CLEPing your credits: The College-Level Examination Program is one way to earn college credit


Jared Todd

Zach Voi, senior, studies using a practice test in preparation for a test.

Lucy Cave, Copy Editor

With college costs at all time high, students have found ways to try and avoid that debt. They throw themselves at scholarships and AP classes to try and save as much money as they can. Although, many students don’t know about CLEP, so many aren’t taking advantage of it.
CLEP stands for College-Level Examination Program. Through CLEP, students can take a variety of exams to try and get some credit through the knowledge they already have. This can be helpful if a student is good at a particular subject, or they have a certain niche.
The test process is simple. Your score is converted to a scaled score that ranges from 20, the lowest, to 80, the highest. The final scaled score is the score that appears on your score report.
“[First,] students take CLEP tests in the areas they believe they can pass,” Academic Dean of Baptist Bible College Terry Allcorn said. “Students list the college or colleges they want to attend as the place they want their test scores sent. If the student scores high enough, the college will add these classes to the student’s transcript. The test score required is usually a score of 50, but this score is not a percentage.”
CLEP test centers are located at colleges and universities, independent testing organizations, military bases and high schools. There is a test center that is available for everyone.
“Most universities use their testing centers, but I know that for Spanish at Missouri State you can actually take the test from home,” Spanish teacher Ashley Dense said.
The process is overall to save time and money for the student. Each test is about $89. This is comparable to the average college hour, which is about $594.
“It saves time and money,” Dense said. “When you are wanting to work toward a degree, saving time and money is huge. Why waste time and money learning something that you already know?”
Students can knock out several classes with this test.
“One of our Spanish teachers here tested out of 5 college Spanish classes,” Dense said. “With college classes costing as much as they do now, you are literally saving thousands of dollars and getting your degree faster. Skipping four or five classes is like getting an entire semester of college for free.”
It is also extremely helpful if the class isn’t already offered as an AP class. This includes really specific classes that one might have a special skill. If someone took business classes in high school, they could take tests like financial accounting, information systems, introductory business law, principles of management and principles of marketing. There are also tests for just basic core classes such as biology, calculus, chemistry, college algebra, college mathematics, natural sciences and precalculus.
Mostly foreign language students take advantage of this opportunity.
“Basically, you take a placement test for the subject that you are trying to test out of,” Dense said. “So for example, I have a student that took through Spanish 3 and was able to test out of three Spanish college level Spanish classes and get placed at a much higher level. She wants to either minor or major in Spanish, so she was able to skip a few classes rather than pay to learn information that she already learned in high school for free.”
CLEP can be different from other forms of obtaining college credit because it is based on things you have already learned and know.
“It is a placement test,” senior counselor Scott Robinson said. “It shows your mastery at different levels. A student can see their score, and depending on how high they are at, they can get credit for classes and not have to take those classes.”
CLEP tests also help reduce college debt. It is taken more often by students who don’t want to sit in a class to learn material they have already mastered. The amount of financial benefit by taking CLEP tests depends on the tuition schedule of a college.
“Most colleges charge tuition by credits taken,” Allcorn said. “Some colleges use a block tuition model for billing students. In this system, colleges usually charge the same amount of tuition for 12 to 18 credit hours. In this method, financial benefit for taking CLEP tests is not as great as with per credit hour methods of tuition billing.”
CLEP is helping students avoid college debt, which is a huge problem for many students.
“Uncontrolled debt of any kind is a real problem,” Allcorn said. “High college debt causes serious problems in several ways. College debt may limit a student’s ability to transfer to another college or attend graduate school. If a college accepts a student with a large amount of student debt and that student defaults on his or her debt, the default rate for the last college attended is the college that is affected negatively. People with higher amounts of student loans often find it hard to become debt free.”
Debt can also cause problems with one’s personal lives.
“High debt can cause anxiety and strain on personal relationships, on couples as they want to have children, and on people as they try to purchase their first home,” Allcorn said. “I know of students that have more student debt than I have paid for my house. I have friends that have still been paying on student debt when they were over 50. Even with these potential problems, a college degree usually leads to greater earning potential, so some debt is acceptable.”
There are many variables that have led to the increase of college debt in this decade
“The most obvious [factor] is that college costs have risen at a higher rate than the Federal Pell grant,” Allcorn said. “Another prominent factor is the amount of money that students request in loans. There is a maximum amount, determined by class standing, which a student can request when applying for Federal loans. One of the problems is that many, and probably most of our students apply for the maximum amount allowed rather than just the amount they need. Most students should try to work a part time job, live within their means, and take out less in loans. I believe another problem is that fewer parents are financially able to help their children.”
One of the most important things students should be aware of are the many ways they can be prepared for college.
“Sometimes I don’t think students are really aware of what it means to take out a student loan,” Dense said. “A lot of the time students are desperate to find a way to pay for their classes and don’t have another option. Over the course of four years, the money adds up quick and can leave students in a pretty ugly situation post-graduation. With the cost of college constantly rising, more students are having to take out more loans, and more students are finding themselves in this situation. Students need to make educated financial decisions before they even get to college.”
One of the most important things
students should be aware of are the many ways they can be prepared for college.
“Students need to make educated financial decisions before they even get to college,” Dense said.