College can be one of the biggest investments you will make in yourself and your children. If you take the time to plan and look at all your options for getting a college education at the best price, you will find you do not have to spend 10+ years paying off student loans.
There are several ways you can get free money for education as well as ways you can get college credit for very little cost.
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One of the most cost-effective ways of getting credit for college classes at minimal cost is with CLEP Exams.
CLEP (College-Level Examination Program) is a testing program that allows you to achieve college credit by attaining a qualifying score on an exam.
Over 2,900 colleges and universities accept CLEP as a way of earning credit for any of 33 entry level classes. CLEP exams can be taken at over 1800 test centers throughout the country. I took my tests on campus at the university’s own testing center.
If you are planning on attending a specific college or university, you will want to see which exams, if any they will accept in lieu of taking the class.
The university I attended accepted all 33 exams and also created additional exams for classes that were not part of CLEP. The college I attended felt students should be able to test out of additional classes.
Most of the CLEP exams consist of multiple choice questions. However, there are others tests that require students to fill in a numeric answer, shade an answer option, or order items correctly.
Some of the exams also require an essay. Language exams include a listening section. The test lasts 90 minutes and a score with a pass/fail is given at the completion of the exam.
What Are the Benefits of Taking CLEP Exams?
Students who used prior-learning assessments, on average, earn their degrees 2.5 – 10.1 months earlier than students who do not used prior-learning assessments (like CLEP). So, in a nutshell, using these tests to earn credits saves you time.
The huge benefit to taking CLEP exams is the money you save on tuition. If you are considering taking a class that is 4 credit hours and the school you are attending charges $250 per credit hour, you will save $1,000 dollars plus the cost of the text book needed for the class.
You will need to pay for the test ($87) and I recommend a CLEP study guide to prepare for the test (less than $50). So how does $135 sound compared to $1,000 plus $150 (approx.) cost for taking the classes. Your cost savings in this example is an estimated $1,000 per class.
Now think about what you would save if you did this 5 times or 10 times or more. I did it with 12 classes and the tuition at the university I attended was approximately $400 per credit hour.
An adult student who earns 15 CLEP credits to apply toward a degree could save nearly $5,000 at the average public 4-year institution and more than $17,000 at the average private nonprofit institution.
How to Get Started?
Almost all four year colleges require credit hours in humanities, sciences, basic English and mathematics. I would start with the test that fill the requirements for college classes you would take your freshman year, such as; English composition, humanities, introductory psychology and introductory sociology.
These classes will most likely work no matter what college major you choose.
What Is the Easiest CLEP Exam?
From personal experience, I would say the topics you already have knowledge of will be the easiest test to pass. The test I passed with the least amount of effort was Analyzing and Interpreting Literature. I went into the student center, spent an hour reviewing the study guide and took the test. One hour time = $1,600 saved.
Once you choose a major field of study, you can review the list of classes required to complete your degree. Then it is time to see what CLEP exams are available for the classes required to complete your degree.
If you take the summer off, this is a great time to grab a study guide or two and prepare for some exams. A motivated student should be able to take 5 or 6 exams in a 12-week period by studying an hour or two each day.
At the point in my life when I decided to finish my college degree, I just wanted to do it as quickly and cheaply as possible. The CLEP program was a huge part of both the cost and time savings in getting my degree.
CLEP tests will also limit the amount of time you have to spend outside the home in a classroom. With the cost of education today, CLEP exams as part of college education plan should really be a no-brainer.