Three Ways to Earn College Credits for Less!
Grace Townsley | April 19th, 2021
With rising student debt levels quickly becoming a national crisis, many students are looking for ways to complete their college degree without being burdened by a decade, or more, of student loan payments.
That’s where these three alternative transfer credit options come in. While these methods may not suit every bachelor’s degree program or university, it’s worth talking to your college advisor to see if you can apply one or more of these methods to help reduce your need for loans.
Community College Transfer Credits
Earning college credits at your local community college may seem complicated, but the process is simple if you work with an academic advisor.
Once you have determined what university degree you want to earn, print out a copy of the full degree course list, including both core program requirements and the major coursework. The core requirements of your intended degree likely include classes like English Composition, College Algebra, History 101, and other basic courses known as General Education Requirements. These are the best courses to take at your local community college and transfer over to your university once you begin your degree program there.
If you are already attending a university, you’re still eligible to complete credits at your community college, either in-person or online if available.
While students are not able to use financial aid funding at two schools simultaneously, if you can afford to pay for your community college class out of pocket or by setting up a payment plan, you can attend both schools at the same time. This is especially helpful if your community college offers a condensed course over winter break or over the summer when your university classes are closed.
Average cost of a 3-credit class at a public university: $1,188
Average cost of a 3-credit class at a community college: $426
An alternative to completing classes at your local community college is taking online courses through Straighterline.
Straighterline partners with hundreds of universities so you can easily confirm which courses will transfer into your intended degree program. The classes are self-paced, meaning you can complete them as quickly or slowly as your schedule allows.
You will pay a monthly fee of $99 to have access to Straighterline, plus a fee of $59+ for each course you would like to complete, so for the best value, you will want to complete your classes within 1-3 months if possible.
Straighterline also offers free tutoring and guidance throughout your coursework.
While the first two alternate-credit options mentioned require you to complete coursework to earn credits, what if you could save time and tuition by proving you already know a college class subject?
College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) testing allows students to complete a subject-based test to demonstrate college-level knowledge on the topic.
If you earn a qualifying score on the test, you can transfer that result to your university and count it as 1-5 college credits, depending on the subject.
The subjects available include American history, biology, calculus, Spanish, French, German, microeconomics, and psychology, to name a few. Plus, if you don’t earn a qualifying score on your test, you can retake it after a short 3-month waiting period.
For students who excelled in junior and senior high school classes or who have job experience in a subject, CLEP testing can be the most cost and time-effective way to earn credits. There are over 30 test topics to choose from, starting at $89. Once you choose your test topics, there are free and paid study materials and videos to help you brush up on the subject prior to test day.
CLEP tests are administered in over 2,000 locations across the country and are accepted at over 2,500 different universities. While the tests are widely recognized, it’s always a good idea to confirm which subject tests your specific university will allow before you purchase them.
Your Key Takeaways
Before you start pursuing alternative transfer credits, talk to an advisor at the universities you are hoping to finish your bachelor’s degree with. You can ask them about their transfer credit policy, if they accept CLEP tests and Straighterline credits, and even get a list of required General Education and core courses for the degree you are considering.
Don’t want to talk to an advisor yet? Usually, these transfer credit policies can be found in the university policy handbook for the school you are considering. A quick search can guide you to this document on the school website.
Keep up the hard work! While completing transfer credits at your community college, Straighterline, or studying for your CLEP exam can be exhausting, don’t forget how much more freedom you will have once you graduate with your degree and less student debt. It will all be worth it in the end, and you will be so grateful that you put in the extra leg work to set yourself up for a better financial future.
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