Higher education is changing rapidly, partly in response to the federal government’s goal of increasing the U.S. college graduate rate from 42% to 55% by 2025. Published by the College Board, The College Completion Agenda encourages schools to: 1) make the admissions process more transparent and less complex, 2) make the attainment of a degree more affordable, and 3) ease the transfer of credits among institutions. While many of these changes have been working through the nation’s higher education system over the last couple decades, the rate of change is accelerating and is creating incredible opportunities for students willing to be resourceful.

There are five general college Plans and each contains a variety of options for a student to successfully complete their bachelors degree. In general, the Plans are based on how much college credit a student intends to earn independently. Students will decide according to their learning preferences, need for flexibility, and interest in saving money. If you are willing to be creative, rather than simply following the increasingly expensive way of previous generations, there will be significant rewards.

Your answers to the following questions will help you decide which Plan fits best:


What are your financial boundaries? Are you eligible for financial aid or scholarships? Are you comfortable accumulating student loan debt, and if so, how much? Will your prospective starting salary support your monthly student loan payment?

College Experience

Are you looking for the “experience” of a traditional college? Would you be willing to give up some of the experiences to save a significant amount of money?

Guidance Desired

How much advising and counseling oversight do you need? Are you willing to research your own degree path with the potential to save a great deal of money?


Do you work? Do you need a flexible college schedule? Would it be helpful to earn some of your credits outside the classroom?

Learning Style

How comfortable are you learning on your own? Would you be willing to study subjects without an instructor? Do you want to work at your own pace?

Educational Background

How well do you meet traditional freshman admission criteria such as GPA, class rank, and ACT or SAT score? Do you have a high school diploma or GED? Have you already earned some college credit? Did you earn these credits years ago?


The Five Plans

As you examine your options, your answers to the questions will help guide you to the Plan that is right for you.

The Plans vary depending on how many credit hours are earned prior to formally enrolling in the college of your choice. The more that is done independently, the more the potential for savings.

Traditional Path

A student enters college as a freshman, attends traditional classes full time, and graduates in roughly four years.

Independent Freshman Plan

The first year of school, up to 30 credit hours, is earned before enrolling in the college where the student plans to graduate. The credits may come from regular college courses, or they may be earned through a variety of other credit-earning options.

Independent Sophomore Plan

The first two years of school are earned prior to enrolling in the graduating college. Again, credits can be earned from multiple sources.

Independent Junior Plan

Three years of credit hours are earned before enrolling.

Independent Senior Plan

The entire four years is earned before enrolling in the degree-granting college.



Each Plan provides students with many credible and well-respected credit earning options that have been used by innovative students for many years and accepted by fully-accredited colleges and universities across the country. According to a 2010 report by the National Association for College Admission Counseling, one-third of all college students earned credit prior to enrolling in the college of their choice.





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