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Reduce College Costs While In High School

529 Tips

5 Ways To Reduce College Costs While In High School

Focused on your children’s future, you’ve been saving for their higher education in Ohio’s 529 Plan, CollegeAdvantage. Your family can take additional steps to reduce higher education expenses before your student graduates high school. In fact, your children can even earn college credits while still in high school.

Your students can accomplish this through five different programs. College Credit Plus (CCP) is a program offered by the Ohio Department of Higher Education (ODHE) and the Ohio Department of Education (ODE). With CCP, qualified Ohio students can take college classes and have those credits also applied to their high school graduation requirements. There are other dual enrollment programs available in some Ohio school districts as well. The International Baccalaureate allows students to earn an honors degree with which they can earn college credits for scoring well on exams. Another program administered by ODHE and ODE is the Career-Technical Credit Transfer initiative (CT)2. (CT)2 allows students enrolled in college credit aligned programs to earn college credit upon passing end of course/program exams and matriculating to a similar program at public college or university. Advanced Placement (AP) courses, which are available at many high schools, are another option. At the end of an AP course, students should have an option to take an exam. Depending on that AP exam score, they can receive credit for the equivalent entry-level college courses. School districts and individual high schools decide which AP courses to provide. College Board administers the AP program nationwide. These college-credit programs are further explained below.

College Credit Plus (CCP)

Since 2015, ODHE has offered CCP as an opportunity for Ohio students in grades 7-12 to earn college credit by taking classes offered through public community colleges and universities, as well as private colleges and universities. These credits may also count toward high school graduation requirements.  

Since inception, Ohio families have saved more than $569 million in tuition costs by taking advantage of this program. More than 90 Ohio institutions of higher education participate in the CCP program, covering all regions of the state.

If you’re interested in this program, start by meeting with a school counselor. Once your student’s college readiness is assessed, the counselor will help determine the best course of academic action. The next steps would be to talk to and then apply to the college or university from which your student would be taking classes. The college advisor can provide information on the eligible classes available through CCP.

Your student will earn transcripted credit for passing his or her CCP classes, meaning that each course that is completed will show up on a college transcript as well as the student’s high school transcript.

CCP students from public or non-public high schools who attend a public college are not required to pay for college course tuition, instructional tools, or supplies under any circumstances. Homeschooled students are responsible for providing their own instructional tools (books), but not tuition or course-required supplies. Homeschools and non-public students must apply for CCP funding to pay for tuition. Students choosing to attend a private college or university may be charged a small fee by that school. For more information, visit https://www.ohiohighered.org/ccp/faqs.

Check with your high school for availability of CCP information sessions. Whether students attend public high schools, private high schools or are homeschooled, the deadline to declare their intention to participate in CCP is May 1, 2021. Check the CCP website for deadlines and instructions.

Other Dual Enrollment Programs

There are other dual enrollment options, like Seniors to Sophomores (S2S) offered by the Columbus City School District, which allows students to earn high and college credits at the same time with additional support from advisors. Please check with your school district to see if it offers any additional dual enrollment programs.

International Baccalaureate

Another way to cut college costs and to become more “college ready” is to take part in an International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma program in high school. IB is recognized as an honors degree program through the Ohio Department of Education. The goal of the IB degree is to educate students on a global perspective and it requires students to take high school courses that will expand the scope of their education.

Those IB level courses can also be linked to tests through IB.org. If a student earns a high enough score, on a specific IB exam, they can be eligible to receive college credit at a participating college or university. Each higher education institution awards credit differently, so you’ll want to check with each institution at which you apply. More information can be found at the Ohio Department of Education and International Baccalaureate.  

Career-Technical Credit Transfer (CT)2

In 2008, ODHE and ODE launched an initiative to align career-technical education offered at career-technical education institutions and high schools to specific college courses at public community colleges and universities in the state of Ohio. The goal was to standardize the award of credit at each institution and to facilitate the ability to transfer to any institution within the state that offers that specific program.

The (CT)2 initiative covers 42 technical areas from cybersecurity and automotive technology to fire fighting and nursing. To be eligible for credit, students must complete their program, pass the end of course assessment(s) and/or earn an industry-recognized credential, and matriculate to the participating college or university of their choice. Career-technical education for high school students isn’t always housed on the campuses of career centers or vocational schools; increasingly you can find college credit eligible courses and programs at a student’s school. If high schoolers are interested in this opportunity, they should talk with their guidance counselors to find the opportunities that best match their career aspirations. Students can earn up to 12 semester hours of credit by participating in the (CT)2 initiative.

Adult students should meet with representatives of the OTC to find the opportunities that best match their intended goals. There are 54 career centers across the state to serve the needs of Ohioans. Adult students may earn up to 30 semester hours of credit, depending on program area. Adults who are enrolled in an applicable career-technical program at an OTC are able to use their 529 funds to pay for tuition as well as qualifying school supplies.

Advanced Placement (AP) Classes

If your student wants to study at a collegiate level while at high school, look into any AP classes your school district offers. The courses available will vary by district and at each high school.

These advanced classes give your student an opportunity to potentially earn college credits while still meeting his or her high school graduation requirements. At the end of the course, your child will need to take the AP exam in order to receive college credits.

A score of 3 or above will earn corresponding college credit at any of Ohio’s public institutions of higher education. ODHE hosts an interactive website where you can look up what credit will be granted at each of Ohio’s colleges and universities. Private colleges and universities also have AP credit policies but they are not required to follow state transfer guidelines.

You (or your child) will have to pay to take the AP exam. However, if your student scores well enough to attain college credits, that expense should cost far less than paying for that same number of credit hours.

Visit ODHE for further explanation of the AP process. College Board also offers guidance on the AP program.

These three programs – College Credit Plus, Career-Technical Credit Transfer initiative (CT)2, and Advanced Placement — are great opportunities to reduce college costs before your child pursues postsecondary education. As with Ohio’s 529 Plan, any dollar saved is a dollar that doesn’t have to be borrowed, making these programs a wise investment of your student’s time and effort.

If you haven’t started saving for future higher education expenses, open a tax-advantaged Ohio’s 529 Plan today! Every dollar saved today is a dollar that doesn’t have to be borrowed later which makes Ohio’s 529 college savings plan an excellent alternative to student loan debt. If you’d like to learn more about the tax-advantaged way to save for college, explore Ohio’s 529 Plan —The Plan That Can.

This article was originally posted in July 2019 and has been updated to reflect new information for 2021.

Posted on February 16, 2021

Ohio Tuition Trust Authority

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