So Calabro conceived Kensington's "accelerated" approach for working adults. Or as he once said in an interview, "A guy who is selling polyurethane parts doesn't have to take a foreign language to graduate."
To its current 650 enrollees, Kensington offers no classes in foreign languages, music, the arts or other academic froufrou--just the basics of business, law, education and psychology, among other disciplines that lead more directly to jobs. Tuition ranges from $2,900 to nearly $4,500 for entire degree programs. The school claims more than 7,000 graduates.
The school took in about $1.2 million in tuition and reported a $25,000 profit for the 12-month period ending in early 1994, according to its most recent financial disclosure report to the state. Most of the faculty members work part time and hold other jobs, grading their students' work at home.
"Admittedly Kensington is not the ideal," said Garnet Birch, an education consultant and former college administrator who works as a Kensington instructor.
"But it really does meet a need for students who are trying not to beat the system, but to fulfill their professional and personal goals in a manner the traditional systems do not provide," said Birch, who regularly talks to his students by telephone from his home in Temecula.
The spread of cable television-based instruction, two-way video conferencing and the Internet has made classroom attendance less crucial. The dividing line separating schools such as Kensington from Cal State branches, for example, has become blurred. However, other nontraditional and high-tech programs around the country do provide that human contact that Kensington lacks.
Penn State University and the University of Iowa have begun a joint program in which students can obtain undergraduate degrees through independent study at home. Thomas Edison State College, in New Jersey, is a leader in so-called distance learning. All three schools, however, maintain some level of student-faculty interaction.