How We Saved Over $319,000 on College (and we’re still saving!)

Our kids have done incredibly well earning college credits during high school. We allow them to take on college-level studies and courses instead of high-school level, so that they receive both college credit and high school credit. This is a path many families would choose if they were aware of this option.

Some students can complete their entire degrees during high school, as several of our own teens have done. This is an option that works well for students who can meet their education goals with a General Studies or Liberal Arts major.

Students pursuing a science major (engineering, nursing, etc.) still get a huge head start by earning all of the credits that will transfer straight to their degree plan at their chosen college.

Here’s how these options played out as each of our kids reached high school . . .

How We Saved Over $319,000 on College (and we’re still saving!)

Our first son, we’ll call him “Tim,” chose to pursue a law degree, so his bachelor’s degree could be an accredited degree in any subject. He chose General Studies with a concentration in Literature and History from Charter Oak State College. He could complete his undergrad degree entirely by exam (this was prior to several of Charter Oak’s current requirements).

Between the ages of 15 and 17, he took lower level CLEP exams, both lower and upper level DSST exams and the GRE Literature in English Exam to earn 123 credits and his Bachelor of Arts degree.

When Tim graduated from both high school and college in May 2004, we had spent $3,100.00 on exam fees, proctoring fees, and Charter Oak tuition.

Looking back at 2004 and approximate costs for attending a public, four-year college in Texas, the traditional college education would have cost about $11,802 per year. So instead of spending about $47,208, we spent $3,100.00 for a savings of $44,108!

Our second son, “Ethan,” spent 6 years (age 15 to 21) earning the 121 college credits for his Bachelor of Science in Individualized Studies with a concentration in Business completed in May 2011. Ethan also took a one-semester detour through the University of Chicago.

Let me add that these two brothers earned numerous awards as competitive NCFCA debaters and speakers, one undertook learning Arabic and together they traveled to the Middle East, one became an EMT (Emergency Medical Technician), and they both volunteered numerous hours with several organizations including outreaches to Iraqi refugees. I tell you this so you know that my kids are involved in other activities besides study!

Cost breakdown of Ethan’s degree: 17 CLEP exams at $77.00/ea, CLEP proctoring fees of $340.00, 12 DSST exams at $80.00/ea, DSST proctoring fees of $240.00, an AP exam at $83.00, junior college classes – $1,713.00, $350.00 for books, and COSC’s required courses and fees for $2,589.00. Total cost $7,584.00. Since he did not apply any of UChicago’s credits toward his degree, I’m not including the $13,000 spent on that semester.)

The cost of attending the University of Texas for four years from Fall of 2009 to Spring of 2013 was approximately $96,000. So we saved $88,416!

Our daughter, “Esther,” wanted to pursue a nursing degree, so she took both college-level exams and junior college classes to earn her prerequisites (both core requirements and many of her electives). She then transferred all her earned credits to her preferred university, Mary Hardin Baylor, here in Texas and entered their nursing program to complete her BSN (Bachelor of Science in Nursing). Today Esther is earning her masters in nursing (FNP). She saved thousands of dollars in the overall cost of her BSN, but because her college path was more traditional than not, I’ve not included any of her costs or savings in my calculations.

Our next daughter “Leslie,” wanted to pursue a law degree, so she followed basically the same path as our first son, Tim, earning her Bachelor of Arts (General Studies with a combined concentration in Literature, History, and Psychology) between the ages of 13 and 18. Like the others, she studied at home and proved her mastery of each subject by passing the college-level exam. The college credits were accumulated over those years and then transferred to Charter Oak State College when she was close to completing the requirements and ready to graduate.

And once again, I awarded high school credit along the way as she completed her studies in each subject.

Leslie went on to The University of Texas Law School (#9 law school in the US) at age 18 and graduated at age 20 (she spent her 21st birthday sitting for the Bar Exam!). She had thought she would enjoy working as a Policy Analyst but prefers teaching Criminal Justice at a public high school here in Texas. The fact that she had zero dollars in student loans for her undergrad degree helped make that career change an option for her. (And can you really call changing jobs at age 21 a “career change”?)

Our most recent college graduate, “Anna,” is 18 years old and is one of two 18-year-olds in the state of Texas earning their Teaching Certification. Anna graduated at age 17 from Charter Oak State College in 2016, earning a Bachelor of Arts in General Studies with a concentration in History. She enjoys substitute teaching in our local school district and has an upcoming interview for a full-time teaching position this fall.

Anna’s degree costs were pretty much the same as the others, but here’s a breakdown of our most recent college experience…

– She took quite a few more classes at the junior college than the others did mainly because we thought she would want to work as a Physical Therapist Assistant. That didn’t turn out to be her passion, so we transferred those courses to Charter Oak – some to satisfy core requirements but most were used to satisfy elective requirements.

– She chose to take College Algebra as a class instead of taking the College Mathematics exam.

– She satisfied Charter Oak’s science lab requirement (a fairly new requirement by COSC) by taking Anatomy and Physiology at the junior college.

– She took three Excelsior College exams (which are little more expensive) to earn some of her Upper Level credits.

– And then even though she earned her bachelor’s degree in May 2016, Anna decided to NOT graduate from high school until May 2017, so she could compete an additional year in a high school sport.

The cost for Anna’s degree was about $8,500.00. If she had only completed high school work and was just now entering a public four-year school, her college degree would cost her about $105,288.00 over the next four years.

Instead she has her degree, is debt free, AND gets to spend the next four years earning about $180,000! What a completely different picture than most kids her age. And it’s only because she chose a non-traditional path for her college degree.

So these four teens’ accredited bachelor’s degrees cost us very close to $25,200. If instead, Tim, Ethan, Leslie and Anna had taken the traditional four-year college path, these same degrees would have cost approximately $344,496.00.

So, along with saving 16 school years (that’s 4 years of school for 4 teens), we have saved $319,296.00!

Now, you’re absolutely right in that there was NO WAY we would have given a second thought to paying that ridiculous amount. So what we’ve actually accomplished is having saved each of these four teens from entering their adult lives with nearly $320,000 in student loan debt.

Plus, they all four finished their degrees. Traditional students increasingly are dropping out of college and entering the workforce in order to make payments on the credit card balances they’ve racked up because they’ve gone to school on borrowed money and paid their bills with plastic. Not the bright future most high school graduates dream of!

Our 15-year-old has already completed her first year of college as she’s studied here at home and taken exams for credit. Her future plans include a Bachelor of Arts degree and a Master of Library Science. Then she’d love to be a middle school librarian! She’s well on her way and will get to reach her goals sooner than most students even realize is possible.

We’ve been so happy to help our kids with this option, and I absolutely LOVE helping other families take this same path to college graduation and financial freedom. Download my free e-book to learn more!

Becky Muldrow & the Dual Credit at Home Team
Becky Muldrow & the Dual Credit at Home Team

Hi there! I'm Becky Muldrow, wife to my high school sweetheart, Gene, and mom to 10 great kids! I love spending my days homeschooling the last 4 of them and sharing (on my website and at homeschool conferences) how we do high school differently - by replacing it with college.