Can I transfer my online course credits to another school?
Students commonly change programs and even schools in the middle of their college experience, so it's important to know ahead of time whether or not online course credits will transfer. When thinking about transfer credits, remember that there are no hard and fast rules that apply to all schools. Each school will have different credit transfer policies, and the only way to know for certain if credits will transfer is to call the schools themselves and ask. In general, however, a few important factors do tend to govern whether or not credits earned online will transfer.
We've found that accreditation is a big factor in whether or not online credits will transfer. For instance, many regionally accredited universities commonly accept credits from other regionally accredited universities, whether those credits were earned online or not. You may find it more difficult to transfer credits from a nationally accredited university to a regionally-accredited university. This is common because schools that are regionally accredited want the schools they accept transfer credits from to have been through the same rigorous peer review process that they have. This gives the school some measure of assurance that the transfer credits are equivalent to their own credits.
Before you enroll in a program, you can check if the school has any articulation agreements with other schools to give you solid transfer options down the road. Articulation agreements are formal agreements between two schools that allow credits earned in a certain program at one school to transfer to the same program at another school. Such agreements are often made between community colleges and four-year colleges. If you want to earn a two-year degree taking online courses, and think you may decide to earn a four-year degree down the road, checking out the school's articulation agreements first could be smart decision. Speak with an advisor of your intention about transferring to another school to make sure you are taking the courses required in the articulation agreement.
Even schools that readily accept transfer credits for online courses will have limits to how many credits they will accept. Most schools have rules in place that a specific number of credits must be earned at that particular school to graduate from that school, or will place a cap on the number of outside credits that can be applied toward a student's major. Therefore, the more credits you are trying to transfer, the more risk you take of some of them not transferring.
Changing programs while changing schools can also impact your ability to transfer credits. For instance, if you take a series of online business courses at one school, and later transfer into another school's education program, you shouldn't be surprised when the credits earned in business do not transfer toward your education major requirements. Many times, outside credits that do not pertain to the new degree program can only be transferred in as meeting an open elective requirement. If you are switching both schools and programs, you may find that the credits that are easiest to transfer will be from courses that make up general education requirements, or "basics," at most universities, such as intro-level college writing, mathematics, social sciences, and liberal arts. In general, to get the most out of your transfer credits, you should stick with a program that is as similar as possible to what you had started elsewhere.
Last but not least, to prevent transfer snags down the road, call a few other reputable schools in your area and ask if they accept transfer credits from the online college or university you are considering. If the resounding answer from the schools you call is no, you may want to consider other online schools if you want to keep your transfer options open in the future.