What Is a Degree Completion Program

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As you explore your options for getting a college education, you may come across a number of programs that identify themselves as degree completion programs. These degree programs allow students to build on their prior learning experiences. Because they aren’t stuck starting from scratch, students in degree completion programs can often attain their degrees more quickly. In fact, many of the fastest online bachelor’s degree programs are degree completion programs, and having prior college credits is an important part of what accelerates a student’s education in these programs.

Transfer Credits and Degree Completion Programs

Generous transfer credit policies are a hallmark of most degree completion programs. While traditional programs may accept some credits transferred from other colleges, they may have stricter limits on how many credits you can transfer. They may also be more restrictive as far as how recently you must have completed these courses.

On the other hand, many degree completion programs allow students to transfer as many as 90 credits from another institution. If you transfer the maximum amount of credits, you’re already three-quarters of the way toward earning your bachelor’s degree – and you often can complete that degree in a year or less.

Many degree completion programs allow students to gain credits not just for their past college work, but for other learning experiences, as well. These schools may refer to this benefit as “prior learning credit” instead of “transfer credit.” Students can test out of courses in subjects they’re already familiar with, receive credit for job training or professional certifications or even get credit for creating a portfolio that showcases their work.

Advantages of Degree Completion Programs

There are a number of advantages to choosing a degree completion program. For one thing, you can be sure you’re getting your money’s worth out of your past college-level work. As many as 42 percent of college students who transfer from a community college to a four-year school lose more than 10 percent of the credits they’ve already earned, according to USA TODAY. Those wasted credits translate to a longer time to earn your degree, not to mention a higher price tag.

Because degree completion programs cater to students who have already completed college credits, their student populations tend to have more life experience. Some programs even have a minimum age limit and only accept nontraditional students. If you’ve been out of school for some time or have to juggle work or family obligations along with your education, you may feel more comfortable knowing that you’ll be studying alongside peers your own age, with similar life and work experiences.

Who Benefits by Enrolling in Degree Completion Programs?

Degree completion programs offer the most benefits to students who have already completed a large number of college credits. Students with two or three years of college under their belts – and who are able to transfer the full amount of their credits – will see the most difference between a degree completion program and a traditional bachelor’s degree program. This includes students who earned an associate’s degree but haven’t yet pursued any further education as well as students who left school after three years of undergraduate studies.

However, every credit you can transfer counts and could potentially shorten the time it will take you to earn your degree. Even if you have nowhere near 90 credits to transfer, benefits such as the option for alternatives types of prior learning credit and additional support for transfer students during the admissions process may make considering a degree completion program worthwhile.