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May 03, 2008


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Thanks for the info! My college was great with this stuff they even helpped me apply for the loan there!

Community colleges are really an outstanding resource. In my area, community college costs $26/credit hour or less. Not only is tuition cheap, but being enrolled can help you save money in other ways as well. For instance, schools will sometimes rent out video cameras to students, and you can frequently find a free printer somewhere...

More people should be made aware that (1) you don't need to take an AP class to take the AP exam, and (2) the CLEP tests at your community college are about half the cost of the AP exams.

Interesting, I hadn't heard of the CLEP tests before. For AP or CLEP I'd look into what the colleges accept first before taking such a test. Some schools don't take everything and there are different minimum scores for credit.


I would caution that taking an AP class to place out of a college course in your major could have drawbacks down the line, especially in more technical majors. I am an engineer and did very well on the AP calculus and physics tests but I retook those classes in college. Better to have a solid base and a little bit of familiar material in your first year of college when everything else is so overwhelming. If you placed out of Calc and physics 1 and were taking 2nd level classes your freshman year, you would most likely be struggling to keep up. This may not be as applicable for majors like History or English, etc.

Now, an engineer placing out of a history or English requirement is probably a good idea. Or for a humanities major, placing out of a science class. Although I am not convinced that a few courses would significantly decrease the number of semesters you need to spend in school, it would free up study time so you can do well in the classes that matter to your major.

Also, fill out your FAFSA as early as possible. Colleges may "run out" of the best aid Grants early in the process. (Also I know you are from the Grand Rapids Area, GVSU's PBS station has run several college aid programs during the past few months I think the live ones are over but I know there was a lot of positive feedback to the station so they may run them again.)

I think the advice about AP credits and community colleges can be overrated.

1) Taking AP exams to place out of college classes will only save you money if you end up being able to work it all to graduate early. If not, it might actually cost you more money. It did for me. That's because most colleges charge more per credit for "senior standing" (junior and seniors) than "junior standing" (freshman and sophs). So I ended up getting the privilege of paying the higher tuition rate a semester early even though I wasn't going to be in a position to graduate in less than 4 years. I'm not saying don't take AP classes, but unless you are going to take a ton of them (and I did five myself), and then are going to dogmatically make finishing early the decision criteria in what you will or won't take in college, it's not going to save you money.

2) Yes, community colleges are cheaper, but I see this kind of like the "go somewhere cheaper than transfer advice". It can work, but it's not guaranteed. You are paying less and getting less in a community college. I don't mean to denigrate community colleges, but people need to be realistic that they are making a trade-off. If they plan on transfering, they would be wise to verify what credits will in fact transfer. And I'd be careful with this approach. At some stage, there's a tipping point and you get stuck with the label of having gone to a community college rather than having just gotten the advantage of some more affordable education. I sure wouldn't want to be applying to grad school with a significant community college component to my transcript.

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