How To Get Credit for Your Credits


Credit transfer policy is key to getting the most out of your prior education when it comes to degree completion. It seems obvious but few actually take advantage of this important part of completing their degree. You need to know what is really going on and what to do about it.

Buzz Today Hechinger Report: Veteran’s New Battle: Getting Credit for What They Already Know: The only benefit of his time in the military that the university (University of South Florida) conferred was to recognize his basic training by tossing him two credits for physical education…. But it took him longer than it needed to, in part because universities and colleges give veterans so little credit for their training and experience. In addition to time, the problem is costing veterans money to pay for courses about subjects they already know… Universities have generally been reluctant to accept transfer credit from any student…letting students forgo credit means the institutions forgo revenue.

Let’s look at the example of credit transfer in the BUZZ Today data to the right. The way this issue is reported makes it sound like all universities do what happened here, namely reject most of this veteran’s experience. The key phrase is “because universities and colleges give veterans so little credit for their training and experience.” This makes it sound like it is ALL universities and colleges who give veterans so little credit for their training and experience. What this article actually means is that the University of South Florida gave this veteran so little credit (only 2 credits) for his prior training and experience.

Here is what you need to know about this important decision. The college or university that you select has a lot to do with how many credits you will be granted for your prior learning and experience. Most potential students first select the college and then negotiate over how many credits are accepted. This places the prospective student (you) at a severe disadvantage. As the material in the BUZZ Today states, the party you are negotiating with, in this case the university where you are applying, has a strong incentive to grant as few transfer credits as possible. Every credit the university accepts reduces their potential revenue by exactly the same amount. Think of the roles as reversed. How enthusiastic would you be to accept credits if it reduced your revenue?

The point is not that colleges and universities are malicious, it is just that the incentives of the relationship are not in the favor of the applying student. You need to change the odds to your favor.

So what is the solution you ask? The answer is that you must be willing to shop around, to evaluate the offers from several universities before making the decision on where to enroll. The mistake the veteran in BUZZ Today made was in selecting the University of South Florida and then going through the credit transfer discussion. To avoid this trap you must have the credit transfer policy discussion BEFORE selecting a specific college or university.

In summary, it is not true that all universities give so little credit for prior training and experience. Some give a great deal of credit for both veteran and civilian applicants. It is very much in your interest to find out which universities are willing to accept your credits. The amount you spend and the time it will take you to complete depend on it. You have years and tens of thousands of dollars at risk it you do not take these facts into consideration before you select the school to attend.

Credentials Matter

Degrees are important. They matter to both employers and students. Markets confirm that it is not just about what you learn. It is also about what your learning communicates to others. In many cases, having known credentials are required to even be considered.

BUZZ Today Source: Georgia Tech Announces Massive Online Master’s Degree in Computer Science While courses related to OMS CS (Online Masters Degree in Computer Science) will be available free of charge on the Udacity site, only those granted admission to Georgia Tech will receive credit. Degree-seeking students will pay tuition based either on individual course or the entire degree program. Georgia Tcch and Udacity also will develop a separate credential for those who successfully complete courses but do not qualify for full graduate standing. Source: Harvard University faculty member blog on Computer Science CS50x MOOC: CS50x’s “completion rate” is (defined as submission of all work with scores of at least 60%) was .9% out of 150,349 who registered. By contrast, 702 out of 706 students (99.6%) “completed” CS50 on campus this past fall (2012).

The experiments with MOOCs are revealing some important information about how students are viewing the MOOC value proposition. Let’s look at the Georgia Tech Masters degree in computer science. With help from AT&T this innovative and highly cost competitive master’s degree will cost $7,000 to the student. This cost for a master’s degree from a highly prestigious university is rightfully being hailed as a real break through in the cost of an accredited degree. The development has been praised as true innovation. It is.

But what is interesting for the discussion here, is how the students admitted to the degree granting program view the MOOC. As with CS50 at Harvard, the MOOC will deliver the exact same content to both admitted university students and anyone who desires to take the program content. In both the Harvard and Georgia Tech situations, students enrolled in the credit granting activity (CS50 in the Harvard University case and OMS CS admitted students in the Georgia Tech case) have the option to take the same course as a free MOOC. They could have the same content without paying any tuition whatsoever.

So if it were just about the content of the courses, why wouldn’t every student qualified to be admitted and paying tuition simply take the free MOOC instead? The only plausible answer, is that the students with the choice value the credential associated with the tuition. In the case of the Georgia Tech master’s degree, the value of the credential is at least $7,000. This is a bargain compared to traditional master’s programs, but relatively expensive when compared to free. The same thing can be said about CS50x at Harvard where the cost for the CS50 degree related course on campus is at least several thousand dollars. Credentials matter.

A couple of conclusions are immediately evident. The first is that to be a true substitute for the existing traditional higher education model MOOCs will have to address the credentialing issue. The specifics in BUZZ Today tells us that simply issuing a separate certificate is not sufficient to give the student the value gotten in an accredited degree program. To be truly viable alternatives, it is likely that the MOOC model will have to incorporate some of the attributes of accredited degrees. Some of these attributes will no doubt include selectivity and admission qualifications, faculty support, infrastructure support including mentoring, coaching and advising. These, along with investment in content development, will require a revenue model for investment funding. As a result, it is highly likely that at least a portion of the current MOOC phenomenon will become MOC (Massive Online Courses) with non-zero cost to fund the services that are part of a market valued credential. Another implication is that valued higher education requires more than prestigious course content.

The other dimension of the Credentials Matter conversation is the role that employers play. Job position postings overwhelmingly specify accredited degree credential requirements. The qualifications segment of those job postings do not typically say: “The following MOOCs required: _____, _______,______” They most often state:

“Bachelor’s degree required with 3-5 years experience in the field.” Credentials matter to employers too.

Selecting A College or University Part II

Earning a degree is now more important than ever.  Experts predict that the majority of new jobs that will be created over the next decade will require a post secondary degree of some kind.  Today, less than 40% of Americans hold such a degree.  The mismatch between current supply and future demand is obvious.

   Buzz TodaySource:  Your Future is Calling.  When you have earned credits in your prior education you actually have those credits.  But there is a problem when you want to use those credits in a degree program.  It is not where you got those credits that is important in American higher education.  It is where you are trying to use those credits, that is most important in American higher education. It is very important that you understand this.  Even though you earned the credits and you paid the tuition, and those credits are on your official transcript they might be worthless. Not the U.S. Department of Education nor even God himself / herself can guarantee that those credits will be accepted in a different degree program.  It is only the university you are entering that has the authority to grant those credits as being valid toward the degree you are seeking. 

Today an education is more important than ever and represents a huge investment in time and money.  You would think that the information required to select the right school is readily available.  Wrong!  Given the complex world we live in there is more information than ever.  But good clear information is scarce.

So, how can this be?  The answer is that our world is far more complex.  Today the choice of a college involves not only the selection of a place to call your alma mater, it involves your life choices.  This is especially true for adults returning to education.

A high school graduate entering a freshman class has several years of general education to figure out what they want to do with the rest of their life.  An eighteen year old filling out their second semester class roster has little risk of getting their course selection wrong.  Their choices at that stage have little impact on the life they will lead a decade later.

For an adult with a prior education who has a spouse, has kids and works every day at a job – filling out their class roster has more risk in their choices.  These choices include the college or university they plan to attend.  How the courses are delivered (online or in class), what majors are available and how much of their strained income tuition consumes are all related to the school selected.  Unlike the typical recent high school graduate, this adult is particularly sensitive to time to graduation and cost of enrollment.

So how are you to decide which college or university is right for you?  The answer is that you need detailed and reliable information about the majors available, credit transfer policy, grant availability, scholarships and accreditation of every college you are considering attending.  One place all of that information is available is in:  Your Future is Calling.