College-age student working on her homework in her dorm room

National Transfer Student Week, held Oct. 16-21, 2023, focuses on the education journey for students who start at a community college, trade or vocational schools and then transfer to a four-year community college.

Not only is a community college a good way for students to transition from high school to a higher education, but starting at one can help families save more funds in their Ohio 529 Plan accounts as the community college costs are usually less expensive. Therefore, the number of college credits that a student can transfer from a lower-priced institution to a higher-priced one can significantly lower the costs of a higher education.

The national average price of a credit hour at a community college is $161, while the average price of a credit hour at a four-year institution is $456. If your child earns ten credit hours at a community college on required core classes that will transfer to other four-year programs schools, the average cost would be $1,610. If your child took the same ten credit hours of required core classes at a four-year college or university, the average cost would be $4,560. By taking the same prerequisite courses that will transfer to a four-year program, reduce the withdrawal amount from your Ohio 529 account by $2,950 just by  taking a few classes at a community college.

Just like saving for college, the key is to start the transfer planning process as early as possible. Once at a community college, your student should tell an academic advisor that they eventually want to transfer. With that information, they can then choose the courses that will completely transfer to the next school. And once your student knows where they want to transfer, they will need to contact their current school’s transfer office (usually in the registrar’s office) for advice on how to prepare. Then they will also need to contact their future school’s transfer office for their recommendations and transfer policies.

Taking general education courses at a lower-priced community college is a smart way to save money in your 529 account and potentially have your student graduate early. If interested, contact your child’s home school’s transfer office to find out where they have transfer agreements and the courses guaranteed to transfer and apply toward their degree.

State-level transfer pathways, administered by the Ohio Department of Higher Education, are geared for public colleges and universities and lays out how courses and chunks of degrees will transfer within the state’s educational system. Those programs include: Credit When It’s Due, Ohio Guaranteed Transfer Pathways, Ohio Transfer 36, Transfer Assurance Guides, Career-Technical Credit Transfer, One Year Option, Industry Recognized Credential Transfer, Military Transfer Assurance Guides, and Prior Learning Experience.

Students can also earn transfer credits based on their previous life experiences. Prior Learning Assessments (PLA) aims to evaluate a student’s life learning outside of a traditional educational environment. College credits are earned in one of two ways. The first is credit by exam, like tests created by the College Level Examination Process (CLEP). The second is through a portfolio that contains a student’s applicable education and prior learning. Members of the military and veterans can also turn their military experiences into credit. The American Council on Education (ACE) created college credit recommendations surrounding the Joint Services Transcript (JST), which is used by the Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and the Coast Guard. Ohio has taken its commitments to military and veterans’ education a step further. Military Transfer Assurance Guides are a set of state-specific transfer guidelines related to turning military experiences into credit at Ohio’s public colleges and universities.

Other resources can help a student make sure their college course work will transfer. National transfer databases that house transfer agreements, like Transferology, are a great place to see which courses transfer on a regional or national level. Students transferring within Ohio’s public institutions can use the new Credit Transfer Tool to help envision how their credit and experiences will transfer and apply at different schools.

Transferring credits from a community college to a four-year program can reduce your college costs and stretch your 529 savings funds. If you and your student are deliberate with your actions, diligent in your research, the transfer process can work well for you and your college savings.

Visit Ohio’s 529 Plan, CollegeAdvantage, online to start saving today for your child’s future education with as little as $25. A 529 account can be used for whatever school comes after high school—including four-year colleges and universities, community colleges, tech, trade or vocational schools, apprenticeships, and certificate programs. Learn, plan, and start with Ohio’s 529 Plan today at

This blog was originally published in October 2022 and has been revised with updated information for 2023.

Back To Top