no, the colledge way of studying means that you pay for tuition.
it's possible to get/gather the correct information independantly of a sylabus.
the 2003 exam guide will be a good place to start and lets you know the kind of questions that would be asked.
when I was thinking of taking these I aquired via free cycle teaching notes for the big compTIA exams (A+ linux+ network+) though upon reading them thought that the test wouldn't be easy, but wouldn't be much of a challenge either.
to take the test on it's own in the UK at a prometric centre, (the same ones that driving tests are taken at) costs, I think £112
that's the US prices.
also that site (the comptia site) you can download sample questions etc to revise for the exam.
Basically, no those sites are not a rip off, you can take the exams independantly of any college,
and for a $900 saving, I'd really recomend that you did!