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How to Find Online Colleges Accepting Transfer Credits

Tips and Advice for Transferring to an Online Program

Taking college classes online is becoming wildly popular. According to Aslanian Market Research and The Learning House, Inc., more than three-quarters of public universities and about half of private colleges offer not just online courses, but at least one fully online program. Traditional colleges and universities are recognizing the demand for flexible learning options and are meeting the need. Fortunately, many online college programs accept transfer credits in the same way that traditional schools do. This guide explains how to transfer credits from a traditional program to an online one.

Meet the Expert

Daniel Haitz Read Bio

What Matters to Students Entering an Online Program

Students interested in transferring into an online program are bound to have several questions and concerns. Here are just a few.

Choosing the Right Online College as a Transfer Student

The transfer process can be confusing, although the process can be made much easier if a potential school has a comprehensive website students can visit to get answers to common questions in a clear and concise manner. And if direct contact to the school to ask a question about transferring becomes necessary, getting a quick answer can reduce a lot of the stress of transferring.

Deciding on a school is a personal and situation specific decision, so the exact process will depend on the particular student. However, there are several points and questions to consider.

For the easiest transfer possible, choose a new school that has an arrangement or system in place to accept transfer credits. This can be a special agreement with the student’s current school or it may be an online program that primarily depends on accepting transfer students to fill its classrooms.

Many community colleges have special arrangements (sometimes called articulation agreements) with state universities. These agreements allow students who complete their associate degree at the community college to quickly and easily transfer to the nearby state university. From there, they can spend the next two years working toward their bachelor’s degree, allowing them to graduate after four total years of schooling.

“We tell our students to seriously consider a year at a community college,” Haitz said. “Community College credits come at about a 70 percent discount to typical college credits. A lab science is a lab science. For all degrees, there is a set of core curriculum that needs to be met and those core courses vary slightly by university. Lab sciences, mathematics, rhetoric, humanities, history and social sciences often find their way into these core set of classes. These types of classes are perfect for transferring.”

For schools who depend on transfer students, there will be a streamlined process in pace. These schools are also more likely to be familiar with coursework from other schools. This means students who want to know if their earlier courses will transfer can get an answer much faster.

Generally speaking, students transfer into schools that have better name recognition and reputation. What if, however, the student is unable to attend that particular school? Students should look at accreditation, graduation rates, financial aid available and many other points to make a decision on which school might be best.

If the new school uses a different academic term system than the current school, the determination of how many credits will transfer will be more difficult. And once the determination is made, it’s possible the student will not receive as many credits as they hoped.

This is common when a student transfers from a school with a quarter system to a school with a semester system. Courses in a quarter system can easily run several weeks to a month less than courses in a semester system. This means a student may not receive the same number of credits at a new school. For example, if a student took a 3 credit class at the old school, the new school may only give two academic credits.

When it comes to transferring prior credits to a new school, there are two primary limitations. The first is the total number of credits a student can have transferred into the new institution. Depending on the school this can range from 15 to 88 credits.

Second, there may be a limit as to how long ago a course may be complete for it to be accepted as transfer credit. Then there’s the particular type of course a student is seeking to transfer. For instance, changes in technology, methodology or accepted principles in an area of study can affect when and if prior coursework “expires.” Typical time limits, if there are any, are usually several years.

Each school and department will have its own policy and rules, but transfer students need to understand that even if a course is accepted for transfer, it’s possible it will only be accepted as an elective and not in the anticipated major or as a core course requirement. This policy can serve as a significant limitation on the total number of courses that can transfer since a student will only need so many electives to graduate.

Even if prior coursework is accepted for transfer, the student may still need to take additional classes to get on schedule at the new school. One such example is when the incoming student hasn’t taken all the necessary courses to start a specific program. As a result, they may need to take prerequisite courses to be fully prepared for the new program.

Steps to Transferring to an Online College Program

If you’re ready to transfer to an online college or university, below is a general list of steps to take to complete the process. Of course, every school will have its own set of policies and procedures, but this list provides a general idea of what you’ll need to do.

Online College Transfer Spotlight

  • Arizona State University

    Arizona State University, or more commonly known as ASU, is a one of the largest public universities in the United States and leads the way in classroom innovation. For example, ASU’s online undergraduate programs rank among the top online bachelor’s programs in the country, according to the US News & World Report annual rankings. Students also have a plethora of academic subjects to choose from with over 100 online degree programs to choose from. ASU also offers a comprehensive Transfer Credit Guide to help prospective students learn more about the transfer process, such as the status of ASU’s determination of which of their prior courses will be accepted for transfer.

  • Franklin University

    Franklin University has been around for over 100 years, but has recently adapted its curriculum to tailor to more nontraditional, adult students. This means Franklin University has well-developed online programs to offer the flexibility college students are now demanding. The transfer process is seamless, which explains how approximately 90 percent of its student body has college credits from other academic institutions. Franklin University has an innovative Transfer Credit Tool which allows students to add their prior coursework and see how it shortens the time it takes to get their degree.

  • Kennesaw State University

    Kennesaw State University, or KSU, is part of the University System of Georgia and offers over 70 fully online degrees, hybrid programs and certificate programs. KSU’s online courses are fully accredited and taught by KSU faculty. To help transfer students identify which of their prior classes will be accepted, what the equivalent courses are at KSU, the minimum grade required for transfer acceptance and for how many credits the student will receive, they can use KSU’s Transfer Articulation Search Engine.

  • Oregon State University

    Oregon State University’s online bachelor’s degree programs are ranked in the top 10 by US News & World Report. Online students can choose from over 20 online undergraduate degrees, 25 graduate programs and 20 online minors. With so many online options and from an internationally recognized university, it’s no wonder so many students are seeking to transfer. Therefore, Oregon State has a well-developed transfer process, especially for students from Oregon’s community colleges. Oregon State’s transfer page has several online tools to help with the transfer process, including Oregon Colleges and Universities Course Equivalencies, Oregon Community Colleges Baccalaureate Core Course Equivalencies and the OSU Transfer Course Search tool.

  • Penn State World Campus

    Penn State World campus is Penn State University’s name for its online course and program offerings. With extensive experience in offering courses online dating back all the way to 1998, Penn State World Campus offers more than 125 online programs including graduate, undergraduate and certificate programs. Penn State World Campus is unique in that sets no limits on the number of outside credits that may be accepted for transfer.  Penn State offers a great Transfer Course Evaluation Guide that can help prospective students learn if their prior college credits will be accepted at Penn State.