The Ignatius-Angelicum Liberal Studies Program (LSP) is an online liberal arts program offering courses for all grade levels. At the college level, courses can often be applied toward a bachelor’s, master’s, or doctoral degree, especially through one of the colleges that have agreements with the LSP.
The LSP is actually a compilation of three programs at different levels, beginning with the Angelicum Academy for elementary and secondary homeschooled students, and leading into the Angelicum Great Books Program (high school and undergraduate college) and the Adler-Aquinas Institute (undergraduate and graduate). Students can join the LSP at any level.
Launched in the year 2000, the Great Books Program was inspired by the late Dr. Mortimer Adler, who advocated the “great books” approach to education that is used in dozens of liberal arts colleges and universities. But Adler hoped to see the study of these important Western texts in high school, so founders Patrick Carmack, J.D., and Dr. Peter Redpath of St. John’s University in New York developed an online program. Now partnered with Ignatius Press and its editor Father Joseph Fessio, S.J.—a former student of Pope Benedict XVI and chancellor of Ave Maria University—the program now has more than 300 students taking its online courses, and students have come from more than 40 countries.
The Great Books curriculum involves reading all or part of a Great Book each week and meeting online for a two-hour Socratic discussion. The discussions are live and conversational, usually including between 15 and 22 students from around the world. Experienced teachers, many of them Catholic university professors, moderate the sessions. Students working for college credit also submit weekly essays.
The Great Books Program’s undergraduate-level courses can count toward a degree program elsewhere. Graduates have attended numerous colleges and universities, with LSP courses accepted for as many as 48 college credits (about one and a half years of college). The American Council on Education has formally recommended that its more than 2,000 affiliated colleges and universities accept six credit hours per semester of the eight-semester Great Books Program for college level credit.
While there are limitations to an online program, Catholic families may find much to admire in a classical Catholic curriculum that allows students to stay home at a very low cost. The Angelicum Great Books Program tuition of $1,495 per semester or $2,950 per year for college-level credit has not changed in 13 years, and Angelicum offers discounts for early enrollment.
The LSP’s new Adler-Aquinas Institute (adler-aquinasinstitute.org) offers college-level courses in philosophy and theology developed by Catholic professors including Fr. Fessio and Dr. Redpath. The courses can be applied to undergraduate and graduate degrees, offered in association with affiliated colleges and universities. The undergraduate courses cost $250 per credit hour, master’s level courses $300, and doctoral level $350, with some additional fees—much less expensive than most brick-and-mortar colleges.
Fr. Fessio serves as chancellor of the LSP, and the president is attorney Carmack, who participated in Dr. Adler’s last several Socratic discussion groups in 1999 and 2000. Carmack’s varied background includes 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. Dr. Redpath, a respected Thomas philosopher, chairs the Angelicum portion of the program and directs the Great Books Program.
The Angelicum portion was formally recognized as a Catholic educational program by Bishop Michael Sheridan of Colorado Springs, Colorado, in June 2009.
Adler believed that conversation (the dialectic) aims at teaching students how to think critically and thus attain wisdom, as opposed to a monologue (such as a lecture), which tends to result in indoctrination and mere memorization. In Reforming Education, written in the 1940s, Adler already saw that many Catholic schools were losing their way and following the path of public institutions.
Taking a different path, students in the Angelicum Great Books Program start with the ancient Greeks the first year, followed by the ancient Romans, the Medievals, and the Moderns. Students are exposed to 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, Shakespeare’s great plays, 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, and St. John of the Cross’ Dark Night of the Soul.
The readings are accompanied by more than 2,300 pages of study guides by Dr. Robert and Suzanne Alexander, edited by author Joseph Pearce and Thomist philosophers to provide a Catholic understanding. Carmack estimates that students will read about 45-60 minutes a night for four or five nights a week, depending on the reader.
In 2012-13, four identical first-year classes are scheduled Wednesdays and Thursdays at different times of day. Although the program is online, there is opportunity for interaction. Students meet in the online classrooms, may become friends through e-mail exchanges, and sometimes meet during or at the end of the academic year.
Students who complete the 48 credit hours with Angelicum can earn a degree from an accredited college in an additional one-and-a-half to two-and-a-half years, assuming Angelicum credits are accepted. LSP has degree-completion agreements with Benedictine College, Campion College in Australia, Catholic Distance University, and Harrison Middleton University, an accredited distance-learning university that emphasizes the liberal arts and the Great Books but is not Catholic. Although many colleges accept ACE-recommended credits, not all do; students should inquire with colleges they may be considering.
Students who start Angelicum’s program after high school will need four years to complete 48 credit hours. But some colleges—including Catholic Distance University—allow students to take Angelicum courses at the same time or even after their own courses. 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 Bottom Line
Families considering taking advantage of the Ignatius-Angelicum Liberal Studies Program or any part of it 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 the Ignatius-Angelicum Liberal Studies Program enticing. It offers something unique in 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 years.