Save money with CLEP and AP

For most children, K-12 education is geared around seat time: Only after you put in the requisite number of days for the required numbers of years do you get your diploma, and then, perhaps, you move onto college.

What if we collapse that whole approach–or at least make an alternative available to willing students–by basing progress on performance rather than time in school?

A friend pointed me to College Plus!, which bills itself as “a revolutionary Christian based distance learning program helping students earn their fully accredited bachelor’s degree in a fraction of the time and cost of the traditional university system.” It claims that “CollegePlus! students typically finish their fully accredited degrees in two years or less.” (I’m guessing there are similar, non-religious resources out there; I mention College Plus because that’s the resource I stumbled upon.)

That, in turn, could mean a significant savings in tuition and the opportunity cost of spending four (or five or six) years in college. College Plus! says that it could cost a student $15,000 for an entire degree–which is a bargain, compared with the conventional approach.

The company makes it money by offering coaching services. Students earn their college credits through DANTES (limited to people with an affiliation with the U.S. Department of Defense) and CLEP.

CLEP, or the College-level examination program, offers (at the moment) 33 different exams for which students can earn college credit at participating institutions. The cost of a test is $77, which is about the going rate for a single textbook these days, to say nothing of tuition. CLEP is a service of the College Board, which administers the SAT, an admissions test commonly used, especially on the East Coast. You can purchase study guides for each test from the board.

DSST, meanwhile, “allows you to receive college credits for learning acquired outside the traditional classroom perhaps from reading, on-the-job training, or independent study.” It says that “almost 2,000” colleges grant credit to people who pass one or more of its 38 tests, which cost $80.

And many students now take advantage of Advanced Placement, which, like CLEP, is offered by the College Board. It administers 30 different tests. Students take a class and then a test, with a successful score leading to college credit. Most students take an AP class through the public school system (either traditional schools or an online charter or state school), but if you’re willing to part with some cash, you can take take an AP test after doing some independent study. The College Board offers some sample questions and topic outlines.

Under the right conditions, your family could save a lot of money–and your child could be spared tens of thousands of dollars of debt in student loans–by some advanced planning.

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  • Gerri  On August 10, 2010 at 4:18 pm

    Great article. I can personally vouch for CLEP and the credit by exam method of earning college credit hours. Take CLEP exams has saved me a small fortune.

    And it’s also great you mention CollegePlus! They are a wonderful program for students who want to earn a degree but avoid the trappings of the fractured college system. CollegePlus! is a wonderful option for students.

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