College on a Budget

Until both my kids graduation college you just might keep hearing from me on this topic.  Only because I believe we can get our kids into a College or University and not come out on the other end with more debt than anyone can handle.

When I write these articles I am writing from a place of the average student (up to a 3.70 GPA), not receiving athletic scholarships, music scholarships and middle class. 

If you haven’t read any of my other posts on this you need to know one thing, I wanted my kids to go and have the college experience that I had. No I wasn’t a party girl, but college was tons of fun for me. An experience that I think everyone should take advantage of….except when the price tag is $25,000-$40,000 a year.  At that price send them on an amazing trip!!

My daughter is doing a pseudo gap year.  By that I mean she will be leaving in January to do a 6 month training school and service project.  Until she leaves she will take a few classes at the local community college. We want to get a little schooling under her belt before she leaves, plus it will give her something to do in the mean time. This year will also give her some time to do some budgeting for next year.

We have also discovered something else to help us get her more credits before she leaves. CLEP

CLEP stands for College Level Examination Program. CLEP has been around for ever.  It’s used by adults earning a degree and often times home schooled students, but it’s available for anyone.

Here’s how CLEP works. You study and test out of General Education classes.  The tests cost just $80 and over 2,900 colleges and Universities accept these.  There are 33 classes that are available to test for. At the community college we are paying over $350 a class and that’s cheap, but this is cheaper.

I started to do some research to see why this is not publicized, especially with the cost of a college education these days. One of the comments I saw was that colleges prefer the AP (Advanced Placement) classes from high schools.  Upon further research I realized that they liked the AP classes better when handing out scholarships.


A student we know just did a full IB program. What that means is they took enough college level classes in high school, paid $200 per test, to enter college as a sophomore.  This student had great grades, but because they came from a middle class family they received no financial help.

So, what does “Universities prefer AP over CLEP” really mean? Feel free to jump in and answer that for me.

So, if you are middle class, average student, and willing to put time into these tests, should you? I think yes.  We are talking General Education classes.  We aren’t talking about actual Psychology classes or Marketing classes that you need to take, we are talking Gen Eds. Classes that everyone has to take no matter what direction you are going.

If you have a kid graduating soon or already in college check and see what their schools policy is on CLEP and what CLEP scores they will accept.

We are going to look into having our son, who is a Junior, start testing for some of these classes.  Might as well get a jump start on college if he can.  We are also encouraging him to take a gap year. By doing this he doesn’t have to go to school right away and can still be working on his Freshman year of college.

What are things you are doing to help afford your child’s education?

 Is it wrong to let them go to college if you can’t afford it?



  1. Some of the local high schools offer a program where they have partnered with the local community college. These kids don’t set foot in their high school their junior and/or senior years and if they attend both of those years they finish with their high school diploma and their two-year degree simultaneously. Best of all, the high school pays for the program…you don’t, and the student is still eligible to participate in all school sponsored high school activities like sports and clubs.

    I know Southridge High in Beaverton offers this partnership with PCC. I don’t know what other schools/districts offer it.

    We know several kids who have taken advantage. What a smart step forward for them. I wish I’d known about the program about 4 years earlier, as my youngest was heading off to college as I learned about it.