Welcome to the Degree Forum Wiki
This website contains information on accelerating your Bachelor's degree completion through transferring credits and testing out of a Bachelor's degree through "The Big 3 Schools" which are fully accredited colleges. You can complete your Bachelor's degree for around $3,000-$10,000 starting from scratch and do it in as little as a few months!
The Big 3 schools are tailored for anyone seeking a degree for career or personal enhancement – whether they are in their teens or even their 60s! Don't worry, these aren't diploma mills – two of them are state schools, and the third was formerly a state college of New York.
Also, tests can be taken by students at virtually any age, so parents, you can get your kids started! In fact, there are quite a few high school students on DegreeForum.net who are planning to complete a Bachelor's degree by the time they graduate high school!
Testing Out of A Degree
In a word – YES! It is entirely possible to get a fully-accredited Bachelor's degree from a state school without taking a single class! Many people have gone down this route before and blazed the trail for you. One DegreeForum.net user reported earning 89 credits in one month using various test-out options! And many of these are acceptable as transfer credit at most regionally-accredited schools, though schools other than The Big 3 generally have restrictions on the amount of credit you can transfer in.
The entire method of testing out of a degree gained grounds in the 2000s thanks to pioneers like 123CollegeDegree.com and BAin4Weeks.com whose advice and test recommendations are still very relevant and useful today.
However, purely test-out is not the only option available. The Big 3 have generous transfer policies, allowing you to transfer in all but 3-6 credit hours out of 120 credits needed to complete a Bachelor's degree. They were originally designed specifically for the adult career learner who may have credits from a variety of sources (community colleges, universities, industry certifications, etc) but never completed a "traditional" degree; fortunately, it is being widely adopted by all age groups i.e. anyone and everyone. This website and DegreeForum.net can show you methods for quickly, easily, and cheaply getting credits to obtain you a regionally-accredited Bachelor's degree.
Why Test Out of A Degree?
Well, if you're not looking to or can't go to Harvard, Stanford, Yale, or any other "elite" school, then it really doesn't matter too much what college you went to for undergrad unless you're looking to do a degree in something very specific i.e. nursing, engineering, computer science, any STEM field, etc. If you're not looking to do any of these ones in particular, you can typically get a B.S. typically in Business Administration or the liberal arts like Sociology, Psychology, or just a generalized Liberal Arts degree and satisfy any pre-reqs that the graduate program may want or need.
For many types of work post-college, it won't matter where you got your degree, but more-so your work experience, technical skills, networking ability, and even luck. Some employers like state governments, and some branches of the federal governement absolutely don't care where you got your degree so long as the degree is regionally accredited. Fortunately, the three colleges mentioned in this website, Charter Oak State College (COSC), Excelsior College, and Thomas Edison State College (TESC) are all regionally accredited.
All three will open doors for going into graduate programs whether it may be an MBA, MPH, Ph.D., J.D., or any other type of graduate program including health programs* like PA school, Physical Therapy, Medicine, Dentistry, Nursing, etc. What will matter ultimately if you're looking for at least "average" graduate programs is maintaining at least a 3.00/4.00 GPA (but typically 3.7/4.0 is typically needed for health profession programs), work experience, good extracurricular activities, solid letters of recommendations, and doing well on graduate standardized exams i.e. the GRE, GMAT, LSAT, MCAT, DAT, PCAT, etc. Depending on the rigor and competitiveness of any graduate level program, it may matter where you went for your undergraduate, but not so much for institutions that are within the reach for 99% of us. What will matter more is your GPA, standardized test scores (if a graduate program requires them), and so forth.
*Note: For many of the health fields, you do not need to major in science nor is it recommended by pre-meds or medical admission committees alike since health professional programs prefer "diversity" and science majors tend to be much harder in keeping a high GPA. Typically all you need is any Bachelor's degree in any major like Sociology or Psychology and satisfy pre-medical coursework in biology (w/ lab), chemistry (w/ lab), physics (w/lab), organic chemistry (w/ lab), anatomy and physiology, microbiology, genetics, and/or biochemistry. The only thing is that for these science pre-med courses, you would want to take them through a college as A) there are no equivalent examinations with labs B) health programs want to see actual coursework for these types of courses and labs too. For more information and advice for health care programs, it is suggested to check out the Student Doctor Forums.
Finally, all three colleges offer a degree that is generally less than $10,000, and typically around $3,000 - $6,000. For instance, a B.S. in Business Administration through Charter Oak State College could be had for around $5,300 and a B.S. in Business Administration through Thomas Edison State College could be had for as little as $2,900 if going through their "Per Credit" tuition plan program.
The important thing to keep in mind is that each of these 3 colleges have particular perks and cons, and it is up to you to figure out which one best fits your needs. Typically, however, most students tend to find that a degree through Excelsior College will be the most expensive, a degree through Charter Oak State College will be moderately priced but a little more easy to complete, and a degree through Thomas Edison State College can be the cheapest although possibly a little harder to do. Excelsior College is probably the most well known of the three colleges, has the largest student body, a bigger advertisement campaign, and as a result, you tend to hear about it more often, however, most students on the DegreeForum.net typically recommend a degree either through Charter Oak State College or Thomas Edison State College, since Excelsior College tends to be far more expensive, and is not as easy to test out of the whole degree unlike for the first two colleges. In the end, any of these 3 colleges will fulfill their purpose in obtaining a regionally accredited Bachelor's degree, and any of the three can be had for less than $10,000 which is a steal of a deal.
Compare this to going to a private college that can cost you upwards of $200,000 plus crippling loan interest or the typical state college that can cost around $50,000 - $100,000. This is even more relevant given how student debt is non-dischargeable/"unbankruptable" (debt for life), turning students into life-long indentured servants, leaving students with expensive degrees but unable to find work at all or work that pays decently for a college degree. Sadly, many of these students will or already have been delayed in life i.e. getting married, raising a family, buying a home, cars, etc. and in many cases will remain in debt for the rest of their lives. So is a particular institution worth going to if you're interested in a very particular career path i.e. a STEM field or if you can go to an ivy league? Absolutely. But for the remaining students who are not going into these fields, their college choice may have minimal to no effect on their career goals, and it may be better to save tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars in the process – not to mention years of time, and energy saved. That's money that can be used towards opening a business, buying a home, or pursuing a quality graduate level program.
Furthermore, with the advent of MOOCs (Massive Open Online Courses) that are providing ivy-league education for free, and from the comfort of your home, and with the United States becoming a service economy, many of the most in-demand skills are in fields in technology i.e. programming or web development. MOOCs are nice because they are free, self-taught and driven, and offer education from some of the best institutions in the world i.e. Stanford, Harvard, MIT, etc. As a result, a Bachelor's degree is becoming more of a piece of paper to be obtained and to say that you have it. Overall, it is likely that your success in life will likely depend more on your real-life practical, technical, and networking skills. If you are not so technically inclined, suitable work that pays well can also be found through federal and state governments, and/or possibly with a Master's degree which is where most of the money for education would be better spent.
How Does Testing Out Work?
There are currently three universities that allow you to transfer in all but 3-6 credit hours of a total of 120 credits needed for a Bachelor's degree: Charter Oak State College (COSC), Excelsior College (EC), and Thomas Edison State College (TESC), These are often referred to as "The Big 3" schools. These schools specialize in providing education opportunities to anyone who may have a collection of credits or creditable experience from multiple sources. Thanks to their generous policies it is possible to earn a Bachelor's degree without taking a single college class. As long as you know how to do it, understand the policies, and are willing to put in the work, that is. This website, and the DegreeForum.net forum, can help with the first two, but the third is entirely on you!
NOTE: These are NOT for-profit schools, nor are they "nationally accredited." Two of the "Big 3" are public state schools, and one (Excelsior) is private and formerly known as Regents College (formed by the New York State Board of Regents). These are reputable schools catering to adult students and in several cases have had students go on to top tier graduate schools like Harvard, Yale, and MIT. Of course, these are more the exceptions than the norm, but it shows you that it can be done!
How Long Will It Take To Complete A Bachelor's Degree?
A lot less than you might think, and certainly far less than a traditional brick-and-mortar school which is typically 4 years long. Many users on DegreeForum.net are able to easily graduate under a year with many finding the sweet spot being around 3 months to a year. Some have even done it in 4 weeks as described on BAin4Weeks.com or 123CollegeDegree.com.
Some success stories:
Forum User bricabrac completed four degrees in two years for $10,000!
Forum User Ryoder completed one Bachelor's degree in Business Administration in six months, then decided to knock out a second Bachelor's degree in science & math in another six months before going on to graduate school .
What Bachelor's Degree(s) can I get?
It depends on the school, but typically one in Business Administration, Psychology, Social Sciences, or Liberal Arts.
With Charter Oak State College, you can obtain a Bachelor's of Science/Arts in Business Administration, Health Care Administration, Psychology, Cybersecurity, General Studies, and many other majors or concentrations. With Thomas Edison State College you can obtain a Bachelor of Arts, or Bachelor of Science in several different majors such as Business Administration, Finance, Math, History, etc. Excelsior College has similar degree structures available. Both TESC and Excelsior have nursing programs. All three also provide associate degrees in various disciplines.
You may want to research statistics regarding employability and unemployment levels among the various types of undergraduate and graduate degrees and you should always consider your goals and situation before jumping into a particular degree program. For more information on how to choose a degree see this very informative discussion thread at DegreeForum.net discussing degree selection.
How to Pay for the Bachelor's Degree
As of 2015, a degree through Charter Oak State College can be had for as cheaply as about $5,300, a degree through Thomas Edison State College can be had for about $2,900, and Excelsior College around $8,000 - $10,000. Many students just end up paying out-of-pocket for the credit exams and courses, but if money is tight, you can look into using federal and state financial aid in order to receive free grant money and/or no-interest/low interest federal loans.
One idea you can look into if you can't afford to spend a few thousand dollars for a Bachelor's degree is to obtain financial aid i.e. Pell Grants, Federal Subsidized/Unsubsidized loans, and/or any state tuition assistance by taking some degree-pertinent online courses through a cheap community college like New Mexico Junior College which has an extremely reasonable out-of-state tuition rate of $62/credit hour or Clovis Community College which has an out-of-state tuition rate of $89/credit hour as of 2015. By taking 12 credits/4 courses through a college, you'll become a full time student eligible for the most federal aid possible, and likely receive a good amount of grants and loans. This is worth looking into as many students don't realize they are eligible for free grant money through the government if their income is sufficiently low. This can cover not only the tuition of the college where they're taking coursework, but also give them a few thousand dollars to cover for their actual Bachelor's degree through any of the Big 3.
Typically, many students are older than 24 years old (thus, considered financially "independent" from parents), have an eligible income, and thus qualify for a great deal of Pell Grant money (which is free money that you don't have to pay back), and Federal subsidized (no interest), or very low interest Federal unsubsidized loans (around 5%). This is money that can be used however you please whether it be for taking exams for credit, food, living expenses, books, any coursework towards the degree, etc.
If this is a good option for you, it is recommended when enrolling in a college to find courses through either of these colleges that will satisfy degree requirements, and also selecting instructors that have a good and easy reputation, by using RateMyProfessors.com for instance, and saving money by either finding books online for free, and/or finding cheaper or older textbooks online through eBay or Amazon.
Some things to keep in mind is that you can only typically use financial aid at one college, and for the purpose of having enough financial aid money to use on your actual Bachelor's degree, you can maximize any remaining grant and loan money by enrolling in a cheap college as mentioned above. Also, this won't stop you from simultaneously enrolling at the college where you want to obtain your Bachelor's degree if you wanted to of course.
Most importantly, you can figure out how how and what you're eligible for from the FAFSA Aid Calculator.
Regionally Accredited College Degrees
Charter Oak State College and Thomas Edison State College are public colleges and Excelsior College is a private, non-profit college. All of the Big 3 are regionally-accredited and regional accreditation is considered the gold standard of institutional accreditation. You can earn all 120 credits by some combination of the following: taking classes at these schools, taking classes at other schools, taking classes from alternative sources, or passing class-equivalence tests.
If you doubt the legitimacy of such a degree, note that forum user Ryoder (mentioned above) was interviewed by the New York Times as part of an article about the future of alternative education and went on to enroll in a Ph.D.
Note: While each of the The Big 3 currently offer the possibility of earning "portfolio" credit – a means to document and prove your actual knowledge equal to college level outcomes in particular courses – many students who have walked this path before have had unsatisfactory experiences See also 6 Prior Learning Assessment - PLA credit for what you know in Sources of Credit for more on this topic. For the same cost of a "portfolio" – around $450 and 3 months, with no guarantee you will actually get any credit – you can take 3 CLEP tests and receive 9-18 credits! (30 if you passed 3 general subject tests and aced a foreign language test)
Real People Getting Real Degrees
Check out the Wall of Fame to read about real people who have used the Big 3 to gain degrees and advance their careers and enrich their lives. Then go over to DegreeForum.net and ask some of your questions directly to them!
List of Topics
- The Big 3
- 123CollegeDegree.com – One of the pioneers in testing out of a degree. Gives good advice in general for testing out of a degree. However, a lot of the information is out of date.
- BAin4weeks.com – Details how one student got his Bachelor's degree in a month. One of the pioneers in testing out of a degree. The concept is still relevant, but the plans are several years out of date.
- DegreeForum.net – A forum for discussing how to test out of a degree, and other related topics.
- Free-Clep-Prep.com – Gives some very good advice, sample tests, and invaluable information about the different exams available.
- Basic Approach
- Common Acronyms and Terms
- Common Misconceptions
- ACE Recommendations for Exams and Coursework. Important to know.
- NCCRS Recommendations for Exams and Coursework. Not as popular as ACE, but still worth looking into.
- Other Schools
- Graduate Studies
- Sources of Credit
- Study Guides
- Compiled List of Courses and Corresponding Tests