Most college students and their parents are interested in ways to save money on tuition. College is expensive enough without paying for courses that you don't really need to take. That's why you should consider testing out of as many required courses as you can. Let's talk specifics below.
Benefits of Testing for College Credit
Compared to the average cost of a college course, which runs around $700, these tests are much cheaper, usually coming in under $100. Consequently, they are probably the single greatest way to lower the cost of education. This could result in a savings of hundreds of dollars per course and thousands per semester.
This may also be the most difficult way to save money on college, however, because it requires excellent study habits and time management skills. Depending on the degree plan, combination of accepted exams, and how many credits a school will accept a student to test out of (up to two years' worth of college courses and maybe more), you could considerably shorten the college experience.
Talk to Schools
There's no point in testing if the schools you're interested in don't accept the credits or if you won't be able to integrate them into your degree plan. Ask all prospective schools (even schools you plan on transferring to after community college) which exams are acceptable and what scores are necessary to earn credit. You should also ask what their maximum is for the number of exams that will be accepted for credit. Most of them place a cap, though as stated above, that cap can be pretty generous – up to two years.
Paths to Credit Through Testing
There are 4 paths to gain college credit through testing. The first is the AP Program® (also known as the Advanced Placement Program®), which is for students in high school only. Most colleges accept these exams for college credit, and there are 37 courses available, each with a test that goes with it. The exams are $92, and you can take as many as you like. You need to speak to an AP® Coordinator or college counselor if interested.
Second is the CLEP® (also known as the College-Level Examination Program®). More than 2,900 colleges accept these tests for credit. With 33 exams available, there is huge potential to reduce the cost of your education. Exams are $80 not including testing site fees.
Third is the The DSST (also known as the DANTES Subject Standardized Tests). They are accepted at more than 1,900 colleges. There are 34 exams available, and the cost of the exams is as low as $80, not including testing site fees.
Finally, UExcel (also known as the Excelsior College Examination Program) is not quite as widespread, but hundreds of colleges do still accept them for credit. There are 55 exams are available, and the cost varies widely, so ask a counselor about it.
Considering the opportunity to save money on these tests, it would be a shame not to try to cover at least some of your college requirements through testing. Doing so can minimize the time you spend paying college rates and can speed you on your way to an excellent career sooner than you thought possible.