Completing a college degree can be very expensive and time consuming. There are other options, however, for those who have previous coursework or previous real-world experience. Alternative credits are offered to students who may have the knowledge, skills, or abilities to surpass the normal requirements for their chosen degree program.
Alternative Credit Programs Can Save Money and Help You Graduate Sooner
Obtaining a bachelor's, or even an associate's degree, is a long and difficult undertaking for those who want to pursue college. Programs are becoming more and more competitive, and degree requirements are becoming much more challenging as we gain more knowledge in all areas of life. Many people, however, have real life experience and/or knowledge that should be able to count towards their college degree. For this reason, alternative credit options have been made available to students at many colleges and universities across the nation and world.
The Alternative Credit Project
The Alternative Credit Project (ACP) was established by the American Council on Education (ACE) to help those who have understanding and know-how in their chosen degree field to gain credits in place of required courses. Thanks to a whopping $1.89 billion dollar grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, this project has been able to help over thirty-two million students achieve their goals more quickly and cheaply. The foundation also backed up an ACE task force in 2012, with the goals of improving the accreditation process for institutions across the country. This task force was chaired by the president of the University of Richmond, Edward Ayers and the president of the Association of American Universities, Professor Emeritus Robert Berdahl.
ACE has created an alliance of more than 50 colleges and universities that are advocates of those seeking to attain alternative credit. Part of this program involves easier access to online courses and resources to assist with fulfilling degree requirements. These classes cover over 30 subjects that are integral to many of the top degrees in the United States today.
Research with the Alternative Credit Project
The Alternative Credit Project also involves research through the affiliated universities to make sure their mission is being successfully achieved. They gather data for analysis to ensure the credits being accepted are being fully utilized. They also verify retention and attainment rates regarding the transfer of credits that have been completed through the project. This is helping millions of students across the country and worldwide.
ACE has also listed all of the available course descriptions that have been deemed as acceptable for alternative credits. These can be found through the the ACE National Guide to College Credit for Workforce Training website, where you can also select the link to search for specific classes. Similar information can be found on ACE's Registry and Transcript System webpage.
All approved courses taken through the Alternative Credit Project will appear on an official ACP transcript. These courses should be easily transferred to your college or university to apply towards your degree requirements. All of these classes have a course prefix of ACPE before the number. This helps to easily identify the courses that have been satisfied through the ACP.
For more information on the Alternative Credit Project, visit their website.
Competency Based Exams (CBEs)
Many colleges and universities have alternative options to the ACP. One way that you can earn alternative credits at your school is through Competency Based Exams. This process allows students to take a specific examination to demonstrate their knowledge, skills, and abilities in a certain area for their chosen degree program. These exams will display a grade and apply credits towards your degree. This can save you valuable time and money that would normally be spent taking a course that you may not necessarily need due to prior knowledge and experience. Students are often provided with textbook and syllabus information to be better prepared to take and pass the specific CBE they are interested in.
Prior Learning Assessments (PLAs)
Another option that many schools offer is a Prior Learning Assessment. Unlike with CBE's, this option involves a portfolio that will demonstrate the student's knowledge and achievements in a given area. This can include work from a current or previous job or even courses that have been previously taken that did not transfer to the student's college/university. Just as with CBEs, these PLAs are able to be counted as credits towards your degree program, so long as they satisfy the specific requirements of the course that will be replaced. There is often a fee for this route, but it is almost always much cheaper than standard tuition costs.
Alternative-credit programs are great options for any student who feels they have the ability to satisfy the requirements of a given course. It not only saves time, but also money. Getting a degree is one of the most expensive investments a person will make in life, and it can be even more difficult as a working adult with time constraints. If you feel you may be able to pass a course in one of the various alternative credit methods, you should speak with staff at your college or university and research the ACP to see how you may be able to take some of the stress and cost away from getting the degree you want. If you would like to know more information about alternative credits, please visit the Frequently Asked Questions on the Alternative Credit Project website.