Sources of Credit

From Degree Forum Wiki


The following are frequently cited as sources of credit for the Big 3 schools.

The following are frequently cited as sources of credit for the Big 3 schools. Because of the number of credit options available and the frequency at which credit-recommendations change or are updated, it is impossible to make this an exhaustive list of every option available, but these are some very common options we frequently discuss on the forum.

Please also see: Several Sources Of Cheap Credit and Free Sources of Credit

Note: Each school has its own academic transfer policies and you should confirm any choice of alternate credit with an advisor at your school.

Upper Level vs. Lower Level[edit]

In the tables below, some attempt has been made to list whether or not upper-level credits are available through a given institution. This does not guarantee that any UL courses will actually transfer as UL. Some schools may bring in certain UL credits as LL or vice-versa.

Credit by Exam[edit]

  • AP Exams (ACE-approved; available for high school students only; accepted by all of the Big 3 )
  • CLEP (College Level Examination Program; accepted by all of the Big 3 )
  • DSST (DANTES Standardized Subject Test; accepted by all of the Big 3)
  • NYU Foreign Language Proficiency Testing (up to 16 credits transfer to all of the Big 3)
  • TECEP (Thomas Edison Examination Program; accepted by all of the Big 3)
  • CSU Global (CSU Global's Self-Study Assessments program; accepted by all of the Big 3. Only available to CSU Global students and not to the general public.)
Name Cost per credit UL available? Type Description
CIS Testing $50 Yes NCCRS Some courses require assignments, others can be tested out with a single exam. No textbooks needed. $10 study guide can be purchased first or is included free with the exam purchase.
Coopersmith $50 Yes NCCRS Over 200 courses that test out with one exam, no textbooks needed. Great for UL credit. Interesting classes like Introduction to Beer and Beer Making, History or Sitcoms, History of Food Trucks
Coursera $0+ Maybe ACE Several Coursera certificates & specializations have been ACE-recommended for credit. These are worth between 2 and 12 credits. Cost varies depending on how long it takes to complete all requirements.
CSM Course $13 No ACE Accepted at a number of colleges for credit. Satisfies the Quantitative Reasoning general elective credit at TESU. Discount available on the homepage with a newsletter signup.
Davar Academy $17+ Yes NCCRS Courses that test out with one exam, $70 per course, $99 for two business courses
FEMA $0+ No FEMA Accepted by Excelsior with great hassle; must pay to have transcripted at Frederick Community College. Not accepted by TESU or by COSC.
Gateway Education $99+ No ACE $99/ month + $68 per course. 3 day full-refund policy. Put in the work & don't pass - you'll get a full refund.
Lost Tribes of Israel $100 Yes NCCRS A single course offered by TRIO (Theological Research Institute Online) that is recommended for UL history credit - cost is currently $300. $3 No NCCRS One exam that costs $9, no textbooks needed. US residents/citizens only. $133 No RA Various 3-credit courses for $400 transcribed at University of Pittsburgh.
Rechtschaffen Institute of Judaic Studies  ?? Yes NCCRS Various courses with a few counted as UL in history, religion, ethics, and political science.
Saylor $1.67 Yes ACE, NCCRS Courses that only cost $5 for proctored final exam. UL credit availability depends on transfer equivalencies. $6.60 No ACE Price-per-credit assumes 5 courses completed in a month. $99 per month for unlimited courses
Straighterline $26+ Yes ACE Price-per-credit assumes cost of 2 courses purchased with discount code + 1 month membership fee. ACE-approved courses with proctored final exams that transfer to many partner colleges, including all of the Big 3. $27+ Yes ACE, NCCRS Price-per-credit assumes 5 courses taken in a month. $33 per credit if only 2 courses taken.Courses have short videos with quizzes leading to a final exam, $200/month for 2 exams a month; $70 for additional exams. Also offer study videos for other exam options such as CLEP and DSST.
TEL Learning $67 No RA Middleman institution that offers 3-credit courses for $200 and 1-credit courses for $67; courses are transcribed at a regionally accredited institution that is chosen by you from a very small list. Some courses are worth 4 or 5 credits at a particular transcribing institution.
TEEX $0+ Yes ACE Free online courses in cybersecurity, see Free Sources of Credit for more info; also a good source of cheap credits for a Criminal Justice degree at TESU. $166+ Yes RA Various 3-credit college courses starting from $499 transcribed at University of Massachusetts Global

Other possible options:

  • Distance Learning: Community Colleges (take a class at your local or online CC, transfer it to the Big 3, as long as the CC is regionally accredited and the course is applicable to your degree plan)
  • Other courses that are reviewed and approved by ACE or NCCRS.

Military Service, Professional Licenses & Misc. Training[edit]

  • Military service and training can be worth ACE-approved college credit at many schools, including the Big 3 .  Click each branch's name for the link to where you'll be able to obtain your service transcript to submit to your school:  Air Force & Air National Guard, Army & Army National Guard, Coast Guard, Navy & Marine Corps
  • Professional licenses and certifications can be worth college credit at some schools.  Always check with your school's policies to see if they are accepted and how they will transfer in.  For Excelsior College check out this page; for Charter Oak State College click here; for Thomas Edison State University see this page.
  • In addition to various certifications being worth credit on their own merit at some institutions, many Microsoft exams are directly worth ACE credits.

Examples of Colleges Offering Distance Learning Courses[edit]

The following are commonly used for coursework credit that is then transferred into the Big 3.

Cost per credit does not include fees nor textbooks. Cost per credit also assumes out-of-state tuition. In-state tuition may be lower.

Name Cost per credit UL available? Description
Arizona State University Universal Learner $142 Yes $25 fee to take a class. If you like the grade, it costs $400 per course to register the course for credit. 20+ classes are available on a rotating basis. Textbooks not required. MS Office access required for some courses.
Bellevue College Distance Learners $291+ Yes - $113/credit lower level WA residents, $291/credit non-residents 1-10 credits and $220/credit upper level WA residents, $620/non-residents 1-10 credits. Other various fees apply. See tuition page for details.
Brigham Young University Independent Study $212 Yes No state residency requirement. Good selection of courses.
CalCampus $300+ Yes Cost varies depending on course; no state residency requirement.  Upper-Level credit. Accredited as a postsecondary institution but does not offer or hold accreditation to offer degrees, which might limit transferability.
Clovis Community College $111 No $44/credit in-district residents; $54/credit out of district residents; $111/credit non-resident. Additional per-course and per-credit fees may apply.
Coffeyville Community College $181 No International students pay more, Kansas residents pay less.
Diné College $55 Maybe $55/credit, as of August 2022. No residency requirements. Mostly lower-level courses.
eCore $159 No A consortium of colleges and universities in Georgia that offer core (gen ed) courses for $159/credit hour. Similar in concept to TEL Learning.
eMajor $199 Yes A consortium of colleges and universities in Georgia that offer AOS courses $199/credit hour. Similar in concept to TEL Learning.
Kentucky Community & Technical College System $627+ No Significantly lower tuition for Kentucky residents. - member ternzer "guinea pigged" this school and developed a full guide (click here ) on how to get the most out of KCTCS courses in the shortest time possible.
Louisiana State University Online Distance Learning $279 Yes Appears to require full admission before you are allowed to take courses.
Luna Community College $44 No Some students have reported difficulty registering here due to SARA agreements. Tuition increases significantly if you take more than 6 credits. Offers a non-degree seeking application.
New Mexico Junior College $89 No Good selection of courses.
University of Idaho Independent Study $160 Yes $30 fee per course, in addition to the cost-per-credit.
Waubonsee Community College $132 No Has Online (self-paced) and Sync Online (weekly meetings) courses. Various fees may apply. Huge variety of courses available, though some subjects may be a bit sparse.

Less commonly-cited sources[edit]

Name Cost per credit UL available? Description
Clackamas Community College $279 No Residents of Oregon, Idaho, California, Nevada, and Washington pay $113/credit. $11 technology fee per credit + $30 per term fee + variable per-course fee.
Colorado State University-Pueblo Independent Study $205 Yes No state residency requirement.
College of DuPage $138 No $57.50 internet fee. Surprising variety of classes.
DistanceCalculus @ Roger Williams University $433 Yes Offers complete calculus related courses, e.g. Calculus I and II, multivariable Calculus, Linear Algebra, Differential Equations, (calculus based) Probability Theory
East Tennesse State $100 No Free courses with letter of competition. University credit option with payment. Currently only offers Intro to Music and US History II.
Mesalands Community College $116 No NM residents $63/credit. Additional $30 distance education fee per course. Non-degree seeking students are not required to show proof of HS graduation or college transcripts.
Mississippi State University Distance learning $380 Yes No state residency requirement.
Navajo Technical Institute $142.50 Maybe Limited number of online courses available. Course numbers unclear; some may transfer as UL credits. Check with your institution. $35 online fee per course.
Oakton Community College $136.25 No Online & non-hybrid classes pay the same tuition fees as district residents. $25 application ($50 for international students). Simple application process for non-degree-seeking students.
Oregon State University eCampus $318 Yes Some classes are restricted, read the nondegree FAQ before attempting to register. Graduate credits are also available and start at $560/credit for nondegree students. Advanced language courses are available for students seeking UL foreign language credit.
Quincy College $229+ No Varying rates for different programs. No state residency requirement.
Rio Salado College $250 No No residency requirements for online courses. 48 times per year to register for courses.
Santa Fe Community College $61 No For out-of-state residents, the rate for 6 credits or less is $61/credit + fees, rate for 7 credits or more is $144/credit + fees. Remote proctoring fee $25
Seattle Central College $225.45 No Self-paced courses, some unique options. Cost is less for residents of Washington, more for International Students.
Sterling College Online $145 Yes Contact registrar to be allowed to take just a few courses. International students NOT currently allowed.
Tohono O’odham Community College $34.25 No Not all classes are online, but many are.
University of Alaska - Fairbanks Center for Distance Education $234+ Yes $234/credit at 100/200 level; $282/credit at 300/400 level; $513/credit at 500/600 level; No residency requirement and courses may be taken for a semester or through a whole year.
University of Arkansas Self-paced $135 Yes Tuition does not include $30 fees per credit hour. Being phased out, last day to enroll is June 13, 2023.
University of Mississippi Independent Study $363 Yes No residency requirement.
University of North Dakota Online $356 Yes Lower tuition may apply for residents.
University of Oklahoma Independent Study $232.85 Yes No state residency requirement.
Ohio State University Extended $382+ Yes Huge amount of online (not self-paced) options available. Read the FAQ page for full information on how to find & register for classes.
University of Florida Distance Learning $248 Yes? Short list of Flexible Learning (self-paced) courses available. No application required. Larger list of Online courses available, but tuition is significantly higher and a non-degree application is required.
University of Texas at Austin $283+ Yes Self-paced options ranging from $850 to $1100 per course. Some options may not be available anywhere else as a self-paced course.
Upper Iowa University $330+ Yes Online instructor-led courses $488/credit, self-paced courses $330/credit. See tuition & costs for details.
Western New Mexico University $352 Yes Online tuition & fees listed here. FAFSA eligible.
West Texas A&M Education on Demand
Different than TEEX
$233 Yes Short list of self-paced courses. Good number of UL Sociology credits. Per the FAQ, some courses do NOT have proctored exams; Chemistry & Math courses have 4 proctored exams.
Washtenaw Community College $224 No $95 or $164/credit for in-state residents, $224/credit for out-of-state residents & $268/credit for international students.
Western Washington University Online $272 Yes Some classes are available as self-paced options while others are term-based and only available at specific times of the year. Check the list of courses to find out when a course is available.
York College $350 Yes Appears to require full admission to take classes.  Class schedule may be difficult to decypher.

Obscure Credits[edit]

Sometimes, a degree requires that courses that are especially expensive or difficult to source. If you can't find what you're looking for elsewhere, check out this page of obscure credits. Some of the courses on that page may duplicate some of the courses listed above but an effort has been made to categorize them based on subject instead of simply by name/cost.

Prior Learning Assessment - PLA credit for what you know[edit]

a.k.a: Portfolio Challenge, Credit by Evaluation[edit]

What it is:[edit]

  • PLA is accredited college credit for college-level knowledge gained independently outside of the accredited academic environment that has not been specifically pre-evaluated by an acceptable credit review organization such as Ace, NCCRS, or your own institution.
  • Examples would include: On-the-job-training/experience(OJT), courses taken from non-accredited sources whether it be a non-accredited academic institution, open courseware (OCW or MOOC), continuing education, or independent study from tutors, mentors, and/or textbooks.
  • PLA can be documented through a narration summary of what you know, how you know it, and back-up evidence that it was you who gained the knowledge.
  • PLA credits are generally tied directly to a similar, by title and/or syllabi, accredited college course outcomes.
  • You demonstrate your knowledge by crafting a portfolio of documentation that is assessed by a subject matter competent reviewer that determines whether you have met the minimum proficiency level (grade C or better knowledge) of a specific college-level course.

What it is not:[edit]

  • You cannot earn PLA credit based on any length of time experience. E.g: You were secretary to a lawyer for over 5 years and experienced many legal issues.  The time is not important.  What academic legal knowledge that fulfills the outcomes of college-level courses can you demonstrate by documentation?
  • Because time experience alone has no theory/principles component of learning, you generally cannot earn PLA solely for general life experience or internships or practicums. (even though these might have an equivalent college course number, credit hours, and be required at some accredited institutions for certain majors).
  • PLAs are not graded credits and won't count in your overall GPA  So if you have GPA requirements over a certain number of hours credit, PLA won't fulfill your academic requirements.
  • PLA may not help you get into graduate school, earn a teacher's license, or qualify for another professional license except under certain circumstances. E.g: A portfolio/departmental test/audition (such as for studio and performing arts majors) or standardized tests (such as GRE, LSAT, Praxis, etc.) are the established practice for entry into your professional school or employment.
  • PLA is probably not the simplest nor easiest way to earn credit.  You can expect to spend as much as 35 hours with 10-30 pages for your portfolio narration,  You may spend weeks gaining evidence such as letters of recommendation, old photos, performance videos, etc

Who should consider PLA?[edit]

  • You want to complete your degree offline and there are no other options for certain required courses, or
  • Your college degree is a terminating event. I.e. you are sure that the degree you are pursuing is the last in your career plans, or
  • Earning your PLA will be faster/cheaper than other methods; e.g: credit-by-exam, online courses, etc, E.g: You have a lot of credits needed and you have a lot of potential PLA credit possibilities.
  • And you know for certain that your institution will accept specific PLAs into your degree plan - this is the root cause of most disappointing PLA experiences.  Verify with your enrolled advisor before spending any time and/or money on what you personally believe to be acceptable prior non-accredited learning

PLA FAQs[edit]

  • Does the college-level knowledge for a PLA have to be only in the past?
No, there is no reason you could not build your portfolio for your "prior learning" in parallel with your actual acquisition of it. In fact, this is the way to get the credits you need when there are no other options for you. Just be sure you complete the learning in the same time span as you get for taking the PLA course, which varies by the institution, or that you start the learning before registering for the PLA course. Never, never, use this method for critical degree requirements without first clearing your plan with your enrolled advisor!

FEMA Independent Study (limited utility)[edit]

Thomas Edison State University and Charter Oak State College no longer accept FEMA credits.

With some hassle and great expense, Excelsior College will take FEMA IS courses, but doing so is potentially cost-prohibitive.

Frederick Community College grants credits for some combinations of FEMA IS courses. The fees are around $90/credit, paid to transfer the courses to Federick Community College from FEMA.

The Federal Emergency Management Agency operates an online Independent Study program offering approximately 120 courses online for free.

See Federal Emergency Management Agency Independent Study Program for more information

Courses That Are NOT Accepted[edit]

Any course that is not from a regionally accredited school, or in the case of either ACE or NCCRS reviewed, limitations on the amount and/or type of credit accepted will probably be imposed.  This includes any course that provides "Continuing Education Units" (CEUs) for completion. There are occasional exceptions, however, so it can't hurt to ask a school adviser if you have a specific course that you feel strongly about because they will be greatly difficult or time-consuming to replace. For example, credit may be granted for some certifications. Also, there are limitations for the total number of credits accepted from Community Colleges; In the final analysis, the acceptance for credit by a receiving accredited institution is completely at their policy discretion

See also[edit]