A typical four-year state institution will cost you approximately $26,000 to attend for one academic year (see chart below).
A dual enrollment strategy (taking AP, PSEO, IB, CIS or PLTW coursework in high school) is one of my favorite strategies to save families money on the cost of college.
Shaving one semester or even one year off a college degree is easier than you think – if you know what you are doing.
After a workshop recently, a family came up and asked, “Can you help us get our son more credits for his PSEO classes”. As a former registrar, I knew the answer would be no.
As a cost-saving strategy, their son enrolled in a Post Secondary Enrollment Options (PSEO) program at a local community college. The hope – he would graduate in 2 to 2 1/2 years with his four-year degree.
The reality – his first choice school was only awarding him nine credits towards his degree requirements for the two years worth of PSEO classes he completed. Sadly, he had taken the wrong courses. Many mistakenly believe all college credit is created and awarded equally.
There is a BIG BIG BIG difference between a course being accepted in transfer and how it will be used to satisfy a degree requirement. Did I mention BIG?
Many colleges will “transfer” in all your courses with a grade of “C” or better, but the critical question you need to ask yourself – which courses will count toward my degree program?
How colleges accept dual enrollment credit (or any transfer credit for that matter) is highly variable from school to school and even program to program within individual schools.
Let’s assume you took AP Chemistry in high school with the goal of satisfying a lab science requirement in college. Let’s further assume you scored a 4 on the exam. If you enroll at Hamline University your AP Chemistry course will only count as an elective.
At the University of Wisconsin – Eau Claire the same result means you will be awarded 5 credits for their CHEM 105/106 course (satisfying a general education lab science requirement). Whallah – you are five credits closer toward your degree!
Why the difference? The reasons are nuanced and too numerous to discuss on this post, but the basic reality is the same – there is no universal standard for how an institution will accept college-level credits in transfer into their degree programs. Each school independently determines how a course will transfer.
What are the keys to employing a successful Dual Enrollment Cost Saving Strategy?
- sdrowkcaB gnikroW – research and understand Degree Requirements
- Understand this will not work at highly selective schools (schools which enroll < 25-30% of students who apply).
You need to be strategic and work backward. Start by determining which courses are required to graduate from a specific degree program
Then, research which dual enrollment courses you can take to pluck off degree requirements. In this University of North Dakota (UND) example, taking AP Calculus AB (and scoring 3 or greater on the exam) is equivalent to UND’s MATH 165 Calc I course. One course down.
Taking POLS 1031 as a Century College PSEO student and getting a grade of “C” or higher is equivalent to taking UND’s POLS 115 course, thus satisfying their Essential Studies Social Science requirement. Two courses down.
Will this strategy work for everyone? No – you need to successfully complete college-level coursework. But plenty of students can and do.
Does it take time and effort to research? Yes. Is the research easy? No – you must meticulously determine how each course will transfer to multiple good match schools.
Simple strategy? I think so.
Knocking off time and credits to complete your college degree by taking the “right” dual enrollment courses is an extremely effective way to save time and money.
*Approximate Fall 2018 COA
Enrolling in and completing dual enrollment coursework is one of my favorite college cost-saving strategies.
You have plenty of good fit options!