Online Universities: Credit Transfer and Tuition Fees
Not every student completes a college degree at a single school. It is common to transfer to campus colleges, or even just between two online colleges, after completing some portion of a degree. Not every class will transfer to every brick-and-mortar college however, which means that you could waste your time if you aren’t careful. If you know you’re ready to make the switch, make sure you know the ins and outs of the credit-transfer process. The information below will provide all the information you need to successfully transfer credits between schools.
If you’re planning to switch schools, transferring credits will ease the transition into your new college or university. Some students enter a new school with quite a few transfer credits, although for financial reasons most schools have an upper limit of how many transferred credits they will accept. Some online colleges accept as few as 24 transferred units, but some will take up to half a degree’s worth, or around 60.
To determine transfer eligibility, follow the steps below to get a head start:
The Credit Transfer Process
- Acquire a course catalog of the school you plan to transfer to.
- Request a copy of your transcript(s) from all previously attended institutions.
- Determine possible course duplication among courses already completed and the courses needed to graduate from your new school.
- Fill out a transfer application typically found on the school’s website.
- Submit application along with additional materials requested by the review board.
Talk to an Admissions Advisor
Sometimes you may not know where you intend to transfer when you start taking online classes. But if you have a few schools in mind, get a copy of their credit transfer policies before you actually start taking classes. With many schools, it isn’t just about whether or not your classes were taken online. Most campus-based colleges have rules about how many credits you can transfer in total, including how many major-specific classes you can transfer.
For example, if you took three general education classes and seven classes relating to your field of study at an online college, a campus-based college may only allow the general education credits and half of the major-specific credits to transfer. Others have extra requirements relating to transferring classes. For example, for your credits to transfer, you might have to take an entrance exam to prove that you learned enough information in your online classes to move on to more advanced classes.
Scheduling a phone or in-person meeting with an admissions advisor will ensure that all your questions are answered. Most likely, an advisor will recommend you attend an advising and registration session. These sessions allow students to meet with admissions representatives to review transcripts and syllabi to determine transfer credits.
Accreditation Means Easy Credit Transfer
Accreditation is a process where a third party looks at a program to see if the education a student gets is of a high quality. Very few colleges will accept credits from non-accredited schools. They want to make sure that the credit they’re giving you from classes is comparable to the credit you would receive had you taken the class at their college. Therefore, check the accreditation status of the school where you took your old credits. To find out if your online university is accredited, search the Database of Accredited Postsecondary Institutions and Programs.
If you the school you previously attended is not accredited, you run the risk of losing degree credits for completed courses. Lost credits also equates to lost money. You’ll have to retake classes and pay for them again.
Enroll in Introductory Classes
Whether you’re transferring to a campus college from an online school or from a different campus college, there’s a better chance that your credit-hours will transfer if they’re only introductory classes. As you advance in your education, colleges structure their courses differently, so it can be difficult to enter one program when you’ve been taking classes from a different program. Most colleges offer introductory courses on various subjects, so these have the best chances of transferring from your online school to your new school.
Sometimes, sticking to a single program online can help you get your degree faster, without wasting any money. If you transfer, you always run the risk of losing some of the work you’ve already done. When transferring, choose your new school, in part, based on how many of your credits will transfer. Otherwise, you could find yourself essentially starting over with your education.
College Credits Are Expensive
Many people go to online schools because they want to save money on housing and transportation costs, and they want to keep a job while they’re in school. This is a workable plan, but if previously earned course credits don’t transfer, you’ll need to re-take those classes.
Most universities calculate the tuition for any given degree by charging a certain number of dollars per credit hour, then multiplying that by the number of credit-hours required for the degree. Here’s a list of the approximate amount of time and number of credits you’ll need to complete for the three most popular tiers of degree.
- Associate’s Degree: Usually takes about two years, and between 45 and 60 credit-hours, depending on the subject matter and university.
- Bachelor’s Degree: Usually a four year degree, but can be completed in three with a full time, year round course schedule. Normally 120 credit-hours are required.
- Master’s Degree: Bachelor’s degree required for program entry. Takes two to four years to complete a master’s degree, and anywhere from 30 to 75 credit-hours, depending on the subject and the school.
The cost of tuition per-credit-hour can vary widely between schools, so the only way to get a clear idea of how much your education will cost is to contact the schools you apply to and find out what they charge. The normal range is between $500-$1,000, though some schools offer a discount if you enroll full-time, which can push the per-credit cost down into the $300-$400 range. For reference, a 60 credit hour associate’s degree at $500 per credit-hour will carry a total tuition cost of $30,000. That’s a lot of money, but with scholarships and other financial aid opportunities, it can be manageable for most people.
One way to try to stretch your education dollar is to get general education requirements out of the way at a less expensive school, then transfer the credits to the school of your choice, and take classes in your major at a college with a reputable program in that field. It pays to do your research before going down this road though, because colleges are not mandated to accept credit transfers from other schools. Make sure that your two colleges allow credit transfers between them before you decide to take this path. Since college tuition has been steadily rising for years, it is important to know how much of a financial burden you can handle, and take it into account when applying for schools. The map below displays recent increases in tuition in different states and regions of the U.S.
Get More Information
The above strategies are only useful if you know enough information about individual schools to work with. The links below can help you get in touch with a few accredited online universities so you can find out more about their costs per credit-hour, credit-transfer policies, and types of degree offered. After you have that data, you’re well on your way to making an informed decision about what to study, and where.
Popular Online Universities
A college education can open up many doors, and online programs provide students with unique flexibility and opportunities. Since it can be difficult to decide which schools to consider, we've provided a list of popular online universities below. If you're interested in learning more, feel free to click on any school name.