Transfer Credits: No Pokeman

Transfer credit isn’t nearly as popular and fun to play with as Pokemon, but many colleges will advertise that they are. Some colleges (especially for-profits) will advertise they are more than willing to accept transfer credit from any previously attended colleges, without question. At first thought this seems like a great deal. But is it? Are you absolutely sure that all of your earned credits will transfer?

It’s in your best interest to find out, before signing an enrollment agreement, whether or not your previously earned credits will transfer.

You’ll find that many college advertisements and admission departments promise to accept all of your previously hard earned credit hours – such as credit earned from a community or state college or from classes taken through a trade association. Most of these misleading advertisements come from for-profit schools, but even a few non-profits have been caught making this promise. This misconception can lead you into paying more than expected for your new program.

I have worked with thousands of students, most attending a for-profit school, who would wait months for their prior credit to transfer, only to find out later that a few credits were actually eligible for transfer. Instead of a six month program, many of these students found themselves involved in an eighteen month program with a hefty payment agreement to compensate for lost funding. These misled students were then stuck with a larger tuition balance than initially expected. In short – they were directly or indirectly misled into thinking their prior college credit would transfer smoothly.

Despite misleading claims to accept prior college credit, there can be policy-relevant reasons for college credit not transferring, which is why you’ll need to ask the admission’s department for assurance, and receive that assurance in writing.

Reasons for your credit hours not transferring may include:

  • attempting to transfer credit from a non-accredited institution
  • course descriptions not matching from one college to another
  • credit hours measured by session and quarter instead of semester, or vice versa
  • you completed technical courses too long ago – when the content was different from today’s industry standards
  • the university refuses to accept an incoming general education course and would rather have you take the in-house course

Before enrolling at a college promising to accept all of your previously earned and paid-for credit, find out whether or not your prior credits will in fact transfer. Have the college’s Registrar or Prior Learning Assessment offices analyze your unofficial transcripts to give you an accurate indication of how many credits will indeed transfer before the start date, and try to get written confirmation.

The Point: 

Do not start a new degree program until your transfer credit is on file. You won’t know the true cost of the program without having all of your transfer credit on file, assessed, and applied to the new program’s length. Your financial aid award can be impacted if the transfer credit arrives late, or is not applied as promised.


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