Patrick Carmack and online program director Steve Bertucci. They also manage the affiliated Angelicum Academy, a nursery-through-high school curriculum for homeschoolers. Many of the Angelicum Academy’s high school students take courses from the Great Books Program, but the two programs are managed separately, and most Great Books Program students are not enrolled in the Academy.
Because The Newman Guide is equally concerned about students’ personal and spiritual formation as it is about quality liberal arts curricula, we generally recommend institutions with strong campus ministry, residential and extracurricular programs. Although an online college program cannot provide these, Catholic families may find much to admire in a classical Catholic curriculum that allows students to stay home at a very low cost. The 2008-2009 tuition was $1,500 per course or $3,000 per year, and Angelicum offers a 15 percent discount for making early payments.
Angelicum hopes to expand the program beyond the current 105 students through its Universities of Western Civilization network, which was newly launched in 2009. Interestingly, Angelicum has been promoting its program to Catholic families in poorer countries, resulting in an internationally diverse student body.
Angelicum’s chairman and director of the Great Books Program is Dr. Peter Redpath, a respected philosophy professor at St. John’s University, New York. He has written numerous articles and books and is the former executive editor of the Value Inquiry Book Series for Editions Rodopi, an academic publisher based in the Netherlands and New York. He earned his Ph.D. in philosophy from the State University of New York at Buffalo.
Dr. Jude Dougherty, the celebrated dean emeritus of The Catholic University of America’s school of philosophy, has praised Dr. Redpath as “a profound thinker… a learned and serious philosopher who shows clearly that ideas have consequences… given the breath of his historical survey and his analytic power, he is reminiscent of Hegel in his most sweeping” (from the June 1999 issue of The Review of Metaphysics).
Angelicum’s president, Patrick Carmack, J.D., has a varied background as a former administrative law judge at the Oklahoma State Corporation Commission, member of the U.S. Supreme Court Bar, former CEO of an independent petroleum exploration and production company, and founder and former chairman of the International Caspian Horse Society. He participated in Dr. Mortimer Adler’s last several Socratic discussion groups in Maryland and California in 1999 and 2000.
The colleges of the Universities of Western Civilization network are each independently governed, accredited institutions. The partners have formal agreements to ensure that Angelicum’s credits are accepted.
Clear about its Catholic identity and fidelity to Catholic teaching, Angelicum was formally recognized as a Catholic educational program by Bishop Michael Sheridan of Colorado Springs, Colorado, in June 2009.
Angelicum strives to combine “Catholic wisdom and secular learning.” This provides a “grounding in Catholic doctrine that is seen as a great counterpoint to the modern errors of which, due to their overwhelming influence on contemporary life, no liberally educated man deserving of that title can remain ignorant.”
Dr. Redpath and Carmack say the founding impetus for the new Universities of Western Civilization network came during their participation in the World Conference on Catholic Education held in Toruń, Poland, in 2008. The conference was presided over by the Vatican prefect for Catholic education, Zenon Cardinal Grocholewski. Participants signed a declaration in support of Ex corde Ecclesiae in contrast to the 1967 Land O’Lakes Statement, by which several U.S. Catholic university leaders declared independence from the Catholic hierarchy. It was during the conference that Dr. Gerard O’Shea of the John Paul II Institute in Melbourne, Australia, first suggested coordination between Angelicum Academy and Campion College, and the concept of a college network rapidly developed from there.
Angelicum intends to network only with Catholic institutions that have a strong Catholic identity that conforms to Ex corde Ecclesiae, and with certain non-Catholic institutions that have a clear emphasis on Western civilization in the natural sciences and general education. To avoid any possible confusion for students seeking a fully Catholic education, the secular institutions are clearly identified as such.
Angelicum’s leaders view their work as part of an educational reform movement, with antecedents in the Great Books movement presided over for nearly a century by the renowned Dr. Mortimer Adler. Carmack and Dr. Redpath knew him personally and consulted him about the importance of teaching the Great Books, before his conversion to Catholicism in 2000 and his death in 2001.
Adler believed that conversation (the dialectic) aims at wisdom, as opposed to a monologue (such as a lecture), which tends to result in indoctrination. In Reforming Education, written in the 1940s, Adler said that Catholic schools were losing their way and falling into the same traps that had already ensnared public institutions.
Students who begin their college studies with the Angelicum Great Books Program start with the ancient Greeks. Throughout the program, students will be exposed to and discuss works including Sacred Scripture, St. Augustine’s Confessions and City of God, St. Thomas’ Summa Theologiae, Dante’s Divine Comedy, Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales, Cervantes’ Don Quixote, St. Thomas More’s Utopia, Cardinal Newman’s Apologia pro vita sua, Undset’s Kristin Lavransdatter, and a short story by Flannery O’Connor. The program also includes exposure to Catholic ascetical and mystical theology, including `a Kempis’ The Imitation of Christ, St. Teresa of Avila’s autobiography, St. John of the Cross’ Dark Night of the Soul and St. Thérèse of Lisieux’s Story of a Soul.
The readings are accompanied by more than 2,300 pages of study guides by Dr. Robert and Suzanne Alexander—edited by the acclaimed author Joseph Pearce and by Thomist philosophers Dr. Redpath, Dr. Curtis Hancock and Dr. Tom Michaud—to provide a Catholic understanding and expose their errors. Carmack estimates that students will read about 45 minutes a night for four or five nights a week, depending on the reader.
Although the Angelicum program is online, there is opportunity for interaction. Students must complete two hours per week of online classroom time, in which Great Books are discussed using the Internet and live audio communication (allowing speeds as slow as a dial-up connection). In 2009-10, for instance, first-year classes are scheduled for Thursdays, 11:00-1:00 p.m. EST, and Fridays, 3:30-5:30 p.m. EST. Students meet in the online classrooms, may become friends through e-mail exchanges and sometimes meet at the end of the academic year or for graduation.
As noted earlier, students who complete the 48 credit hours with Angelicum can earn a degree from an accredited college in one-and-a-half to two-and-a-half years, assuming the Angelicum credits are accepted. As of August 2009 when this edition of The Newman Guide went to print, there were three colleges participating in the Universities of Western Civilization network, thereby guaranteeing acceptance of Angelicum credits toward graduation:
Campion College in Australia: One of the colleges profiled elsewhere in The Newman Guide, Campion is faithfully Catholic and provides a strong liberal arts education. Because the Campion bachelor’s program is only three years, students earning 48 credit hours through Angelicum can attend Campion for just one-and-a-half years to earn their degree in liberal arts (the only major at Campion). Students also have the option of taking online courses for one semester through Catholic Distance University (see below), earning additional credits accepted by Campion and requiring just one year of study at the college. Campion expects that all transferred credits will be completed before beginning the Campion portion of study, which requires attendance in Australia.
Catholic Distance University: Also profiled in The Newman Guide, CDU offers students the option of completing a theology degree (the only major offered) entirely online. According to its agreement with Angelicum, students can earn 48 credits through the Great Books Program online, complete 42 credit hours (about three semesters) online with Harrison Middleton University (see below), and complete 36 credit hours (about two semesters) online with Catholic Distance University. The courses from any institution can be taken simultaneously or in any order, as long as specific course prerequisites are met.
Harrison Middleton University: This accredited distance-learning university headquartered in Tempe, Arizona, and Chicago emphasizes study of the liberal arts and the Great Books, a good fit with the Angelicum program. It is not, however, a Catholic university, although it has a history of working with Catholic Distance University students to complete general education requirements. We have not reviewed HMU’s curriculum and academic quality; Catholic families should consider whether other fully Catholic options in the Universities of Western Civilization network and The Newman Guide are a better fit. HMU’s advantage is that it offers a variety of majors to Angelicum’s students, including humanities, imaginative literature, natural science, philosophy, social science and education. Students can earn a bachelor’s degree through HMU with 48 credit hours from Angelicum and another 72 credit hours (four to five semesters) from HMU, taken simultaneously or in any order, as long as specific course prerequisites are met.
The total cost for an undergraduate degree depends on the particular mix of institutions that a student chooses, but in every case the options available through the Universities of Western Civilization network are inexpensive because of the minimal or zero time spent living on a college campus. Angelicum estimates that in addition to its low fees, the total cost for a degree earned from Campion College or Catholic Distance University would be about $18,000, not including room, board and travel costs for Campion. The cost for a Harrison Middleton University degree would be about $16,400 in addition to Angelicum’s fees.
The Bottom Line
Families considering taking advantage of the Angelicum Great Books Program should be prepared to do a little extra homework and study the options and institutions. They should also carefully consider the cost and time implications of distance learning and how to provide for a student’s ongoing personal and spiritual development outside of a four-year campus experience.
Having done that, many students will find Angelicum enticing. It offers something entirely new to Catholic higher education: worldwide access to a relatively inexpensive, authentically Catholic, high-quality, liberal arts program that can be accessed from home and commenced during high school.
The Angelicum Great Books program deserves consideration especially by Catholic students interested in getting an early start on college-level work while high-school-age, completing a bachelor’s degree quickly or over an extended period of time, minimizing college costs, or experiencing study abroad in Australia without committing to three additional years at a traditional college.
Type of institution: Distance learning undergraduate program
Undergraduate enrollment: 105 (2008-09)
Undergraduate cost: $3,000 (tuition only 2009–10)
Undergraduate majors: None
Five Key Points
1. Online Catholic Great Books program including Socratic dialogue.
2. Earn up to 48 college credit hours toward an undergraduate degree.
3. Start earning college credits as early as age 14.
4. Very low cost relative to traditional colleges.
5. College network allows students to complete degree in as few as two years.