Graduating Debt-Free: Earning Credit with CLEP Exams Save Time. Save Money. Earn Credits with CLEP.

This article was brought to us by the College Board.

Matt Frame’s parents didn’t want him to graduate from college with mounds of debt, so they encouraged him to start earning credit, inexpensively, while still in high school. Matt soon learned about the College-Level Examination Program® (CLEP®) and how earning a passing score on a CLEP exam could earn him 3 or more credits.

“My parents first brought CLEP to me as a way to save for college, which I think it’s a concern that most people have,” said Matt.  “I really wanted a good education and an accredited degree that would ultimately help me get a job, but I couldn’t do that if I had tens of thousands of dollars of debt.”

He ended up taking 17 CLEP exams, earning 66 credits, and spending just $6,000 to get his bachelor’s degree, which he was able to pay with a part-time retail job.

After earning his BA in history by the age of 18, Matt went on to earn a master’s degree. He was then able to live and work in Washington, D.C., for two years. Today, he is now enrolled as a law student at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Minnesota.

“[CLEP] allowed me to define my own college experience and really take on opportunities that wouldn’t have been available to me,” said Matt.

For 50 years, CLEP exams have been helping students like Matt earn credit for what they’ve already learned, saving students’ time and money toward a college degree. CLEP is based on the premise that some individuals enrolling in college have already mastered content taught in college courses through independent reading and study, online courseware or textbooks, noncredit courses, and advanced high school courses.

With a qualifying score on a CLEP exam, a student can earn 3 or more credits, and there are currently 2,900 colleges and universities that award credit for CLEP. Exams are offered in 33 introduction-level college subject areas. They are computer-based, multiple-choice, 90-minute exams that you can take on your own schedule at a testing center near you.

Why Take CLEP Exams?

If you’re planning to go to college, CLEP can help you save money and time. And you may already have the right knowledge and skills. More than 60% of CLEP test takers said that they relied on their high school coursework to learn the material needed for their CLEP exam(s).

Get College Credit

You can earn 3 or more credits for each CLEP exam you pass. The amount of credit you can earn varies by college, so be sure to check your institution’s policy.

Save Money

If you earn college credit by taking a CLEP exam, you can save thousands of dollars in tuition expenses, student-loan fees, and book costs. A CLEP exam costs only $80, while the average cost of a college course is more than $900.

Save Time

CLEP credits make it possible for you to place out of required introductory college classes and jump right into more challenging advanced courses. Placing out of required or elective classes can also free up time in college for you to do things like:

  • Take other classes in areas of interest.
  • Take on a double major or a minor area of specialization.
  • Experience studying abroad.
  • Participate in an internship or co-op work program.

Graduate on Time or Early

CLEP is a time-saving way to earn a degree. CLEP students pursuing a bachelor’s degree cut the time it took to graduate by 2½ to 10 months.

Which CLEP Exams Do Colleges Accept?

Colleges’ CLEP policies differ. Different colleges grant credit for different exams. Also, a college often grants the same amount of credit to students who earn satisfactory scores on the CLEP exam as it grants to students who successfully complete the related course. Use College Search or a college’s official website to research the policy of a college you’re interested in.

Where Can I Learn More?

Check out these resources:

  • For more information about CLEP, visit the CLEP website (www.collegeboard.org/clep)
  • Get started and learn more about how to register for a CLEP exam.
  • Watch Matthew Frame’s webcast to learn more about his experience with CLEP exams.