The Secret to Saving on Student Loans You Probably Aren’t Doing

The Secret to Saving on Student Loans You Probably Aren’t Doing

Want to go to college but worried about student loan debt? 

The student loan crisis is bigger than ever. Recent statistics show that Americans hold over 1.6 trillion in student loan debt, a number that continues to rise. 

Yet, despite the debt that comes with college, more people are choosing to go than not. With advancements in technology and automation, many jobs that did not require a college degree are being phased out. You might find it harder to earn a living wage without having some college education under your belt. After all, college graduates earn, on average, 80% more than those with just a high school diploma. 

So that means that while college is more expensive, it is still more important than ever before. But that puts you in a serious predicament. On one hand, you can risk getting into debt funding a college education. Or, you can miss out on the benefits (and pay) that come with a college degree. Luckily, there are plenty of ways to save on a college education.

Interested in saving money on college? See how Smarter with Achieve can help!

How CLEP exams can save you money on student loans

For many people, taking on part-time jobs and applying for college is one way to offset the cost of college and possible student debt, but there is another method you may not have heard of: CLEP.

CLEP isn’t the most talked-about way to reduce college costs, but it’s one you should seriously consider. CLEP exams can save you or your parents a lot on the cost of college, and thus student loans.

Here’s how it works…

CLEP (the College Level Examination Program) is a program by the College Board. Anyone of any age can study and take CLEP exams on over 30 subjects, and if they pass, receive college credits for that course. 

CLEP exams are a lot like the AP exams you took in high school. The only difference is you can study at your own pace. With CLEP exams, you take your exam when you’re ready, not just at the end of the semester. You can take CLEP tests at over 2,000 testing centers nationwide. Plus, CLEP costs $85, so you can save thousands on college credits. 

Who is CLEP for?
  • CLEP exams are ideal for high schoolers due to their low cost and flexibility. High schoolers who take CLEP can expect to earn college credits before entering a university campus. 
  • Homeschoolers who are used to self-study can adapt incredibly well to CLEP 
  • Working students can take CLEP exams to work college around their busy schedules. 
  • Anyone who wants to save time and money on college. 

Ready to get started with CLEP? See how Smarter with Achieve can help!

How much can I save with CLEP?

To illustrate the savings of taking CLEP exams as part of your college preparation, let’s look at in-state tuition at the Xavier University of Louisiana. 

In-state tuition costs $1219.00 per course. A passing CLEP score can earn you 3-college credits. If you pass CLEP, you would only spend $112 on the exam (including testing site fees). That’s a savings of $1107 per course! Even if you have to retake a few exams, you’d still save tons of money on the cost of college. 

Not only that, you’ll save on textbooks, room and board, and transportation for a whole semester, and maybe more! 

Save on student loans with Smarter with Achieve.

Taking and passing CLEP exams is a great way to earn college credits, save money and avoid student loan debt.

Want to find out how many credits you can earn with CLEP at your specific school? Have our team identify all of the eligible courses, and while they’re at it, tell you how much it will cost to prep for each course using Smarter.

Ready to get started? Know exactly which courses your school will let you CLEP. Get your Prep Course Plan today. 

The Parent Plus Loan Trap

The Parent Plus Loan Trap

If you’re a middle-income parent, putting your child through college may mean taking on substantial debt. How much debt? In many cases, nearly twice the amount you’d make in a year.

In fact, according to a study from the Wall Street Journal, many parents are borrowing up to six-figures to fund their kid’s post-secondary dreams.

The cost of a college education has grown exponentially in the last ten years, but so has the financial reward one gets from earning a college degree. So, where does that leave parents who want to help fund their child’s college education? Figuring out how to pay for college is one of the biggest sources of stress for parents. Thankfully, there are many ways you can fund your kid’s college education that doesn’t include draining your finances. And it’s through a little known program called Credit-by-Exam (CBE).

The Parent Plus Loan Trap

Why are parents taking on over $100,000 in student loans? The answer can be found in a program called Parent Plus. The Parent Plus program is a federal loan program parents can use to help their children pay for college. It’s important to note that Parent Plus loans come at a higher interest rate than standard student loans and has a higher limit you can borrow. That can spell trouble for the uninformed borrower that wants to pay for all or most of their kid’s college costs. Some schools are more expensive than others, and you can quickly find yourself under a mountain of debt if you’re not careful with the amount you borrow. Parent Plus loans can put a severe strain on your finances.

And the schools carrying the highest amount of Parent Plus debt may surprise you: art schools, HBCUs, and small private colleges typically carry the most Parent Plus loan debt.

At Spelman College, a historically black school in Atlanta, parents borrowed an average of $112,000. That’s much more than any school in the country! Paying back a loan of that amount can mean payments of over $1,200 a month, which rivals most mortgage payments.

parent plus loans

At other colleges, parents typically took on loans worth $50,000 or more. Some colleges required amounts between $25,000 and $50,000. This information, collected by the U.S. Education Department, paints a complete picture of the financial strain many parents undertake in helping their kids pursue their post-secondary dreams.

Helping finance your kid’s college can quickly become burdensome, but it does not have to be if you know your options. Enter Credit-by-Exam.

Save on your child’s college expenses with Credit-by-Exam.

There’s a lot of opinions on how to save money on your kid’s college tuition, but one you probably haven’t heard of yet is Credit-by-Exam.

Credit-by-Exam is a program that allows students to receive college credit by taking – and passing – exams on core subjects. Since students can take these college-level replacement exams instead of sitting for a class, it can save parents thousands of dollars on college tuition.

Different Credit-by-Exam tests include…

  • CLEP (the most common exam)
  • DSST (for military members and their families)
  • UExcel (for nursing students).

One of the most popular Credit-by-Exam tests among college students is the College Level Examination Program or CLEP.
The College Board runs CLEP exams. Any person of any age can sit for an exam and, if they pass, receive college credits for that course.

The CLEP exams are like high-school AP exams; only your child can take it at their own pace without sitting for a class. That means they can take CLEP exams whenever they’re ready, not just at the end of the semester.

Currently, CLEP offers exams on 30 subjects at more than 1,800 testing centers, and they cost just $85 each. Not only that, CLEP credits are accepted at over 3,000 accredited colleges and universities.

And you don’t have to wait until your child is enrolled in college to start saving with CLEP exams. The low cost and flexible timing make the tests perfect for high schoolers. With Credit-by-Exam, your child can earn both high school and college credits and graduate earlier for less money. If your child plans to work while attending college, they can earn credits for their prerequisites and take tests around their busy work schedules.

The College Board reported that students who earn 15 CLEP credits toward a degree could save between $5,000 and $17,000 on tuition, depending on their college. Not only does Credit-by-Exam help you save thousands on your child’s college expenses, but your child will also have the opportunity to graduate quicker, start their career earlier, and start earning money sooner.

The Smart Way to avoid college debt

In most cases, CLEP test-takers would have to study on their own to make sure they have the required knowledge to pass the exams. CLEP exams can be more difficult than sitting for a regular college course for this reason. That’s where Smarter with Achieve can help.

Smarter with Achieve helps Credit-by-Exam test-takers study to pass CLEP, ECE, and DSST exams. We offer expert exam guidance that prepares your child to take and pass college-level replacement exams.

Our Prep Course Plan ensures that your child’s school of choice accepts Credit-by-Exam and verifies how many credits the school will accept. Then, our online prep courses help your child prepare and pass CLEP exams and earn college credits.

Chat with an advisor today. We’ll walk you through the smart way to pay for college and avoid the Parent Plus Loan trap.


Does My College Accept Credit-by-Exam?

Does My College Accept Credit-by-Exam?

Testing out of college classes helps busy students get more time in their schedules, but does every college accept credit by exam? 2,900 accredited colleges and universities accept this type of credit, but you’ll need to verify whether your school is on this list. Here’s how to determine if your college accepts credit by exam.

What is credit by exam?

Credit-by-exam programs allow you to skip the classroom and earn credits toward your degree by merely passing a proficiency exam. This system allows you to test out of an entire semester-long class, earning general education credits without spending months in a classroom. Credit by exam allows you to knock out your gen-ed courses quicker, so you can start completing the core requirements for your degree. The most popular credit-by-exam tests are CLEP, DSST, and UExcel (AP tests are also part of the credit-by-exam system, but AP is only available to high school students).

Save tuition and reduce your course load by earning credits on subjects you know. Learn more with Smarter with Achieve. 

Does my school accept credit by exam?

2,900 colleges and universities accept credit by exam, but you should still do your research before assuming your college will accept test-out credits. Not all schools allow these credits, and even those who do still differ in how those credits are applied. You don’t want to take exams for credit that your college won’t acknowledge on your academic record, so here are some tips on verifying credit by exam at your school.

How to find out if your college accepts Credit-by-Exam

Speak with your advisor

The best way to determine if your college accepts credit by exam is to call or visit your school’s admission advisors. If you have not decided which school you will attend, take the time to consider your options carefully. If you plan to use Credit-by-Exam for most of your general education courses, you should check different college’s policies on test-out before selecting the right school for you.

Look in your academic calendar

If you have already received your school’s academic calendar, then the policy is sometimes listed under guidelines within the book.


Sometimes Googling your school’s name and “credit by exam” will bring up the school’s test-out policies. But beware that sometimes you will run into outdated information using this tactic.

Visit the College Board’s website

Visit the College Board’s website and search for your school’s CLEP policy.

  • Visit the CLEP website and navigate to the Search Institution Policies tool.
  • Type a school in the “Enter a College or University Name” field, then select the school name when it pops up.
  • If you’re not sure which school you want to attend, but know you want to use Credit-by-Exam, College Board’s website will show you a list of schools that accept test-out credits.

Questions to ask your academic advisor about credit by exam

Besides finding out if your school accepts credit by exam, what else should you ask when you’re finally in front of your academic advisor? These four simple questions should guide your approach and let you know if credit by exam is the right fit for you and your degree program.

How are Credit-by-Exam credits applied?

After you’ve established that your desired school accepts credit by exam, the next question you should ask is how those credits are applied.

General education credits: Most schools will apply your CLEP credits to general education courses, but some may only apply them in a general sense, such as six credits in math.

Transfer credits: Some colleges treat credit by exam like transfer credits. If you have other credits to transfer, credit by exam may count against the maximum number of credits you can transfer. Plus, you may not be able to get a say in which credits the school will accept as transfer credits. If you have a lot of credits to transfer, credit by exam may not be the right fit for you.

Exemptions: Some schools treat credit by exam tests as exemptions, meaning you are allowed to test out of a prerequisite but will not receive a credit. For example, taking a College Composition CLEP test may exempt you from taking an introductory writing course, but you’ll have to earn those credits in a more challenging course.

Electives: Some colleges only count credit by exam tests as an elective, so you cannot test out of courses required for your major.

How many credits can I test out?

Most colleges limit the number of credits that you can CLEP, and some schools even cap how many students can earn CLEP credits.

The number of credits that you can test out varies from 12 up to 60+. This number may include any previously earned AP tests credits, so be sure to speak with your academic advisor before pursuing credit by exam.

Smarter with Achieve can help

If you’re looking for ways to reduce the cost of college, Credit-by-Exam can help you reach your goals faster. But first, you’d have to understand how the program works within your school and for your degree program.

If you’re already enrolled in a college or plan to enroll soon, it’s essential to speak with your academic advisor on how Credit-by-Exam fits with your career path. You want to ensure the credits you earn will be applied toward your degree program before testing out.

Using CLEP to earn credits is a great way to save money on college and graduate faster.

Want to find out more about how you can use Credit-by-Exam to accelerate your degree at your specific school? Have our team identify all of the eligible courses, and while they’re at it, tell you how much it will cost to prep for each course using Smarter.

Ready to get started? Know precisely which courses your school will let you CLEP. Get your Prep Course Plan today.

Earn College Credits in High School

Earn College Credits in High School

Did you know that you could earn college credits while still in high school? Earning college credits in high school not only helps you graduate faster from college, but it also helps you save money on tuition. More and more high schoolers are opting to earn college credits before even receiving their high school diploma, and there are plenty of options available.

Traditionally, high school students would earn college credits through AP, IB, and dual enrollment courses. All three of these options involve challenging coursework and exams. Not only that, AP, IB, or dual enrollment courses may not be available or feasible for some students, that leaves CLEP as an excellent option for earning college credit before setting foot on a college campus.

What is CLEP?

CLEP, or the College-Level Examination Program, is a Credit-by-Exam test where you show how much you know about an academic subject. CLEP exams usually test core college subjects, such as History, Math, World Languages, and Composition and Literature. You earn college credits by achieving a qualifying score on the tests. Over 3,000 colleges and universities currently accept CLEP test scores, which are administered by the College Board.
The best thing about CLEP is that you don’t have to sit down for an actual class like you would with AP, IB, or dual enrollment classes.

Benefits of CLEP for High Schoolers

You can earn college credits early.

CLEP’s biggest benefit is that you can earn college credits before filling out a single university application or receiving an acceptance letter.

Because CLEP is available at most colleges, you can still attend your college of choice without CLEP exams affecting which school you can attend.

You can shorten your college career.

For example, say you took and passed four (4) CLEP exams during your high school years, and each of those exams counted for three credits. In total, you would have earned 12 college credits, and you would have passed the majority of your first semester classes.

While some students may worry that shortening your time at college would affect the ‘college experience,’ many students have found that CLEP has enriched their experience. Many students have pursued gap years to travel, study abroad, or start an internship with the extra time.

The reality is that very few people will graduate from college in four years. Many students are taking longer to graduate than ever before, and it’s not uncommon for people to spend six years or more completing their undergraduate degree. So, if you can test out of a semester or a year or more from your college career, it’s not a bad idea to consider. You’d be much better off at the end of your studies using CLEP.

You can save a lot of money.

Additionally, the money they saved in the process helped them start careers without a mountain of debt looming over them. How much debt? The average college student owes 30K in student loans by the time they graduate. How much could CLEP save you? CLEP exams typically cost between $80 – $100 each, while the average 3-credit college course costs more than $1,700.
Using our earlier example of taking and passing four (4) CLEP tests, with each test at $80 apiece, you can expect to spend about $320. The same four courses attending a regular college class would cost you around $6,800. Doing the math, that’s $6,480 in savings! But the savings don’t have to stop here. You can always take more CLEP tests, earn more credits, and save even more money on college.

You will appear more college-ready.

Getting into college is tough. If your dream school is very competitive, every SAT or ACT score, grade, and extracurricular activity counts. You’ll stand out as an applicant with CLEP credits. CLEP helps you boost your application beyond high school accomplishments and shows that you’re prepared for college. You devoting time to taking and passing CLEP exams shows university admissions that you’re dedicated to your education can handle challenges and that you work hard to achieve your academic goals.

Getting started with CLEP

How can you get started with CLEP credits while still in high school? Make sure you cover these two key factors.

  • Be sure that the college you’re attending accepts CLEP exams for the courses you plan to CLEP. Some colleges require that you take some science courses in a traditional class.
  • Be prepared to pass your CLEP exam on the first try using Smarter with Achieve for Credit-by-Exam prep. Our test prep offers live online instruction from experienced teachers. Plus, you can attend courses from the comfort of your home.

Smarter with Achieve can help.

High school is full of obligations, from extracurricular activities to academic classes and social obligations. Give yourself a headstart for college by testing out of courses using Credit-by-Exam. Smarter with Achieve helps you CLEP out of college courses before setting foot at a university. Attend our prep courses and start earning college credits in as little as four weeks! See how we can help. Chat with an Advisor today!