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Starting College With Credits

*This post was originally published on September 24th, 2015, on the Oregon Tutor Wordpress Blog*

Many parents are excited to see their students enroll in college and start working toward achieving their degree. Most, however, are not excited for the cost that comes with that! College has risen in cost drastically over the last decade, and the more credits you need the longer you can expect to be enrolled and thus the more tuition you would expect to pay. Luckily for parents concerned about their finances, many students manage to start college already having earned college credit! How do they do this?

High school students in Lane County have more options than ever when it comes to earning college credits. There are AP tests, CLEP tests, IB tests, and College Now courses. If you haven't heard of some of these, or you are thinking, "How could I possibly figure out which one is right for my student?!", don't worry! You are not alone! Many parents have trouble wading through the acronyms and figuring out what they are enrolling their students in. In this post we will break down two of these programs, AP and CLEP, and see how they could help your student earn college credits without having to pay full tuition for them.


AP Tests

Advanced Placement Tests, or AP tests, are administered in May. They are taken by high school students of any level, generally by students who are enrolled in a specific AP course designed to prepare them for the test.

There are a wide variety of AP tests available, from European History to Calculus, so students are able to choose topics that resonate with them, or ones they want to avoid having to take in college! A full list of AP tests available can be found here.

It is also important to note that a student does not have to take the corresponding AP class in order to register for and take the AP test, although studying independently for an AP test in addition to a full course load is difficult and time-consuming, so you should seriously consider the work involved before choosing to skip the class and take the test.

The amount of credit you get for an AP test varies by college, and is also affected by your score. AP tests are scored with a maximum of 5 points. Most tests consider a score of 3 to be passing, but many colleges either require a 4 or higher or will award more credits for a higher score. For example, at Southern Oregon University a score of 3 on the AP Calculus AB test will earn your student 4 credits, but a score of 4 or more earns 8 credits. Lane Community College awards 5 credits for a 3 on the test and 10 credits for a 4 or greater.

AP tests cost $92 each, which is still a significant savings over paying for the credits. The University of Oregon lists their tuition at $189 per credit hour, so to earn the 12 credits that a score of 4 would get you on the AP Biology test would cost $2,268.

College Board, the organization which administers the AP tests, provides a handy timeline for students interested in registering for AP tests.

CLEP Tests

CLEP, or College-Level Examination Program, is also administered by College Board. These tests do not correspond to a high school course, but rather serve as a way of demonstrating existing knowledge in order to fulfill college requirements and receive credit. The College Board website provides a listing of the CLEP tests available. Studying for the CLEP test is usually done independently, though an experienced tutor can offer guidance and assist with practice problems.

Depending on the college, students may be eligible to earn a substantial number of credits for completing CLEP tests with a passing score. For example, Portland State University offers students with a score of at least 50 on their American Government test 8 units of credit, satisfying two courses they might otherwise have to take.

One advantage of CLEP testing is that current college students can take advantage of it. Where AP tests are focused on high school students, CLEP tests are for currently enrolled college students, returning students, and even include special funding for military personnel. CLEP testing is not administered on a specific day, but rather by individual testing centers. For Eugene and Springfield students there is a testing center at the University of Oregon. According to the College Board website the CLEP tests are $80 each, which is a steep discount from the corresponding college tuition, as well as slightly less expensive than AP tests.

What Does This Mean for My Student?

As we discussed, different colleges award different credit based on scores for alternative credit tests. Here are some resources for determining how several Oregon schools award this credit: University of Oregon, Oregon State, Portland State, and Lane Community College.

One important thing to consider when deciding what tests to take, especially for a high school student, is what colleges the student is interested in attending. Most schools will have the AP and CLEP credit award listing on their website, and if they do not then contacting an admissions counselor would be a good step to take. The student must also then consider how their intended major fits and their skills fit into the test offerings. For example, a student who wanted to attend PSU and had done well in pre-calculus, but did not have the time in their schedule to take the AP Calculus class, would benefit from taking the College Algebra CLEP at PSU and getting credit for Math 111. This would especially be true if the student did not have an interest in pursuing a math-intensive major and simply wanted to fulfill the requirement for their degree. On the other hand, a student who loved history would do better to take the AP European History class with a chance of earning up to 8 credits for the AP test, rather than the 2 credits available for completing the Western Civilization CLEP test. Every situation is different, and we at Oregon Tutor are always willing to help our students look through the options available for their schools so they can make a choice that will benefit them in the long run.

College is an exciting time for a student, and you can help make it less financially taxing by taking advantage of the programs available. Come see us at Oregon Tutor if you have any questions about AP or CLEP programs, or to learn how we can help support your student as they work towards earning credits.

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