Colleges are highly predictable in how they handle incoming credit, but people are exceptionally creative, and it doesn’t take long before bright students find a loophole.
The question is usually something like this “My college doesn’t accept CLEP credit, but XYZ College does. Can I enroll at XYZ college, get CLEP credit on my transcript, and then just transfer back over with all my CLEP credit?”
or, another variation…
“My college doesn’t accept Study.com credit. How does Study.com credit appear on a transcript anyway? Will it actually say ‘Study.com’ on there?”
“I’m going to earn an associate’s degree at XYZ college cheaply and affordably using a lot of CLEP and then I’ll just transfer to my state university. Can I do that?
These are all variations of the same idea: credit laundering. Credit laundering is a crafty term (if I do say so myself) I started using it in 2008 to explain the concept of earning credit from one institution and presenting it to a different institution. While this may seem like a normal transfer question, the devil is in the details. In credit laundering, the student hopes to “wash” the credit in a way that will trick their college into accepting it. This comes up a lot when a student finds out their dream college won’t accept some form of alternative credit. The short answer: you can’t do it.
Since colleges are predictable, it pays to understand the concept of how transfer credit (especially non-traditional transfer credit like credit by exam) is evaluated. I like to use an Easter egg analogy to help paint a picture.
Imagine every type of credit is an Easter egg of its own color. CLEP eggs are red, DSST eggs are blue, Dual enrollment eggs are green, Study.com credits are pink, etc.
Now, imagine your college transcript is an Easter basket. You can put your eggs into a basket and take them to any college. You can take them to a second college, even a third. That your eggs are in a new basket doesn’t change their color! The color of the egg never changes – even in a new basket. This is because colleges always (always) need to know the origin of credit before they evaluate it. Colleges always remove your eggs from the basket, and evaluate them individually according to their policy.
As you can see, changing baskets is not a way to trick colleges. Colleges are quite used to taking eggs out of baskets and evaluating them for transfer. That’s the job of the Registrar at every college! They are experts in this area, and evaluate hundreds of transcripts every semester – and all are deconstructed first.
Egg color never changes. Except when…
Since 2012, I’ve told you that there is one single exception – but as I revise this post today, I’m going to also tell you about a brand new second exception.
The longest-standing exception to credit laundering is when an articulation agreement exists between one college (usually a 2-year college) and a second college (usually a 4-year college). It’s not uncommon for 2 and 4-year colleges to enter into formal written agreements that intentionally transfer a degree earned at a 2-year college in as a full and perfect transfer at a 4-year college. When these written articulation agreements exist, this changes EVERYTHING. In this case, the eggs are now all painted gold!
The associate degree changed the color of the eggs. The 4-year college now receives a basket of golden eggs, and they accept that basket as payment in full for your first 60 credits, no questions asked. Credits inside an articulation agreement are not sorted- they are accepted!
But wait! Will any associate degree change the color of the eggs? No! And that’s where some families make a mistake. Even if an associate degree is earned, unless the 4-year college has a written articulation agreement with your 2-year college, the gold washes off and you’re back to a basket of individually colored eggs. This is why an AA degree doesn’t transfer well into other state colleges, or why an AA degree earned at a 4-year college is unlikely to transfer well into a different 4-year college.
To emphasize: A written articulation agreement (followed perfectly and completed in full) is how you can guarantee the transfer of your credits as a full and perfect transfer. Finish your articulation agreement!
A Second Exception
A very new and very limited number of non-college providers have partnership agreements with colleges and universities. Partnerships are not new, and you may even have non-college credit that you intend to use at a partner college. Partnerships guarantee acceptance of credit, and this process has helped thousands of families use programs like Study.com, Sophia, Straighterline, and others – but this second exception I’m talking about goes one extra step in a way we’ve never seen before.
A handful of non-college credit providers have developed special “behind the scenes” partnerships that not only get your credit on a transcript, but the receiving college has agreed to record the credit as original credit. Simply, your credit becomes credit that looks as if you earned it at the college. Since you’re not obligated to attend this college, your alternative credit is laundered into “regionally accredited” credit.
As someone who has an exceptional amount of degree planning experience using alternative credit, this process is so unbelievable, that I’ve recruited two other expert degree planners and a half dozen parents to help test these claims. We’ve got confirmed cases of “real” credit laundering that we have observed first hand on official college transcripts. What I don’t know, is if this will fly once the regional accreditors understand what the college is doing – but that remains to be seen. For now, we can say with certainty, that there are a few alternative credit providers offering college credit that will have it laundered for you onto a regionally accredited college transcript.
This does not hold the same “weight” as a golden egg in an associate degree basket, these eggs are instead colored to “look like” they are university credit. Still, that’s a pretty big deal.
1. TEL Library –> Colorado Christian University (confirmed by me) They are new, new, new, and if you talk with TEL you get different information than if you talk to CCU. But, they are self-paced (rare) and only cost $275 per class, so once they get up and running, I hope to see good things from this program.
2. Outlier.org –> The University of Pittsburg (confirmed, but not by me) A high school diploma is required to participate and their catalog is small at this time. However, this new program is produced by a different online course creator that has developed amazing content, I expect that while their rollout is slow, that it will be excellent.
3. edX –> Arizona State University (confirmed by me) This program is called Earned Admission and was formally called Global Freshman Academy. This program requires enrollment through ASU first, but the course on edX platform are free. The way ASU funds this program is by charging you a fee when you opt to record the edX credit on your ASU transcript.
4. Lumerit/ Get Unbound –-> Waldorf University (confirmed by me) Lumerit / Unbound is actually the company that coined the phrase “regionally transcripted” so this had been on our radar for a while. Only in late 2019 were we able to see and confirm that their courses appear as original credit on a Waldorf University transcript. In October, Lumerit /Get Unbound was sold to Pearson, so the future of this (very expensive) program is uncertain at this time.
This list is in the process of being confirmed – but is not yet confirmed. I need your help! If your teen is taking college credit options through any of these 3 programs, please let me know by filling out the form below. Until confirmed, I can’t say for sure that these credits transfer as they are advertised by these companies.
5. Westcott/Omega Math –> Brandman (unconfirmed)
6. Veritas Press –> Cairn University (unconfirmed)
7. Classical Conversations –>Southeastern University / College at Southeastern (unconfirmed)