This question comes from a parent in our Big 3 Degree group and asks if there are any pros or cons to their teen testing out of a BA in Liberal Arts or Business before pursuing their “real degree” in something else. WAIT!! STOP!!! Don’t do it!! OMGosh!!
Huge question, big important details, and significant impact for those of you who may be considering a plan for a bachelor’s degree that uses mainly CLEP, Sophia, Coopersmith, or other types of alternative credits just to “check the box.” If you think your teen should pursue a bachelor’s degree because it’s low hanging fruit, and then they can get their “real” degree later, you’re in for a huge shock.
I’ve gotten a handful of questions about this since the homeschool convention circuit just ended and was flooded with businesses selling degree planning products and services around alternative credits. A degree in high school without homework for a few hours a day and no debt? Sounds good, right? On the surface that sounds wonderful.
Yes, your teen can earn a degree that way, yes they can do it in high school, yes you can cash-flow it for under $10,000 and yes it can check a box, but it can also backfire when you don’t look beyond the allure of what they’re selling. Earning a bachelor’s degree closes your student off from some things, and in this post we are going to explore what those things are.
Side Note: I’m a fan of fast and cheap! One of my sons has an associate degree from Charter Oak (Big 3), one of my sons has a bachelor’s degree from Charter Oak (Big 3), and I have 2 degrees from Thomas Edison (Big 3) BUT, 9 of the college degrees held my my kids and I were NOT earned that way, they were earned traditionally. So this post is not a slam on using nontraditional college credit, in fact, I’m a superfan! The question here is whether or not you plan for your teen to earn a second bachelor’s degree and how that can be a problem.
This caution is for those of you considering a bachelor’s degree in high school for your teen but with a plan for them to earn another degree as their “real” degree later.
- You are forever a “second degree” college applicant. This goes way beyond being a transfer student since some colleges refuse admission to students who already have a degree.
- Colleges that market toward “second degree” students, especially those like an accelerated nursing program where everyone must have a degree to apply, are always significantly more expensive than regular undergraduate college programs.
- Your student gives up access FOREVER to Pell Grant funds, even if they didn’t use a Pell Grant to fund their first undergraduate degree.
- Federal financial aid places caps/limits on the number of undergraduate credits your student can earn when collecting financial aid (called aggregate limit). If you already have a bachelor’s degree, you will have to watch that limit very closely.
- Your student gives up access FOREVER to subsidized student loans. All loans for second and subsequent degrees will be private loans, personal loans, or unsubsidized loans.
- The graduate aggregate limit includes all federal loans received for undergraduate study. In other words, if you use financial aid for a second bachelor’s degree, that pulls money away from funding a graduate degree.
- A second bachelor’s degree can not be in the same field as the first.
- A second bachelor’s degree university is not required to accept the credits from your first bachelor’s degree, so if the credits are not accepted (credit laundered) your student may still have to earn all 120 credits from scratch -but this time with less access to scholarships, grants, and financial aid.
- Do not plan a “check the box” for your student if your student needs a degree for their career. Degrees in liberal arts or business serve many students very well, but if your teen wants a specific career, make sure that you’re not closing that opportunity for them.
- Instead of a second undergraduate degree, get a master’s or doctorate degree. Climbing up is always better than a lateral move.
- If your teen is planning a second bachelor’s degree, plan to pay cash.
- If your teen needs an associate degree for their career, focus on that first. From there, a “check the box” bachelor’s degree enhances their career.
- What about teens that don’t know what they want to do after high school? The last thing they need is a bachelor’s degree. Instead, collect college credits, internships, volunteer opportunities, and take classes. Aid them in finding their path instead of sealing their fate with a bachelor’s degree.
Testing Out vs Graded Credit
The most significant error you can make is to use only “test out” credit (pass/fail) for an entire degree when graded credit is needed. If graded credit will be needed (for admission to grad school, for admission to medical school, for admission to anything!) be sure you fill the degree with graded credits so you can meet those requirements while simultaneously saving as much money as possible with testing out.
Like most aspects of higher education, there is never a “one size fits all” solution, so be sure you know the pros AND CONS of these kinds of big decisions before you decide.
PRO TIP: HS4CC is a nonprofit organization that does not benefit financially from your decisions. When you get advice from a business, you’re not getting “advice” you’re getting their sales pitch.