CLEP- The Cheapest Way to Afford College That You’ve Probably Never Heard Of

For $85 plus CSU’s $30 testing fee, you can get credit hours by testing out of select course topics


Did you know that you’re allowed to test out of select courses, potentially saving thousands of dollars on your college education? When you pass a CLEP, College Level Examination Program, exam, you receive all the credit hours for its equivalent course. CLEP exams are $85 each, while CSU’s testing fee for taking a CLEP exam is $30. That’s a total of $115 per course topic, be it American Government, College Algebra, Introductory Sociology, or any of the other CLEP exams offered and accepted by CSU. Keep in mind that some of the CLEP exams offered by CSU cover more than three credit hours even though each exam is the same price. Also, CLEP exams are free for qualified military test-takers.

According to The Wall Street Journal, about seven in ten college seniors graduated from college with an average of $37,172 in debt in 2016. According to College Scorecard, 58% of CSU students take out student loans, and after graduation, the median amount of debt for a CSU student who took out a federal loan is $26,000. Note that non-federal loans are not included in this estimate.

College Board states that “an adult student who earns 15 CLEP credits to apply toward a degree could save nearly $5,000 at the average public 4-year institution.” If $26,000 is the median (federal) loan debt a CSU student accumulates in four years, then a year’s worth of debt is about $6,500. At CSU, if two semesters are made up of ten courses, and you CLEPed all of those courses for $115 each, you would spend only $1,150 for those two semesters of courses. Keep in mind that CSU has rules about non-CSU credit hours and that you may or may not be allowed to CLEP this many courses. Ask your advisor for clarification on what you may or may not do.

At most colleges, including CSU, CLEP scores are awarded on a pass/fail basis. Your CLEP score will not show up on your transcript as an A, B, C, D, or F, but as passed or failed. However, if you pass an exam, you will receive all of the credit hours for that course. Please note that at CSU, you are not allowed to retake the same CLEP exam within three months of your first try.

For more information on CLEP, visit the official CLEP website, CSU’s CLEP page, and your advisor. Always check with your advisor before choosing a CLEP exam to make sure that it can be applied to your major and that there are no rules against you acquiring CLEP credits (such as limits on non-CSU credit hours). Make sure you are ready to take a CLEP exam by researching its requirements and studying appropriately.