Colleges are highly predictable in how they handle incoming credit, but people are exceptionally creative, and it doesn’t take long before bright parents to think they’ve found a loophole. Let’s look at that 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 trying to get it accepted at a different institution by having it appear on a transcript elsewhere. 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, Sophia, Studycom, CLEP, etc.) 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!
An associate degree inside an articulation agreement changes 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 and reevaluated- they are accepted !
Will any associate degree change the color of the eggs? No! And that’s where some families make a big mistake. Even when 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 earned at a 4-year college is unlikely to transfer well into a different 4-year college – no articulation agreement.
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!
No articulation agreement: No gold eggs.
The Second Exception: “Regional Transcription”
A very new and very limited number of non-college providers have a special partnership with a college or university. This second exception takes advantage of a special “behind the scenes” partnerships that not only get your credit on a college’s transcript, but the receiving college has agreed to record the credit as original credit. Simply, your credit becomes a 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 a lot of degree planning experience using alternative credit, regional transcription is so unbelievable, that I recruited other degree planning experts and parents to help me test and confirm these claims. Yes, there are colleges that are allowing businesses to teach these classes and the college will record them legitimately on their own transcripts. This is a pretty big deal. It’s like McDonald’s selling you a Whopper in a Big Mac wrapper.
What I don’t know, is if this will fly once enough of these programs come under scrutiny of the accreditors. But 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. Since this often saves a lot of money, you may want to take advantage while you can.
If you use a company that we’ve confirmed as “legitimate credit laundering” be aware that it doesn’t extend to other types of credit outside that agreement. In other words, if you use a company listed below, only their credits/courses are going to be credit laundered and the other credit types (CLEP, Sophia, Studycom, etc.) are all still outside of the exception.
- Outlier.org –> Legitimate credit laundering. The grades and credits from Outlier will appear on a transcript at The University of Pittsburg as original credit.
- TEL Learning –> PARTIAL Legitimate credit laundering. TEL has multiple partnerships with multiple colleges, only some will appear as graded original credit.
- Westcott/Omega Math –>
Brandman University(college renamed) University of Massachusetts Global
- Veritas Press / Scholars Academy–> Cairn University (confirmed)
- Classical Conversations –>Southeastern University / The College at Southeastern (confirmed)