An unusual bill that would allow an online college based in Nashua called Signum University to grant degrees, many for majors that are heavy on fantasy literature such as “Lord of the Rings”, will likely go before the N.H. House of Representatives later this week. But it has to overcome a negative review from the body’s education committee.
I wrote about the college a year ago – the article is here. It was founded by a former professor, Corey Olsen, who had garnered a large online following from his podcast about Tolkien’s work. He founded Signum University eight years ago (the name is from the Latin word for a sign or a portent) and based it in New Hampshire because he had moved to Hollis.
Signum offers masters-level classes in a few very select topics, with an emphasis on fantasy and science fiction and on Medieval works, as well as some old European languages and philology, the study of how language develops.
It also offers classes on literary antecedents to Harry Potter, literary successors to Sherlock Holmes, and such audience pleasers as Germanic philology, “Beowulf” and Medieval Scandinavian languages.
“Old Norse is selling like hotcakes – people love Old Norse,” Corey Olsen said. “I think it’s safe to say we are the only place where our German philology program is growing.”
Getting degree-granting approval from New Hampshire would let the school seek accreditation from the New England Association of Schools and Colleges. That would make its courses far more valuable since they could be used for academic credit at other schools and, more importantly, let students get federal student loans.
Back in October, the House Education Committee said by a 10-8 vote that the full House should reject the bill, not because they don’t like hobbits but because “the applicant’s non-profit 501(c)(3) status is inconsistent with the objection to accept federal student financial aid, especially if the applicant expands the program to offer undergraduate degrees in the future.”
“the applicant’s non-profit 501(c)(3) status is inconsistent with the objection to accept federal student financial aid, especially if the applicant expands the program to offer undergraduate degrees in the future”
Why? They wouldn’t be the only institution to forgo participation in federal financial aid programs.
Well, that was pretty stupid of me. I have fixed it.
Signum offers exactly the type of liberal arts educational opportunities many people want and need. It is extremely affordable, has excellent teachers (well recognized in their fields), and has a flexible remote-learning setup that fits people already working full-time or in odd time zones. I am biased, as I am taking classes there, but I can tell you that it is a serious endeavor, not just a center of fandom, despite the world Tolkien appearing. Try their Old English / Anglo-Saxon language class sometime if you don’t believe me (it just about twisted my brain into knots for months).
I do believe that when the legislature takes a close look at the program representatives of all stripes will recognize this is truly a good program and get it approved. NH could not only serve its residents but establish itself as a progressive force for educational good by embracing this type or organization.
As a Signum alumna, I have turned to teaching in our NH community college system and created WriterSpace, a collaborative idea which USNews and World report finds to e a reason that New Hampshire is a great place to live (https://www.usnews.com/news/best-states/new-hampshire/articles/2019-12-03/professor-hosts-writing-sessions-in-downtown-lebanon-space). I am passing on Signum’s values of accessibility and world-class education to my community.
Signum is a non-profit institution with no buildings, grounds, and heating costs; it therefore has very, very low tuition costs ($675 per 3-credit course toward the MA), a very generous work-study program, and financial aid is not needed by students.
The Department of Education’s Higher Ed Commission gave the University a hearty thumbs up in August of 2018.
It is my earnest hope that the Education Committee will consider new information and find a path to recommending Signum’s approval by the Legislature.
Thanks in advance for the hard work of all who have and who will supported Signum University.
NOT money well spent in my experience