Posted in Common Sense College Planning, Credit by Exam, Debt Free Degree, financial aid

Good to Know: UL and LL Credit

Sometimes members use the shorthand “UL” or “LL” to indicate upper-level or lower-level credit. If you’re wondering what the difference is and why anyone cares, let’s take a look!

LL: Lower-level college credit (100/200)

UL: Upper-level college credit (300/400)

If your teen is working on the first two years of a college degree, they will only need LL credit. The 100 and 200 levels typically match up with community colleges or the freshman and sophomore courses at a 4-year university. As such, the majority of our HS4CC community will *only* earn LL credit in high school. It is the most common and the cheapest way to rack up college credit!

As a rule of thumb, credit level is almost always classified by either the college that teaches the class or by the American Council on Education’s evaluation process. That said, any receiving college can disregard the level, “demote” credit down to lower level, or “promote” it up to upper level at their discretion. So below when a credit says “always” that assumes your target college will not invoke their right to change the level.

Credit Sources and Their Level

Dual enrollment from a community college: always LL

Dual enrollment from a 4-year college: usually LL, sometimes UL available

Advanced Placement Exam: usually LL

CLEP Exam: always LL

DSST Exam: always LL except for 2 exams

ALEKS Math: always LL

Saylor Academy: LL and UL available

Sophia: always LL

Straighterline: always LL

Studycom: LL and UL available

GED Exam: always LL


For students who want to accumulate a lot of college credit for the lowest price, you’re going to find it relatively easy to do this with lower level credit. As an example, if dual enrollment through your local community college is free, that can be viewed as a great resource for LL credit! If you’re going to take CLEP (currently free), you can also accumulate a lot of LL credit!

So what’s the problem?

There is a limit to how much lower level credit can fit into a bachelor’s degree. A bachelor’s degree consists of 120 credits, but even the most generous colleges are going to limit your LL credit to about 90 credits (sometimes 60 credits) so this in effect caps your ability to CLEP endlessly or accumulate excessive community college credit in lieu of UL credit.

There aren’t any hard rules about how many UL credits fill your bachelor’s degree, but your college’s transfer policy and their curriculum guide often use numbers to spell out whether a course is LL or UL.

ENG101 = 100 level, lower level

ENG201= 200 level, lower level

ENG301= 300 level, upper level

ENG401 = 400 level, upper level

HS4CC Strategy

A good strategy for saving the most money and time on any degree is to make the most of your college’s transfer policy and credit by exam policy for ALL of the LL credits!! These are low-hanging fruit and can be earned for pennies on the dollar. If your target college allows 30 credits to come from CLEP, DO IT because that’s a full year of LL college credit you can bring in for $0.

ALL of the low cost and inexpensive credit is in the LL category. NEVER borrow money to pay for LL credit! Once your teen hits their UL credit requirement, you’re going to have a very hard time saving any money. Those saving happen during LL classes. In almost every case, UL credit is earned the hard way- paying full price to the university and taking their classes. This is EXPENSIVE credit, so save your hard earned money for the UL credit. You’ll need it!

Homeschooling with CLEP: Game-changer for Sean’s Future

I am thrilled to share with you this homeschooling success story of how Sara used CLEP in her homeschool with her son Sean during 11th (and now 12th) grade. She posted her celebration inside our Illinois HS4CC Facebook group and gave me permission to share it with you here. I know you’ll find it as […]

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Site Owner, Homeschooling for College Credit

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