By Mohammed Mahfouz
This fall marks my first semester as a law school student at the University of Baltimore – this is the very start of my plan for the next four years. I finished my undergraduate degree a year in advance so that I could begin law school by the time I was 21-years-old. My goal is to graduate law school by 24, take a year to study for and pass the bar, and be a practicing attorney by age 25.
That might seem like a lofty academic and financial goal, and it is, but I want my fellow students to know there are ways to earn your degree without completely breaking the bank. I know this first hand because I saved thousands of dollars while fulfilling general education requirements on my own time, and you can, too.
As college students, money is tight. It’s tough getting by financially when you have the burden of paying for your education on your shoulders. As a broke law student, I was overwhelmed thinking about the amount of debt I could get into. So, I started exploring ways to save money on tuition and other related costs. Starting at a community college to complete some core courses seemed like a good start.
After transferring to the University of Baltimore, I learned that to complete my undergrad in three years instead of four, I needed 90 credit hours and only had 79. When I was searching for ways to fulfill the deficit, I discovered the College Board’s College Level Examination Program (CLEP) exam. Offered by the College Board, CLEP allows people to receive college credit without the time or expense of a traditional college course.
CLEP is a great way for anyone to save a lot of time and money during college. It’s similar to the Advanced Placement (AP) exam, but you don’t need to complete a year-long or semester-long course to take it or wait until the test is administered once a year. There are even CLEP testing centers right in Baltimore at the Community College of Baltimore County and Baltimore City Community College.
I was able to study for and pass enough CLEPs to earn a total of 12 college credits – completely for free – by way of a philanthropy that I uncovered through my research: Modern States Education Alliance. On top of offering over 30 tuition-free, self-paced, online courses and course materials, they’ll actually pay for you to sit for the CLEP after successfully completing their modules (the College Board charges $87). At the University of Baltimore, 12 credits are worth roughly $4,500, plus the cost of textbooks, so knowing that I saved thousands of dollars while fulfilling general education requirements on my own time is incredibly satisfying.
The Modern States program was unbelievably helpful, and its courses fully prepare you to pass the CLEP exams. I earned credit for college by working through the Modern States courses and passing CLEPs for Information Systems, Sociology, Introduction to Management and Introduction to Marketing. The best part? It’s a completely free, quality education. The courses are taught by professors from universities like Tufts and Rutgers. There aren’t any ads. There aren’t any subscriptions. It’s just accessible public education, the way I believe education should be.
I urge students to examine alternative paths to earning college credit. Not going into debt is equally as important as educating ourselves to be tomorrow’s leaders. Today a lot of us are committing to students loans which can follow us long into our adult lives. From one student to another, I urge you to take advantage of the resources that exist to help us on our journeys to success.