At a church concert one evening, my husband met a young man who finished his bachelors degree with a total investment of $5,000! After learning a few snippets of his testimony, I determined to find out for myself how he and others like him are bypassing the traditional college expense or at least cutting it in half, and I'm not talking about scholarships and grants either! Below, I will share with you what I found out about "credit by examination" that I hope will help some families reduce their college expenses significantly. I'm not sure how long ago that young man graduated from college, but I wanted to share with you how some people are paying for college at only $10,000 to 25,000 total cost, depending on how much credits they can earn through testing.
The first component of the method is to prepare for and take standardized exams that prove you can place out of college level classes. Taking these exams cost only around $80 to $100 each, and there are exams that cover many many college courses.
The second component of the method is to enroll in a college that generously accepts these exams as proof of knowledge so they will give you viable credit (and some even grades) for taking them.
Test Replacements for College-Level Coursework
Below are a sampling of the standardized tests that have been approved for college level coursework standing by various colleges (it's important to check with the college of choice or find a college that accepts the tests you want to take).
- DSST or DANTES (38 courses)| http://www.getcollegecredit.com
- AP (30 courses)| http://www.collegeboard.com/student/testing/ap/about.html
- CLEP (33 courses)| http://www.collegeboard.com/student/testing/clep/about.html
- UExcel (6 courses)| http://www.uexceltest.com/exams/
- ECE (51 courses)| https://www.excelsior.edu/Excelsior_College/Excelsior_College_Examinations
- TECEP (21 courses)| http://www.tesc.edu/701.php
- ACE (board that approves other coursework for college credit) | http://www.acenet.edu/AM/Template.cfm?Section=CCRS
You do not have to take a formal class to sit for these exams. Depending on the exam, you may be able to get an adequate preparation just by reading a book or studying on your own. For disciplined students, studying for these exams may take only a fraction of the time they would spend in a traditional classroom for a fraction of the cost! Finish College Fast offers affordable study guides for the CLEP and DANTES exams.
Four Colleges That Allow A Lot of Transfer Credit Through Testing
For those who want to save as much as possible and do not have their hearts set on attending a particular college, there are four colleges that allow you to transfer in a maximum number of credits from exams, portfolio demonstration, etc., and they are Excelsior College, Thomas Edison State College, Charter Oak State College, and American Public University. Excelsior has a transcript service called a "credit bank", where they will review all of your exams and for some of the courses, they will assign grades to you and ultimately create a master transcript from their school citing all the transferable "classes". Ultimately, many colleges have programs where they will accept transfer credit from testing or challenge exams, but these three are the most generous in the number of credits they allow you to use up in this way.
These four above mentioned colleges are totally legitimate, regionally accredited institutions that are designed to fit the needs of really the older adult learner whose life experience has taught them enough that they should be able to test out of many lower level and some upper level subjects, thus allowing the adult learner (like military personnel) to finish their bachelor's degree without having to attend traditional or even distance classes. It's also designed for those who in their working field are taking employer based classes and want to demonstrate their knowledge so they can earn college credit for it (like in the nuclear industry). But homeschoolers and rising college students who are motivated can and do study on their own or with the help of inexpensive study programs and place out of a lot of coursework in order to save on the costs of college. A typical college course can cost around $350 per credit, with a typical class being worth 3 credits (total cost of over $1,000). Many of these placement exams only cost $85 and count towards the whole 3 credits for a class!
Two Programs To Help You Navigate the Alternative Bachelors Degree
There are special programs that assist adult and homeschooling learners to navigate and plan their bachelor's program in this way, and to prepare for these challenge examinations. Here are two of them.
Saving at a Mainstream College Through Testing
For those who have a particular college they would like to attend, keep in mind that many colleges accept a certain number of transfer credits by examination. For example, one of our local schools, MTSU, has a CLEP testing center and encourages students to save on college by placing out of up to 30 hours of college coursework. That's equivalent to your entire freshman year!
Belmont University will accept up to 24 hours worth of credit by examination, whether that be through CLEP, AP, or the IB program. If you are considering a community college first, they also accept credit by examination. For example, Columbia State Community College, one of our local schools, accepts up to 42 hours worth of external credit (external credit includes credit by examination programs as well as credit from other places)! It's important to check with each school you are interested in to find out how many credits they will allow you to test out of and for which classes you can obtain credit.
If in choosing a college, you are considering their tuition cost as well, you can search schools according to tuition on CollegeStats. This way, you can find schools with lower tuition and then research how much transfer credit they allow by examination to cut costs even further.
This young man that my husband met belongs to an accomplished family, whose father is a medical doctor, and the children are all musicians, self-taught, and have traveled the world. They took this interesting route to getting him a bachelor's degree with a total cost of only $5,000. I have read the testimonies of other kids doing this in high school. They finish high school early (I'm assuming they are homeschooled), and then they finish their bachelor's degree in only 2 years. By the time they are 17 or 18 years old, they are finished with college and have moved on to the professional working world or have entered graduate school or law school at only 18 years old!
With the ever rising costs of getting a bachelor's degree these days, this method to whatever degree one uses it makes total sense, even if only to place out of 1 or 2 years of college. Just add up the savings!
Inga Goodwin is the owner of Task Whiz Tutoring, an in home tutoring program for Nashville area families. She enjoys researching ways to make education affordable and accessible to everyone, not just in budget, but in learning differences and preferences. Learn more about our Nashville Tutor Service.