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Young entrepreneur crusades 
for low-cost college alternative

Grayson Marshall, shown in a screenshot from his Knockout College video, is marketing an online course to save college students thousands. Grayson Marshall, shown in a screenshot from his Knockout College video, is marketing an online course to save college students thousands.

Grayson Marshall, a fresh-faced 21-year-old with brown eyes and a thick shock of dark hair, believes student debt is a national crisis —an avoidable one at that.

“We don’t even trust students to rent a car but they can certainly sign up for monetary prison,” he says. He invites prospective college students to “imagine a future with zero debt,” one with more travel and vacations or the ability to start their own business.
The answer, he says in a video promotion, is testing out of college classes. He tells how to do that in a new online course, Knockout College. Marshall, who lives in Laurel Park with his family, earned 33 credit hours in 90 days. Western Carolina University, where he is a rising senior, accepted the credits toward his four-year degree, as more than 2,500 colleges would.
“That’s more than a year’s worth of classes,” he says in an earnest and upbeat video that promotes his new online course, Knockout College.
Marshall passed 11 tests to earn the 33 credit hours in three months for just $700. He lists other benefits, too. The courses are multiple choice, “one of the easiest kinds.” They’re pass-fail and don’t affect a student’s GPA. And, at $100-120, they cost a fraction of what college credit hours would cost in a brick-and-mortar classroom.
“In addition, I had the freedom to travel and work at the same time,” he says. “Now, I want to give other students the opportunity to do the same thing, and stay out student debt the way I did.”
In an interview, he says he flunked his first attempt at gaining cheap college credit.
“I went and took the test and I said, ‘Wow this is pretty rigorous.’ I went back and thought, ‘OK I gotta work for this,” he says. The secret, he says, was simple: discipline. (The online course provides more details on his study habits.)

Home-schooled

The Marshall family moved to Hendersonville from Mississippi eight years ago, when Dave Marshall took a job as executive pastor at First Baptist Church. Grayson has an older brother, Jamie, and younger brother, Brook. His mother is Susan Marshall.
His home-school education was “the majority mom, a little bit dad and some different homeschool groups,” he says. In fact, a home-school teacher turned him on to the testing out option.
Before he launched the online course, Marshall wrote Knock Out College: How I Did 33 College Credits in 90 Days for $700. Published last October, the book is $11.99 in paperback. He’s sold about 200. The online course, which just launched last month, has had a couple of buyers so far. Although the course retails for $250, Marshall offers a $50 discount with a coupon code. (Marshall offered to make one for Lightning readers. Type the code Lightning to get $50 off.)
He expects knockoutcollege.com to draw lots more traffic soon, thanks to a partnership arranged by Shark Tank judge and billionaire investor Mark Cuban. After Marshall wrote to Cuban about his idea, the investor hooked him up with a previous Shark Tank winner, Shaan Patel. Growing up in his parents’ urban motel and attending “inner-city public schools in the worst school district in the nation,” Patel used “focused preparation” to raise his SAT score “from average to perfect,” he says on his website. Patel was admitted to prestigious universities, won a quarter-million dollars in scholarships and ultimately monetized his successful life story with the company Prep Experts, which Cuban invested in. Prep Experts is an online service that coaches high school juniors and seniors in how to improve their SAT and ACT scores.
Marshall hasn’t given up on a Shark Tank appearance himself. He hopes to apply for a spot on the reality show, in which contestants pitch a business idea that rich investors buy into or reject.
After he receives his undergraduate degree from Western Carolina, he plans to enroll in its masters program in entrepreneurship. Besides testing out, he’s been taking his college courses on line while living at home in Laurel Park with his parents. That will change next month, when he plans to move to a house in Edneyville.
Asked what he expects to be doing five years from now, he says he’ll continue to crusade for avoiding student debt, hoping to help thousands, maybe tens of thousands, to a burden-free start of their 20s.
“I would love to turn the tide on student debt instead of having it grow,” he says. “There’s a new article on it every day. This is a real solution. This literally reduces the cost by 97-98 percent. It saves you a ton of time. This is just an easy solution to the debt crisis that’s been here for 30 years.”