CLEP Tests Attractive To Students, Rejected by FCLC

Tests Allow Students to Bypass Classes at Some Universities


Published: October 22, 2009

Thanks to the College Level Examination Program (CLEP), current and prospective college students are crossing required courses off their checklists with only a single test and a small fee. In place of long hours in a classroom and a three-digit price tag for each university credit, students can fulfill course requirements by achieving a sufficient score on any one of the 34 corresponding CLEP subject exams. However, Fordham College at Lincoln Center (FCLC) is currently not accepting CLEP exam credits.

The program, which is run by the College Board, is designed to allow students to earn their degrees faster and less expensively, substituting a single subject-specific test for a semester-long introductory course.

While CLEP credits are accepted by Fordham College of Liberal Studies (FCLS), FCLC does not accept exam credit, a difference in policy based on the nature of the CLEP exams and one that illustrates the differences between Fordham’s two Manhattan colleges.

“I looked into it and I came to the conclusion that it did not make sense for us to be accepting it at [FCLC],” said Rev. Robert R. Grimes, S.J., dean of FCLC. “The whole notion of this is for people that have been out working and have picked up knowledge about something. Traditional students have the option of the AP [Advanced Placement] exam.”

Fordham College at Rose Hill (FCRH) also does not accept CLEP credits.

At Fordham College of Liberal Studies (FCLS), a largely adult college, accepting credit for knowledge learned in the workforce is an opportunity afforded to many students.

“We know students have learned things in life before they’ve gotten to Fordham,” said John Bach, assistant dean at FCLS. “Sometimes they’ve been to other schools, sometimes they’ve just had experiences through which they’ve learned things; they’ve just never gotten college level credit for it.”

Students enrolled in FCLS can receive up to 18 credits from taking CLEP exams, meaning that three classes could be eliminated from the required course catalog. In order to receive credit, students must achieve a score on the exam sufficient to show proficiency. The cutoff for each subject test is different, and Fordham follows the American Council on Education’s recommendations for CLEP score acceptance.

With each credit at FCLS costing $675, eliminating even one three-credit course can save students a significant amount of money.

“If you do the math, financially, it’s a good deal,” Bach said. “But you have to be proficient. You either know Spanish and you can pass the proficiency, or you can’t. Our goal is for people to be able to validate the knowledge they have. If they don’t have that knowledge we want them to be taking a class.”

Not all CLEP exams are accepted in lieu of coursework at Fordham. The college’s two natural science requirements cannot be replaced, for example, because FCLS requires lab work in conjunction with each class.

The college does not allow students to replace coursework in their major with CLEP credits, either.

Despite the seeming convenience of the program, Bach said he has seen little change in the number of students gaining CLEP credit at FCLS. According to Bach, the most common CLEP exam has been, and still is, Spanish language.

“It’s not a large percentage. A lot of students take the language exam, it probably the most popular of them. A lot of adults here in New York know Spanish, for example, and are proficient in Spanish, so they take that exam and prove their proficiency in Spanish.”

Ultimately, the decision whether or not to accept CLEP credit lies with school administration.

“Every institution has its own policy, and that’s our message to students,” Cody said. “They really need to look at what their school’s policy is. Its up to individual institutions how they run their programs and how they communicate that information to students.”

The difference in policy comes at a time when student interest in credit-exemption options like the CLEP exam is growing.

“In this economy, you certainly have a lot of students going back to school, and this economy is a tough one, with a lot of people out of work, going back for training or certification or looking to finish a degree,” said Georgi Cody, Director of Operations for CLEP. “We do see that folks are very interested [in CLEP].”