Posted in Credit Laundering, Transfer Credit

Credit Laundering

Colleges are highly predictable in how they handle incoming credit, but people are exceptionally creative, and it doesn’t take long before a bright student tries to find a credit acceptance loophole.

The question is usually something like this “ABC 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 over to ABC College with all my CLEP credit?”

or, another variation…

“ABC College doesn’t accept Straighterline credit. How does Straighterline credit appear on a transcript from XYZ?  Does it say ‘Straighterline’ on it?”

and still…

“My college doesn’t accept ACE credit, but if I can get it on a transcript from another college first, will I be able to use it then?”

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 in 2008 to explain the concept of “washing” credit from one institution and presenting it as “new” credit to a different institution.  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) is evaluated for use.  Imagine every location you’ve earned credit from gives you an Easter egg. CLEP eggs are red, DSST eggs are blue, ABC Community College eggs are green, etc.

You can put your eggs into a basket and take them to any college. That college will look at each egg, accept/deny each egg individually, and put together a list of acceptable eggs on a transcript. The color of the egg never changes.

Every time you pick up your eggs and take them to a new school, they’re all in a basket together, but they retain their original colors, so the transcript each college writes for you is irrelevant.  Each new college decides which eggs will be accepted or denied, no matter how many times you’ve put them into a new basket.  Egg color never changes.  Except when…

The single exception is when an articulation agreement exists between one college (usually a community college) and a second college (usually a university). Upon completion of your degree at college 1, your eggs are all painted gold. The degree changed the color of the eggs.  College 2 now receives a basket of golden eggs, and they accept that basket as payment in full for your first 60 credits, no questions asked.

I’m sure you’re going to ask, so let me help you.   If college 2 isn’t in an articulation agreement with college 1, the paint washes off and you’re back to a basket of individually colored eggs.  (this is why “any AA” degree doesn’t transfer into “every” college or university)  In addition, if you didn’t complete the requirements of the agreement (leaving college a few credits short….) then you’re eggs haven’t been painted and you’re back where you started.  Finish your articulation agreement!



Site Owner, Homeschooling for College Credit

2 thoughts on “Credit Laundering

  1. Does the same thing apply to a four-year degree? For instance, my son was at one time interested in landscape architecture. Our alternative credit options (how many CLEP/ACE credits they would accrpt) were pretty limited for any college offering a program in landscape architecture. However, I was told by two of those colleges (I only checked with two) that if he earned a 4-yr. *in any area of study* from any regionally accredited school, they would accept him into their *masters* program for landscape architecture. So theoretically, he could get a four-year degree from one of the Big Three, with all of their credit alternative options, and then have the complete degree get him into their masters program. Perhaps there were more stipulations that they weren’t telling me. I didn’t research it any further since his goals changed.


    1. Though your situation isn’t really “credit laundering” when I first started researching grad school for myself, I found that most schools didn’t care what your undergrad was in. This is true even for med school, etc. What I did find were instances of needing prerequs complete before you’d be eligible (for instance, I had to take stats before my acceptance was granted) but I think it is the exception that an undergrad must match the graduate degree. Great question Kate, thank you!


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