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35 Best Affordable Colleges for Early College Credit While In High School

It’s become increasingly common for colleges and universities to offer college credit opportunities to high school students. Not all of these schools award credits equally, however. Some are more generous than others. In this ranking, we explore the best and most affordable colleges for students looking to get a head-start on their college careers. The programs listed below are four-year schools accredited by the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships (NACEP).

Methodology

Undergraduate Tuition

  • Under $30,000: 1 point
  • Under $25,000:  2 points
  • Under $20,000: 3 points
  • Under $15,000: 4 points
  • Under $10,000: 5 points

National Recognition (U.S. News & World Report)

  • Top 400: 1 point
  • Top 300: 2 points
  • Top 200: 3 points
  • Top 100: 4 points

Dual Enrollment Accreditation (by the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships- NACEP)- 1 point

AP Credit

  • 1 point Awarded per AP Exam Score Accepted
  • Awards Credit for Qualifying AP Exam Scores: 1 point
  • Awards Advanced Placement for Qualifying AP Exam Scores: 1 point

CLEP Exams

  • 1 point Awarded per CLEP Exam Score Accepted

Other Opportunities for Earning College Credit Pre-Enrollment

  • Pre-College Program- 1 point
  • Post-Secondary Enrollment—1 point

Rating and Ranking the Best Colleges for Earning Credit in High School

To develop this ranking of the best colleges for earning credit in high school, our editors began with an initial pool consisting of the 42 four-year colleges and universities with dual/concurrent enrollment programs accredited by the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships (NACEP). We then applied the rating and ranking methodology above, using data from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES), U.S. News & World Report, and each school’s website. In the case of a tie, the more affordable school received the higher ranking.

#35—University of Minnesota-Twin Cities

Minneapolis, Minnesota

Website
Points: 46

University of Minnesota, Twin Cities - 35 Best Affordable Colleges for Early College Credit While In High School

The University of Minnesota- Twin Cities offers various ways for high school students to earn college credit, including dual enrollment and post-secondary enrollment options. These options are primarily designed for students who have achieved junior or senior status. Students who have taken Advanced Placement (AP) courses in high school can also submit scores in exchange for credit in a variety of different subjects, including:

  • Art History
  • Chemistry,
  • English Language and Composition
  • European History

The University of Minnesota-Twin Cities has been fully accredited by The Higher Learning Commission. U.S. News & World Report has ranked the school among the top 75 national universities in the country.
Undergraduate Tuition: $15,027

#34—Central Methodist University

Fayette, Missouri

Website
Points: 54

Central Methodist University - 35 Best Affordable Colleges for Early College Credit While In High School

Central Methodist University offers high school students opportunities to earn early college credit through its First Class Program. Through this NACEP-accredited program, qualified students can take classes on campus or online and earn credit towards a degree and towards their high school diploma simultaneously. Other opportunities for students to earn credit before their high school graduation include AP classes and CLEP examinations. Central Methodist University holds its institutional accreditation from The Higher Learning Commission. The school has been named one of the 35 best regional colleges in the Midwest by U.S. News & World Report.
Undergraduate Tuition: $25,070

#33—Arkansas State University

Jonesboro, Arkansas

Website
Points: 63

Arkansas State University - 35 Best Affordable Colleges for Early College Credit While In High School

Arkansas State University offers many different opportunities for ambitious high school students to earn credit before receiving their diploma. The school’s dual enrollment program, for example, enables qualified high school students to earn up to 12 credit hours of college credit per semester. Eligibility requirements include an ACT score of at least 19 and a minimum 2.75 GPA. The school also has a relatively liberal Advanced Placement (AP) policy, accepting over 30 different test scores in exchange for credit. A-State also accepts passing scores on 23 different CLEP exams, including:

  • Introductory Business Law
  • College Composition
  • American Government

The Higher Learning Commission institutionally accredits Arkansas State. U.S. News & World Report has ranked the school among the country’s top national universities.
Undergraduate Tuition: $8,900

#32—Southeast Missouri State University

Cape Girardeau, Missouri

Website
Points: 68

Southeast Missouri State University - 35 Best Affordable Colleges for Early College Credit While In High School

Juniors and seniors who meet certain achievement criteria and attend participating high schools may enroll in dual credit classes from Southeast Missouri State University. Dozens of classes for concurrent credit are available from the university, including:

  • Introductory Physics
  • American History
  • English Composition
  • Fundamentals of Interpersonal Communication
  • Introductory for Microcomputer Applications

Students may also submit AP and CLEP scores for additional early college credit. The Higher Learning Commission has accredited SEMO to offer these college credits to high school students. The school has been ranked among the top 80 regional universities in the Midwest by U.S. News & World Report.
Undergraduate Tuition: $7,800

#31—University of Missouri-Kansas City

Kansas City, Missouri

Website
Points: 69

University of Missouri, Kansas City - 35 Best Affordable Colleges for Early College Credit While In High School

Students enrolled in nearby high schools have plenty of opportunities to earn early college credit through the University of Missouri-Kansas City’s robust dual enrollment program. Classes offered through the program mirror those available to on-campus college students. Some sample course titles include:

  • Introductory Anatomy
  • Writing About Literature
  • PreCalculus Algebra

Students can submit one of 47 different passing scores on AP subject tests or take one of a dozen available CLEP examinations for additional early college credit. The University of Missouri- Kansas City holds full institutional accreditation to award this credit by The Higher Learning Commission. It’s been ranked among some of the top national universities in the United States by U.S. News & World Report.
Undergraduate Tuition: $9,915

#30—Southern Arkansas University

Magnolia, Arkansas

Website
Points: 69

Southern Arkansas University - 35 Best Affordable Colleges for Early College Credit While In High School

High school students interested in earning college credit prior to graduation have several opportunities to do so through Southern Arkansas University. The school’s concurrent enrollment program enables secondary students to start chipping away at general education requirements such as:

  • College Algebra
  • World History
  • Composition
  • Art Appreciation

SAU also awards both credit and placement for AP scores in a variety of different subject areas, including:

  • Chemistry
  • Psychology
  • Music Theory
  • Statistics

Finally, its CLEP policy allows students to test out of (and receive credit for) required courses in disciplines like accounting, sociology, biology, and more. The Higher Learning Commission has accredited Southern Arkansas University to award these credits at the postsecondary level. U.S. News & World Report has named the school one of the best regional universities in the South.
Undergraduate Tuition: $9,080

#29—University of Minnesota-Crookston

Crookston, Minnesota

Website
Points: 70

university-of-minnesota-crookston - 35 Best Affordable Colleges for Early College Credit While In High School

The dual enrollment program from the University of Minnesota-Crookston is administered through its Liberal Arts and Education Department. Referred to as College in the High School (CIHS), the program enables students to take college-level courses and earn credit while still in secondary school. In addition, high school students can receive credit from the university for passing scores on Advanced Placement (AP) exams in subjects like:

  • Comparative Government and Politics
  • Human Geography
  • Macroeconomics
  • Psychology

The school’s CLEP policy also enables students to receive credit in two dozen different academic disciplines. UMN-Crookston is accredited by The Higher Learning Commission to award these college credits during high school. U.S. News & World Report has ranked the school among the 40 best colleges in the Midwest.
Undergraduate Tuition: $12,116

#28—Northwest Missouri State University

Maryville, Missouri

Website
Points: 72

Northwest Missouri State University -  35 Best Affordable Colleges for Early College Credit While In High School

High school students who meet minimum GPA and ACT score requirements may participate in Northwest Missouri State University’s dual enrollment program. Accredited by the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships (NACEP), the program enables students to earn both high school and college credit for courses such as:

  • Fundamentals of Oral Communication
  • General Psychology
  • Introduction to American Government & Politics
  • General Biology

Additional credit can be earned through AP courses and CLEP examinations. The Higher Learning Commission accredits Northwest Missouri State University. U.S. News & World Report has ranked the school among the leading regional universities in the Midwest.
Undergraduate Tuition: $8,238

#27—Pennsylvania College of Technology

Williamsport, Pennsylvania

Website
Points: 74

Pennsylvania College of Technology - 35 Best Affordable Colleges for Early College Credit While In High School

Pennsylvania College of Technology’s concurrent enrollment program is referred to as Penn College NOW. The NACEP-accredited program enables high school students to earn college credit while enrolled in high schools and career and technology centers across the state.  Penn College NOW students enjoy free tuition and access to campus facilities. Other ways to earn college credit through the college include AP and CLEP exam submissions. The Middle States Commission fully accredits Penn College of Technology on Higher Education. U.S. News & World Report has recognized it as one of the top 15 regional colleges in the North.
Undergraduate Tuition: $17,160

#26—University of Central Missouri

Warrensburg, Missouri

Website
Points: 77

University of Central Missouri - 35 Best Affordable Colleges for Early College Credit While In High School

The University of Central Missouri offers students several different ways to earn college credit while still in high school. In addition to offering dual enrollment, the school is also home to an Innovation Track program, enabling students to shorten their degree completion time by up to one year. Also, students may participate in the Missouri Innovation Campus (MIC), allowing them to complete their associate’s degree while still in high school. Students also have the opportunity to submit AP and CLEP exam scores in exchange for credit. The Higher Learning Commission accredits the University of Central Missouri. U.S. News & World Report has ranked the school among the 80 best regional universities in the Midwest.
Undergraduate Tuition: $7,969

#25—Idaho State University

Pocatello, Idaho

Website
Points: 80

Idaho State University - 35 Best Affordable Colleges for Early College Credit While In High School

The Early College program at Idaho State University has offered college credit to high school students for over twenty-five years now. The program requires just a 2.7 minimum GPA for participation and is available to students from 40 different high schools across Idaho. The school also accepts numerous AP exam scores and CLEP tests in exchange for credit and advanced placement. The Northwest Commission fully accredits Idaho State on Colleges and Universities.
Undergraduate Tuition: $7,872

#24—University of Central Arkansas

Conway, Arkansas

Website
Points: 81

University of Central Arkansas - 35 Best Affordable Colleges for Early College Credit While In High School

Students have a few different options to earn college credits during high school from the University of Central Arkansas. For instance, those who meet the minimum GPA and ACT requirements can take advantage of the school’s concurrent enrollment program. UCA also accepts AP exam scores in numerous academic disciplines like:

  • Art History
  • Chemistry
  • Calculus
  • Computer Science

More than a dozen CLEP exams are also accepted for early college credit. The University of Central Arkansas holds institutional accreditation from The Higher Learning Commission. It’s been ranked by U.S. News & World Report as one of the best national universities in the country.
Undergraduate Tuition: $9,188

#23—Northern State University

Aberdeen, South Dakota

Website
Points: 81

Northern State University - 35 Best Affordable Colleges for Early College Credit While In High School

In addition to AP and CLEP credits, Northern State University offers three primary ways high school students can earn early college credit:

  • Traditional Dual Enrollment Program
  • E-Learning Dual Enrollment Program
  • The Rising Scholars Program

Students who take advantage of any of these opportunities to earn college credit while still in high school and then attend the university after high school graduation are eligible for certain scholarships. Northern State is institutionally accredited by The Higher Learning Commission, and U.S. News & World Report has ranked it among the top 80 regional universities in the Midwest.
Undergraduate Tuition: $8,750

#22—Farmingdale State College

Farmingdale, New York

Website
Points: 81

Farmingdale State College - 35 Best Affordable Colleges for Early College Credit While In High School

Farmingdale State College calls its concurrent enrollment program University in the High School or UHS. Designed for upper-level students, this NACEP-accredited program allows juniors and seniors to earn early college credit for courses such as Modern Anthropology and Globalization, Art History, Survey of Graphic Design, and many more. The school also awards early credit for three dozen different passing scores on AP exams and almost as many CLEP scores. The school holds its institutional accreditation from the Middle States Commission on Higher Education. U.S. News & World Report has ranked this SUNY institution among the North’s top 25 universities.  
Undergraduate Tuition: $8,538

#21—West Virginia State University

Institute, West Virginia

Website
Points: 81

West Virginia State University - 35 Best Affordable Colleges for Early College Credit While In High School

The Yellow Jacket Connection is West Virginia State University’s answer to the call for early college credit during high school. This NACEP-accredited program enables eligible high school students to earn dual credit for taking university-level classes such as:

  • Human Growth and Development
  • Foundations of Education
  • Environmental Biology
  • College Algebra

The school also accepts nearly 40 AP exam scores and almost as many CLEP exam scores in exchange for credit. West Virginia State holds full institutional accreditation from The Higher Learning Commission, and U.S. News & World Report has ranked the school among the 60 best regional colleges in the South.  
Undergraduate Tuition: $8,237

#20—University of Washington-Seattle

Seattle, Washington

Website
Points: 84

University of Washington - 35 Best Affordable Colleges for Early College Credit While In High School

The University of Washington offers two programs for high school students to earn college credit: Running Start and UW in the High School. These programs are available to students beginning their sophomore year at one of more than a hundred participating high schools across the state. Available courses include English Composition, Introduction to Psychology, Precalculus, and more. Over 70 passing scores on AP exams are also accepted for credit and advanced placement. The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities has accredited the University of Washington to extend credit to qualifying high school students. The school has been ranked among the top 60 national universities in the United States by U.S. News & World Report.
Undergraduate Tuition: $11,465

#19—University of Arkansas-Little Rock

Little Rock, Arkansas

Website
Points: 84

University of Arkansas, Little Rock - 35 Best Affordable Colleges for Early College Credit While In High School

The University of Arkansas-Little Rock offers several pathways towards credit while still in high school. Students can enroll in the school’s NACEP-accredited dual enrollment program, for instance. Approved courses include Science of Biology, Foundations of Elementary Education, Introduction to Communication, Internet Technologies, and more. A variety of AP exams are also accepted for credit by the university, and in most cases, a score of 3 is sufficient. In terms of CLEP exams, UA-Little Rock accepts passing scores for most subject area examinations. The Higher Learning Commission has granted institutional accreditation to the University of Arkansas-Little Rock. It’s also been recognized as one of the top national universities in the United States by U.S. News & World Report.
Undergraduate Tuition: $9,544

#18—Missouri Southern State University

Joplin, Missouri

Website
Points: 85

Missouri Southern State University - 35 Best Affordable Colleges for Early College Credit While In High School

Missouri Southern State University is home to a robust dual enrollment program that allows high school students to start a bachelor’s degree early. Most classes are offered online, and course titles include:

  • Art Appreciation
  • College Algebra
  • U.S. History
  • General Psychology
  • College Composition

The school also offers students college credit for over 40 AP exam scores and more than 30 CLEP exam scores. The Higher Learning Commission has extended institutional accreditation to Missouri Southern State. U.S. News & World Report has recognized the school as one of the 60 best regional colleges in the Midwest.
Undergraduate Tuition: $6,803

#17—University of Missouri-St. Louis

St. Louis, Missouri

Website
Points: 86

University of Missouri St. Louis - 35 Best Affordable Colleges for Early College Credit While In High School

High school students interested in early college credit from the University of Missouri-St. Louis will find half a dozen different options for doing so. Some of these include an advanced credit program, International Baccalaureate (IB) option, and a military service credit offering. The school’s dual enrollment program is designed for juniors and seniors with a minimum GPA of 3.2. Early college credit is also awarded based on AP and CLEP exam scores. The University of Missouri-St. Louis is fully accredited by The Higher Learning Commission. It’s been ranked as a top national university by U.S. News & World Report.
Undergraduate Tuition: $10,170

#16—Weber State University

Ogden, Utah

Website
Points: 86

Weber State University - 35 Best Affordable Colleges for Early College Credit While In High School

Weber State University’s early college program is open to public, private, and charter high school students and those who are homeschooled. Concurrent enrollment students pay just $5 per credit hour to the university, and they can earn up to 30 college credits during a single year. The school also accepts most passing AP subject exam scores and has a generous CLEP policy. Weber State is fully accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, and U.S. News & World Report has ranked it among the top 85 regional universities in the West.
Undergraduate Tuition: $5,986

#15—Eastern Washington University

Cheney, Washington

Website
Points: 88

Eastern Washington University - 35 Best Affordable Colleges for Early College Credit While In High School

Eastern Washington University offers two distinct pathways toward early college credit: Running Start and EWU in the High School. Both programs offer affordable tuition, and students can take classes online, on-campus, or at their own high schools. The school also accepts numerous AP subject exams in exchange for both credit and advanced placement. CLEP exams are accepted as well. The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities has accredited EWU to offer these early college credits. U.S. News & World Report has ranked the school among the 55 best regional universities in the West.
Undergraduate Tuition: $7,526

#14—Minnesota State University-Mankato

Mankato, Minnesota

Website
Points: 93

Minnasota State University, Mankato - 35 Best Affordable Colleges for Early College Credit While In High School

Minnesota State University-Mankato’s concurrent enrollment program allows secondary students to earn college credit from one of the nation’s leading regional universities before receiving their high school diploma. The university’s AP score acceptance policy gives students additional ways to earn both credit and advanced placement in academic disciplines like:

  • Chemistry
  • European History
  • Environmental Science
  • Physics

College credit hours can also be earned before enrollment through the school’s CLEP program. The Higher Learning Commission has fully accredited Minnesota State- Mankato to award these college credits to high school students.
Undergraduate Tuition: $8,438

#13—University of Idaho

Moscow, Idaho

Website
Points: 93

University of Idaho - 35 Best Affordable Colleges for Early College Credit While In High School

The University of Idaho offers concurrent enrollment opportunities for high school students in partnership with the Idaho State Department of Education’s Fast Forward program. Students in grades 7-12 are eligible, and the state covers up to $75 per credit hour. The school also liberal AP and CLEP policies, enabling students to earn even more credits toward their degree. Fully accredited by the Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities, the University of Idaho has been ranked among the top 200 national universities in the country by U.S. News & World Report.
Undergraduate Tuition: $8,304

#12—St. Cloud State University

St. Cloud, Minnesota

Website
Points: 94

St. Cloud State University - 35 Best Affordable Colleges for Early College Credit While In High School

St. Cloud State University’s robust concurrent enrollment program allows high school students to earn sufficient college credit to enroll in an undergraduate degree program as a sophomore. Aptly titled the Senior to Sophomore, or S2S, program, this dual enrollment option is extended to high school students from over 40 different secondary schools across the state. Students also have numerous other opportunities to earn college credit through St. Cloud’s liberal AP and CLEP acceptance policies. St. Cloud State is institutionally accredited by The Higher Learning Commission. U.S. News & World Report has ranked the school among the top regional universities in the Midwest.
Undergraduate Tuition: $8,656

#11—University of Southern Indiana

Evansville, Indiana

Website
Points: 97

University of Southern Indiana - 35 Best Affordable Colleges for Early College Credit While In High School

The University of Southern Indiana’s concurrent enrollment program has been accredited by the NACEP since 2006. Called the College Achievement Program, the dual enrollment option at the university enables juniors and seniors at participating high schools to earn college credit for dozens of different courses at just $25 per credit hour. For AP students, the school offers credit for over 60 qualifying exam scores. Through the university’s CLEP program, students can also test out of several entry-level classes in disciplines like:

  • Composition and Literature
  • Business
  • Social Sciences
  • Mathematics

USI holds its institutional accreditation from The Higher Learning Commission. It’s been named one of the leading regional universities in the Midwest by U.S. News & World Report.
Undergraduate Tuition: $8,546

#10—Purdue University–Fort Wayne

Fort Wayne, Indiana

Website
Points: 99

Purdue University, Fort Wayne - 35 Best Affordable Colleges for Early College Credit While In High School

Through its Collegiate Connection Program, Purdue University-Fort Wayne awarded over 17,000 credit hours to high school students attending one of 48 participating postsecondary schools last year. The NACEP-accredited program enables students to earn these credits by attending classes on campus or at their respective high schools. The university also accepts most AP and CLEP scores, giving students even more ways to earn college credit before enrollment. The Higher Learning Commission has accredited Purdue University- Fort Wayne to extend these credit-earning opportunities. U.S. News & World Report has named it one of the best regional universities in the Midwest.
Undergraduate Tuition: $8,589

#9—University of Wisconsin- Oshkosh

Oshkosh, Wisconsin

Website
Points: 100

University of Wisconsin, Oshkosh - 35 Best Affordable Colleges for Early College Credit While In High School

The University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh offers high school students the opportunity to earn college credits through its Early College Credit Program beginning their freshman year. Participating students may take college classes on the UW-Oshkosh campus, at their high schools, or online. Some of the courses offered via distance education include:

  • Biological Concepts
  • Introduction to Criminal Justice
  • General Psychology
  • Engineering Fundamentals

The Higher Learning Commission has fully accredited the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh to offer these early college credits. U.S. News & World Report has recognized the school as one of the nation’s leading regional universities in the Midwest.
Undergraduate Tuition: $7,656

#8—Utah Valley University

Orem, Utah

Website
Points: 102

Utah Valley University - 35 Best Affordable Colleges for Early College Credit While In High School

Utah Valley University offers a highly affordable pathway for high school students to earn early college credit through its concurrent enrollment program. Students pay just $5 per credit hour and have access to over a hundred different university classes. Enrolled students have access to university services as well, such as advising and tutoring, for example. Also, UVU offers credit and advanced placement for students who can demonstrate passing scores on certain AP examinations. The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities has accredited Utah Valley to award these early college credits. U.S. News & World Report has ranked the school among the top regional universities in the West.
Undergraduate Tuition: $5,820

#7—Southwest Minnesota State University

Marshall, Minnesota

Website
Points: 104

Southwest Minnesota State University - 35 Best Affordable Colleges for Early College Credit While In High School

Southwest Minnesota State University has been offering opportunities for high school students to earn college credit through its College Now program since 1984. Today, the program serves nearly 4,500 students in almost a hundred school districts across the state of Minnesota. Concurrent enrollment courses span academic disciplines such as:

  • art
  • history
  • communication
  • political science
  • psychology

The university also accepts most passing scores on AP and CLEP examinations, extending even more college credit opportunities during high school and before enrollment. The Higher Learning Commission has accredited Southwest Minnesota State to award these postsecondary credits. U.S. News & World Report has recognized the school as one of the top regional universities in the Midwest.
Undergraduate Tuition: $8,874

#6—University of Minnesota-Duluth

Duluth, Minnesota

Website
Points: 107

University of Minnesota, Duluth - 35 Best Affordable Colleges for Early College Credit While In High School

The dual enrollment offerings from the University of Minnesota- Duluth are made available through the university’s College in the Schools (CITS) program. This NACEP-accredited initiative enables high school students to begin their college coursework before graduation. Course offerings span disciplines such as college writing, economics, mathematics, health, and more. The school’s AP policy is also generous, awarding both credit and advanced placement for scores of 3 and above. Additionally, students may receive early college credit for passing CLEP exams. UMD is institutionally accredited by The Higher Learning Commission. U.S. News & World Report has ranked it among the top 40 regional universities in the Midwest.
Undergraduate Tuition: $13,680

#5—Boise State University

Boise, Idaho

Website
Points: 107

Boise State University - 35 Best Affordable Colleges for Early College Credit While In High School

One of the nation’s best colleges for earning credit while still in high school, Boise State University has a liberal AP score acceptance policy. Also, the school’s concurrent enrollment program allows high school students to earn up to 30 credit hours and begin their university studies with sophomore status. Alternatively, students can test out of dozens of classes through the university’s CLEP program. Boise State has been recognized by U.S. News & World Report as one of the country’s leading national universities. The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities has accredited the school to award degrees in various academic disciplines.
Undergraduate Tuition: $8,068

#4—Portland State University

Portland, Oregon

Website
Points: 108

Portland State University - 35 Best Affordable Colleges for Early College Credit While In High School

Portland State University’s dual enrollment offering is referred to as The Challenge Program. The program is accredited by the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships (NACEP), and since 1976 has offered concurrent enrollment opportunities to nearby high school students. Courses are available for a deeply discounted rate compared to regular tuition costs. The school also has a liberal AP exam score acceptance policy and accepts passing scores on most CLEP exams. The Northwest Commission on Colleges and Universities has fully accredited Portland State to award early college credit. It’s been ranked among the top 300 national universities in the country by U.S. News & World Report.

Undergraduate Tuition: $9,579

#3—Purdue University – Northwest

Hammond, Indiana

Website
Points: 108

Purdue University Northwest - 35 Best Affordable Colleges for Early College Credit While In High School

Purdue University-Northwest offers nearly 45 different courses for dual high school and college credit through its NACEP-accredited concurrent enrollment program. Examples include:

  • Fundamental Biology
  • Macroeconomics
  • Early Childhood Education
  • English Composition

For AP students, the school also accepts over 60 different scores in a variety of disciplines, including:

  • World History
  • Calculus
  • Biology
  • Statistics

CLEP scores are also accepted. Purdue University-Northwest is fully accredited by The Higher Learning Commission. It has been ranked among the top regional universities in the Midwest by U.S. News & World Report.
Undergraduate Tuition: $7,812

#2—Ball State University

Muncie, Indiana

Website
Points: 111

Ball State University - 35 Best Affordable Colleges for Early College Credit While In High School

Ball State University’s convenient dual enrollment program enables high school students to earn college credit on campus or online. Course titles available for concurrent credit include:

  • Fundamentals of Public Communication
  • Human Development Across the Lifespan
  • American History
  • Principles of Community Health

Ball State also accepts most passing scores for both AP and CLEP examinations. Ball State holds its institutional accreditation from The Higher Learning Commission. U.S. News & World Report has ranked it among the top 200 national universities in the United States.
Undergraduate Tuition: $10,020

#1—Indiana University – Bloomington

Bloomington, Indiana

Website
Points: 130

Indiana University, Bloomington - 35 Best Affordable Colleges for Early College Credit While In High School

Accredited by the National Alliance of Concurrent Enrollment Partnerships (NACEP), Indiana University-Bloomington’s Advance College Project has been offering dual enrollment opportunities for high school students since 1982. Dozens of courses are available for concurrent credit, including those in:

  • public speaking
  • biology
  • English
  • sociology
  • mathematics

Other ways to earn college credit through the university as a high school student include AP and CLEP exam score submission. The Higher Learning Commission institutionally accredits IU-Bloomington. It’s been named one of the 80 best national universities in the country by U.S. News & World Report.
Undergraduate Tuition: $10,947

Earning College Credit In High School: Overview

Traditionally, high school students were required to have their diplomas in hand before enrolling in a college class, but this is no longer the case. For decades now, colleges and universities have been increasing access to their courses and credits through various initiatives. Today, it’s possible (in some cases) for students to earn an entire associate’s degree before they ever even finish secondary school.

Sounds too good to be true, right? If you add in the cost-effectiveness of earning simultaneous high school and college credit, it could almost pass as a no-brainer. Before you decide to take the plunge into college-level learning before high school graduation, though, you’ll want to arm yourself with as much information about the process (or processes) as possible. That’s because there are many different ways to earn early or dual credit, and the opportunities vary by both state and school.

Who Is Eligible to Earn College Credit In High School?

If you are currently enrolled in high school (or your child is), you’ve already met the most important prerequisite for earning early or dual college credit. Chances are there is an opportunity for you to begin working towards a college degree should you desire to do so. The key is to determine what opportunities are available for your specific state, high school, and enrollment status.

Many colleges and universities have agreements with specific high schools in their state or local area. That means that you’re eligible for these programs only if you attend one of these participating schools. Other colleges and universities have a more lenient acceptance policy for high school students, accepting those who attend a private, charter, or even home school.

Another thing to consider when evaluating your opportunities for dual or early college credit is what year of high school you’re currently enrolled in. Most early and dual college credit opportunities are reserved for juniors and seniors. However, some exceptions extend credit opportunities to sophomores and even first-year students.

Finally, achievement indicators such as GPA and ACT scores are sometimes considered when determining early college and dual credit opportunities. For example, Northwest Missouri State University prefers applicants with a minimum GPA of 3.0 and an ACT score of over 20. While these indicators aren’t always part of the criteria, you should be prepared to submit documentation of your grade point average and/or college entrance exam scores when applying to a program.

What’s the Difference Between Early College Credit and Dual (or Concurrent) College Credit?

When considering your opportunities for earning college credit in high school, you’ll need to understand the difference between early college credit and dual—or concurrent—college credit. While these terms are sometimes mistakenly interchanged, they do not, in fact, refer to the same types of programs. The difference is that early college credit opportunities allow students to take additional classes that count toward a college degree before high school graduation. In contrast, dual or concurrent programs allow students to take classes that count towards a high school diploma and a college degree.

Clearly, dual or concurrent enrollment opportunities are more efficient in terms of your time and effort. It’s like killing two birds with one stone. You take a single class, and you receive credit from both your high school and the college or university offering the course. Can you say win-win?

That doesn’t mean that early college credit opportunities aren’t worth your while, though. These programs often offer credit opportunities for courses not offered in a dual/concurrent enrollment program. Plus, many students combine early college and dual credit opportunities to get the most credit possible before their high school graduation.

Common Pathways Toward College Credit Prior to High School Graduation

Colleges and universities have been extending opportunities for high school students to earn early or dual college credit for many years now. While there are some tried-and-true methods of earning college credit while still in high school, new programs and opportunities are being developed by innovative schools year after year. Below, we’ll provide a brief overview of several of the most common ways high school students are currently earning college credit before graduation.

Advanced Placement

One of the oldest ways of earning college credit in high school, The College Board’s Advanced Placement (AP) program has been around since the 1950s. Today, the program offers courses and examinations in 35 different academic disciplines. This is how it works: high school students take year-long courses featuring college-level curricula. At the end of the academic year, these students take a proctored AP examination. They then submit their scores to colleges and universities of their choice in exchange for advanced course placement and college credit. Each school has different policies regarding what scores they will accept and how much (if any) credit they will award for each score.

CLEP

Another long-standing way of earning college credit before ever gracing a university’s lecture halls is the CLEP program. Also sponsored by The College Board, the College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) enables students to “test out” of certain college classes by demonstrating their knowledge of a subject area through a formal examination. Unlike the AP program, the CLEP program does not require students to take a certain class to prepare for the exam.

Dual Enrollment

Dual enrollment options have become increasingly popular in recent years and allow students to take a single class and earn both high school and college credit for that class. Unlike AP and CLEP, dual enrollment credits are awarded for course completion and do not require a formal exam.

Early College

Early college programs, sometimes referred to as pre-college programs, enable high school students to earn credit for college courses by taking these courses in addition to their high school classes. Early college courses can be taken during the school year or the summer months. Some of these programs are residential, while others can be completed online.  

Frequently-Searched Early College Programs

School of the Art Institute of Chicago – SAIC’s early college program offers students flexible ways to earn college credit before their high school graduation. Students ages 14 and up can take courses during the school year, over the summer, on campus, or online.

Mary Baldwin University- The unique early college program from Mary Baldwin University enables high-achieving students to skip their junior and senior high school years to enroll in college early. Applicants must meet strict eligibility requirements.

The City College of New York—The early college program at The City College of New York is called the City College Academy of the Arts. Designed for students in grades 6-12, the initiative enables students to earn up to 60 college credits before their high school graduation.

University of Wisconsin-Madison—The University of Wisconsin-Madison offers private and public school juniors and seniors the opportunity to earn credit through its early college program. Students are limited to one class per term, taken on campus or online.

Georgia State University—Georgia State’s early college offering is an on-campus program that enables qualifying students to earn college credits during the summer months. Need-based scholarships are available.

Harvard University—The pre-college program from Harvard University is an immersive residential experience. Participating students will explore college life while studying a single college subject over the summer.

The University of Alabama—UA’s early college program is offered through its School of Continuing Studies. Enrolled students can earn up to 30 credit hours online or on campus.

University of Washington—The University of Washington offers two early college programs through its Robinson Center for Young Scholars. Students may apply for university enrollment as early as 8th-grade through the Transition School or the UW Academy Program.

New Jersey Institute of Technology—NJIT offers a host of early college options through its Center for Pre-College Programs. Though not all programs offer credit-earning opportunities, students can begin participating in college prep activities as early as elementary school.

Frequently-Searched Dual Enrollment Programs

Broward College—The dual enrollment program from Broward College includes an early admissions option for high school seniors. These upperclassmen can earn up to 12 credit hours of college credit while still in high school.

Augusta University—Augusta University’s early college program is open to high school juniors and seniors. Minimum GPA and SAT scores are required for admission.

Daytona State College—Daytona State College offers flexible options for students who wish to begin earning college credit while still in college. Once enrolled, students can take classes during or after school, or over the summer.

Florida International University—Students enrolled in FIU’s concurrent enrollment program shave a semester off of their bachelor’s degree completion time on average. Dual enrollment students also have access to university facilities and resources.

Georgia State University—Students participating in Georgia State’s concurrent enrollment program must meet GPA and college entrance exam score requirements. A joint enrollment program is also available, permitting students to earn college credit alongside their high school courses.

Georgia Tech—The dual enrollment program at Georgia Tech is a competitive offering designed for high-achieving students. Some courses are offered online for added convenience.

Kennesaw State University—Students interested in concurrent enrollment at Kennesaw State University must meet certain eligibility requirements, including SAT and GPA criteria. Some online courses are available for dual credit.

Louisiana State University—Part of the Gordon A. Cain Center’s LSU College Readiness Program, Louisiana State University’s dual enrollment offering features nearly 40 different courses that can be taken for dual high school and college credit. These classes span over a dozen different academic disciplines.

University of Memphis—The University of Memphis is home to a school-based and campus-based dual enrollment program. Students can elect to take one or two courses per semester, depending on which format they choose.

Frequently-Asked Questions About Earning College Credit In High School

Q: Can I get college credit in high school?

A: It’s likely. Public, private, and even homeschooled high school students may be eligible for pre-college or dual enrollment opportunities. Check with nearby colleges or speak to your high school’s college counselor for specific information.

Q: What are college credit hours in high school?

A: College credit hours in high school are any credits earned prior to high school graduation. This can include credits from AP exams, CLEP credits, early college credits, or dual enrollment credits.

Q: What is an early college program?

A: An early college program is a program offered by a specific college or university that allows high school students to earn college credit prior to official enrollment.

Q: What are the benefits of college credit in high school?

A: There are many benefits to earning college credit prior to your high school graduation. Some of these include enhanced college preparation, reduced tuition costs, or a shorter degree completion time.

Q: How many college credits can you earn while still in high school?

A: It varies by program. While some schools limit the available credit to one course per semester, others offer much more. In a few cases, it’s even possible to earn a complete associate’s degree while still in high school.

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