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StraighterLine Logo.png
Baltimore, MD & Online
United States
Funding type Commercial
Motto "The shortest distance between you and your degree."
Founded 2008
Founder Burck Smith (CEO)
Language American English
School fees $99 monthly subscription

StraighterLine is a U.S. educational company that offers low-price, online higher education courses that are equivalent to general courses required for a bachelor's degree. The American Council On Education’s College Credit Recommendation Service (ACE CREDIT) has evaluated and recommended college credit for StraighterLine courses.[SL 1] The company is itself unaccredited, but has partnerships with a number of accredited colleges and universities that accept its courses for credit.[1]


The company primarily offers McGraw-Hill course content delivered via a Moodle learning management system, very similar to the delivery model used by many online colleges and universities.[2] StraighterLine offers the students the ability to take any number of online college courses for $99 a month plus $49 a course, or ten courses (marketed as the equivalent of an entire freshman year) for $1299. Straighterline requires proctoring for a course final exam (included in the cost of enrollment).

StraighterLine offers more than 60 college courses as of December, 2014. [SL 2] 38 tests through Excelsior College Exams are also available through StraighterLine for college credit. [SL 3]

Recently the company announced strategic partnerships with the Educational Testing Service and the makers of the Collegiate Learning Assessment, as part of a plan to expand into offering validated tests from leading educational organizations.[3]

Professor Direct[edit]

StraighterLine launched professor led courses in December, 2012.[4] Professor Direct allows professors to set their own premiums on courses, charging any amount of their choosing per student.[5] This is the first time a business or school has allowed professors to set their own prices for courses that lead to college credit.[6] Students can choose between 8 or 15 week cohorts, or self-paced formats. At time of launch StraighterLine had 15 professors with masters or doctorate degrees.[SL 4]


The school began operations in 2009 and reported serving more than 4,000 students through 2011. [SL 5]


The company was founded in 2008 as a division of Smarthinking, Inc., an online tutoring provider, and was spun out in 2010, shortly before Smarthinking was acquired by Pearson PLC. In 2011, the company was named one of "The 10 Most Innovative Companies in Education" by Fast Company (magazine).[7] StraighterLine has had multiple rounds of investment, and in April 2012 received a 10-million dollar investment. Investors include: FirstMark Capital, City Light Capital, and Chrysalis Ventures.

The company is growing rapidly, in January 2012 StraighterLine was at 11 employees, by July 2012 it was at 22.[8]


Burck Smith is the CEO and founder of StraighterLine. Ten years before launching StraighterLine in 2009, he co-founded SMARTHINKING, the largest online tutoring provider for schools and colleges.[SL 6]


Courses such as Straighterline are highly controversial with educators. Professors at Northern Virginia Community College, one of the schools involved with Straighterline, have voiced their objections to their administrators, citing lack of standards and rigor for testing.[citation needed] Additionally, complaints from students whose credits from courses they completed did not transfer to degree-granting institutions have been registered in online reviews and with the BBB. [9] Regional accreditation is more common among 4-year and degree-granting institutions, and because StraigherLine is nationally (ACE accreditation) and not regionally accredited, there is often difficulty in transferring courses for credit at regionally-accredited, degree-granting institutions, despite their relationship with the ACE credit program.[10]


  1. ^ Jon Marcus "Online course start-ups offer virtually free college" The Washington Post January 21, 2012 [1]
  2. ^ Tamar Lewin "A Way to Speed the Pace" New York Times August 25, 2011 [2]
  3. ^ Tom Ewing, ETS Press Release "ETS and StraighterLine Broaden Access to Student Data Through MyData Button Initiative" Educational Testing Service January 19, 2012 [3]
  4. ^ Paul Fain, Inside Higher Ed "Freelance Professors" Inside Higher Ed December 14, 2012 [4]
  5. ^ Jeffrey R. Young, The Chronicle "New Platform Lets Professors Set Prices for Their Online Courses" The Chronicle December 12, 2012 [5]
  6. ^ Fast Company "An eBay For Professors To Sell College Courses Directly To Students" Fast Company December 12, 2012 [6]
  7. ^ Anya Kamenetz "The 10 Most Innovative Companies in Education" Fast Company (magazine) March 15, 2011 [7]
  8. ^ StraighterLine Expansion
  9. ^
  10. ^ personal experience
  1. ^ StraighterLine - About Us [8]
  2. ^ StraighterLine - Course List [9]
  3. ^ StraighterLine - Test List [10]
  4. ^ StraighterLine - Professor Direct [11]
  5. ^ StraighterLine - Partner Colleges [12]
  6. ^ About Us [13]

External links[edit]