Students save money, time with CLEP

Students attend a FAST Class (Functional Academic Skills Testing) at Barden Education Center on Fort Belvoir, June 10.

Earn college credits before you arrive on campus

Fort Belvoir’s Barden Education Center is known for numerous resources for transitioning Soldiers and Service members, and, perhaps one of the most lucrative opportunities for those heading to college would be to get full credit for several freshman classes, before even arriving at a campus. 

According to College Board’s report, “Trends in College Pricing 2017,” tuition for public four-year institutions over the past 20 years has risen 213 percent. With the average 2017-2018 tuition nearly $35,000, a college degree can pile on tremendous debt, but there is a way to reduce that substantially.

The College Level Examination Program, CLEP, enables students to earn college credit for introductory-level courses by passing subject-specific tests in literature, languages, history, science, mathematics and business. Kay Martinez, Northern Virginia Community College faculty member and test administrator at Barden, said CLEP exams reduce the time to graduation. 

“It saves times, it saves money, and you can study for this on your own,” said Martinez. “Instead of going to school for 15 weeks and paying for books, this gives you the most efficient method to get college credits in the shortest amount of time.” 

Martinez noted the first time any military member takes a CLEP exam, the $89 fee is waived. “Everyone with a valid military ID card is free. If you don’t pass, however, you must wait 90 days and pay the fee for retesting.”

CLEP-A-Thon July 11

Barden Education Center provides CLEP exams throughout the summer, and hosts a CLEP-A-THON, July 11. Martinez said CLEP exams may be taken, by appointment, Tuesdays and Thursdays. Martinez remembered one industrious student who saved several thousand dollars. “I had a Marine who got 21 credits from November to April – in less than six months,” said Martinez. “He was very determined to get his degree finished in the shortest amount of time, and he chose a college that accepts a lot of CLEP exams. That’s one of our greatest successes we’ve seen here.” 

Check with the admissions office at your college before deciding which courses to CLEP out on; while more than 2,900 colleges and universities offer credit hours for CLEP testing, acceptance of every test is not universal.

Tamekii Clark-Warrington, Education Service Officer at Barden, reminds students that they can CLEP out of 50 percent of an associate’s degree. “If you’re strong in an area, do not take the class, when you can take the test and receive a passing score that will go on your transcript to be submitted to your college to substitute for taking the course.” 

Even military family members have the chance to test for free. CLEP is run by College Board, another organization that provides free, online courses to prep students for almost all of the CLEP exams. Modern States ( offers courses taught by college professors. When you complete the online course and practice questions, you are presented with a voucher, which you bring to the testing center to test for free.