How do you combine accumulated college course credits from multiple institutions?

A fortysomething relative of mine has collected, by his count, something like 73 college course credits in the past 5–10 years, without being formally enrolled in a degree program. He enjoys taking the courses just out of personal interest, but it might also be useful at some point to leverage them into an actual bachelor’s degree (which he doesn’t yet have).

What’s the procedure? About how many total credits does he have to collect, and would he have to enroll in an actual degree program at least for one year or semester to obtain the actual degree? I presume so, but would appreciate the straight dope.

About 124, 128–something on that order.

And Yes, as far as I know. He’d take the credits (literally, he’d have them mailed from the various institutions) to the degree-issuing program he’s interested in enrolling in, and they’ll tell him how many they’re willing to count towards his degree.

Don’t be surprised if it’s very few. As a WAG, I’d venture he’d be lucky to wind up with 30 or 40 credits.

There are programs that will accept accumulated credits towards a degree from a variety of institutions. In New York State there is an Empire State College that is part of the State University of New York system. Skidmore College in Saratoga Springs has a University Without Walls.

They are designed for the purpose you described. Most colleges require that a minimum of 50% of your major credits come from that institution. The “non-traditional” colleges are more liberal.

I actually graduated the Skidmore UWW. I had accumulated around 160 undergraduate credits from 5 or 6 different colleges, but couldn’t manage a degree at any of them. At UWW I needed a capstone project, similar to a thesis, and one or two humanities courses I had missed, and I was there.

Might want to take a look at this.
The CLEP program has been around for years and is recognized by many institutions:

An increasing number of Universities offer a Bachelor of University Studies program.

It is a Liberal Arts degree, but will accept credits from many different institutions, and from both Arts & Sciences programs.

The CLEP courses can fill in the gaps. Be advised, however, that if you wish to use your CLEP tests towards your required courses, there are additional forms to fill out after taking the tests. Do not let anybody tell you otherwise!!! I went that approach, but foolishly believed a Guidance Office employee that everything was covered. I was thereafter denied permission to graduate. It took me months to find out that the CLEP tests would not count towards my required coursework without the additional paperwork. Naturally, nobody volunteered this info, & I had to play a guessing game with Admin, delaying my degree by a semester. :smack: :smack: :smack: :mad: :mad: :mad:

Oh, BTW–after submitting your transcripts to the Records Office for review, & getting the results, re-submit them. Simply state that you believe that you are entititled to additional academic credits. Be vague. Ask for another employee to review your record, other than the initial reviewer. Usually, you’ll pick up a course or two. It don’t matter if you’re right, it merely matters that you’re persistant.
Never forget: In matters of bureaucracy, “Yes” can be turned into “No”, & vice versa, by applying sufficient wordage to the problem.

The short answer is: It depends.

It depends on what university (or universities) he applies to; different schools have different criteria to get a degree. Some will transfer every course you’ve taken; whatever doesn’t count as a requirement will count as an elective. Others will only transfer courses they themselves offer. Some won’t accept transfer credits toward a major or minor, others will. Some require that a certain number of credits have to be taken from them. When your relative applies, he needs to talk to an admissions counselor to make sure he knows what that university’s requirements are.

It also depends on what he wants to do with this degree. If he’s already employed and just wants the degree, he may be able to be a bit more flexible than if he’s looking to change careers. If the former is true, then a Bachelor’s in Interdisciplinary Studies (or something similar) may be acceptable, but if it’s the latter, he’s going to want to take a degree in that field. Again, talking with an admissions counselor will help answer those questions.

Whatever he ends up doing, he needs to make sure that the university in question is accredited; otherwise, the degree won’t mean a damn thing.


What??? There is no standards in the US for how much credit a course is worth and and how many credits are needed for graduation. Semesters, quarters, etc. all muck things up. Somebody with 40 credits might have 1, 2, or even 4 years (at 1 course = 1 credit places) of college courses under the belt depending on the particular rules of a particular insitution.

To the OP:

Note that credit for courses taken while not officially enrolled in a degree program may not count for credit even at that particular school, let alone at another school. Also, some places have a “time limit” for how long credit is good for. E.g., 7-10 years. After that, it’s as if you never took the course.

It is up to the school the guy is applying to, to look at each and every item on his transcript and decide what can be transferred and for how many credits. It will be a pain for whoever does it, but that’s there job.

Also, many places do in fact require a 1+ year “residency” for transfer students to earn a degree.

In short, not a single person posting here can answer the core question about transferring credit.

Nor any other question, ever. :rolleyes:

The OP wasn’t asking for a definitive and absolute answer to his question, and every college I’ve taught in or attended (about six in all) has had a standard of 120-something credits for a bachelor’s degree. The exceptions can be converted, usually fairly painlessly, to that standard.

Pick an institution and let them decide. I got my Bachelor’s from the University of Virginia. One busy summer, I decided to pick up 12 credits at a community college in Richmond. UVA weighted those as equivalent to 3 credits towards my degree. A smaller, less-prestigious institution might give your friend full weight on those 73 credit hours, but a larger, more prestigious one certainly will not.

Your friend should decide where he wants to earn his degree, talk to a counselor there and find out how many credit hours they’ll take in transfer. It won’t cost him anything to ask.

Thanks for the replies, all! That should give me a good starting-point for discussing the subject with him.

I would like to point out a significant “peculiarity” about pseudotriton ruber ruber’s response to my post, in case anyone missed it.

Noticed that the first sentences of my reply to pseudotriton ruber ruber has been composed together with the last sentence of my reply to the OP Kimstu. This makes it appear that I am addressing 1 question in the OP when in fact I was addressing two distinct issues.

I am not at all happy with such selective quoting.

Let me, for the benefit of anyone confused by pseudotriton ruber ruber’s gambit, go over the two points again:

  1. Issue the first. (Not the same as 2. Issue the second.) How many credit hours are needed for graduation. pseudotriton ruber ruber admits a meager background in such matters. Luckily, I have spent the overwhelming majority of my life as a student or faculty at universities. At both places I was a student, the number of credits needed for graduation were in the 175-185 range. At the various places I have taught, 2 were also in that range. Only 1 was in the 120 range.

What is more, 2 of the 3 places I worked at changed their systems! One a few years after I was there went from the 180 range to the 120 range. The other was in the midst of a change when I started that changed a standard course from 3 hours to 4 hours (With no change in total required so students were graduating with essentially a 3 year education. Sigh.)

But wait, there’s more:

I have looked at 10’s of thousands of college transcripts over the years. (Starting in grad school.) The variations as to what a “credit hour” means (or even what it is called) is immense. Some places have 1 credit hour = 1 standard course. (Which means fractional credit hours for small courses.)

----------------- (Note presence of dashed line.)

  1. Issue the second. (Not the same as 1. Issue the first.) Whether previous coursework can be transferred. It is really difficult to ascertain whether a course is transferable. Every place really does have it’s own rules.

At one of my departments, I was the official transfer credit approval prof for CS courses most of my time there. I could not approve transfer credit without having a copy of the other school’s catalogue. Merely having the course description was not enough, I needed a lot of information. One of the key factors that was taken into account was which textbook was used! (Good text: great chance of transfer, crappy text: no chance of transfer.)

I stand by my statement: No one here can possibly have all the required info needed to determine which courses the OP’s friend will be able to transfer.

Since the OP seems satisfied, let’s close this one.

samclem GQ moderator