Help Your Student Achieve Financial Success With Credits Before College


By Amy Doeun

College expense is one of the biggest concerns families face. However there is hope. Through Post Secondary Education Option (PSEO) and Credits by Exam, students can earn college credits and even a degree before they finish high school. Yet many students are not taking advantage of this opportunity. For fiscal year 2017 over 8,000 students enrolled in PSEO. Of that number over 6,000 were white, 736 Asians, 132 American Indians, 384 Latinos and 730 African Americans.

Both students and parents must deal with tough decisions about future life choices and beginning adult life with a mountain of debt is something that no parent wants for their child. Still the cost of college continues to rise. For many it is no longer possible for students to work their way through college, or in many cases, pay off college when it is complete and still live an independent life.

Joe Nathan of the Center for School Change shared that advanced placement college in the schools, CLEP (credits by exam) and PSEO are all options that give students a jump start on college. Nathan said, “That they are important options because, 1. College costs are spiraling. The average debt is more then $30,000. It is going up faster than inflation. You can get up to two years for free.” This includes books, transportation and other costs. 2. It helps students prepare for college level work. 3. There is something called academic momentum. It is more likely that a student will graduate both high school and college if they begin doing college in high school. 4. Some students are ready for a freer environment. The different environment and more responsibility for the individual student.”

The Center for School Change ( has a video guide for getting started in Hmong on their website.

Cheri Frame is a home school mom that shares her experiences getting her children a bachelor’s degree before they had graduated from high school using a combination of PSEO and Credits by Exam (the practice of studying a subject, then taking a pass/fail test for college credit) to get her three children a Bachelor’s Degree before they had completed high school.

Frame said that she began looking for other options for her students upon returning from a short term (one term) missionary trip to Indonesia. She thought that her children might be interested in doing similar mission work after graduating, but most if not all missionary organizations will not allow people to serve who have any debt, including college debt.

Upon returning from her trip Frame began looking in depth into alternatives to traditional college. She said, “It is not fast tracking the kids education, but doing it a little different. I was challenged by my ideas of what education was. I don’t want an admissions plan, I want a completions plan. It’s not can you get into college, its can you get out.”

Frame recommends that families talk about college expenses and plans when their children are in middle school. For the Frame family, they decided that the parents would pay for all the children’s college while they were still in high school. While that might seem unusual they were able to get a bachelors degree for their children for about $6,000 before they graduated high school.

“The first two years of college are basically a repeat of the four years of high school. So instead of studying the subjects twice students can take more time, be more intentional and study at a higher level the first time and then take a CLEP or similar Credit by Exam test to gain college credits for what they just studied. A CLEP test costs about $100 and many of the tests are administered throughout the state. Study guides and sample tests are available on Amazon,” said Frame. Frame recommends the REA CLEP study guides.

A student could complete the first two years of college when they are in grades 7-10 and then in 11th and 12th grade they can enroll full time for free using the PSEO option at a local college. When asked why more people don’t take advantage of this Frame said. “It is not in the best interest of many schools to encourage PSEO. If the student studies off campus the money that school would receive for the student follows the student, i.e. to the college where they are studying PSEO.”

Frame added that it was a big time commitment on her part to achieve their family goals, “I looked at it as my part time job. While I didn’t make money for our family, I saved a lot of money.” Graduating early, without debt has opened up a world of opportunities for her children, including traveling, and moving on to graduate school. Frame shares more about her experiences at