As you weigh your education options – online and otherwise – you might come across a mention of the Alternative Credit Project. This initiative could open new academic opportunities to you – but too many online students still don’t know their education options. Here’s everything an online college student needs to know about the Alternative Credit Project.

Making a College Degree More Attainable

Throughout their education, students’ needs change. They begin their studies at a traditional school, but decide to switch to an online education, or vice versa. They have to interrupt their education to handle work or family responsibilities, and they often have a difficult time finding their way back to the world of academia. An estimated 32 million nontraditional students across the nation have some college experience but no degree to show for it, according to the American Council on Education.

To help these students make the dream of earning their degrees a reality, the American Council on Education launched the Alternative Credit Project, with the help of a $1.9 million dollar grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Under this program, students can take courses from an approved list of 100 classes online, for little or no cost, and seamlessly transfer those credits to a participating school. The program began in in 2014 with just 25 colleges, but by July 2015, a total of 40 colleges had enrolled, according to the Northwest Ohio Media Group. With both traditional and accredited online institutions engaged in the Alternative Credit Project, students have plenty of choices about where to further their education.

What Does the Alternative Credit Project Mean for You?

The Alternative Credit Project makes a college degree more attainable, especially for students who already have some college. By starting your education with a foundation of free or affordable online courses, you can cut the total cost of your degree significantly. You can complete your studies from anywhere, on any schedule, which allows you to balance coursework with professional and family obligations. Then you can easily transfer to a respected college or university to finish your degree. With dozens of schools to choose from, you’re sure to find an academic institution that offers your desired major. Since both traditional and distance learning schools have joined the Alternative Credit Project, you can decide whether you would rather complete your degrees on-campus or online.

No one college or method of learning is the perfect fit for every student. Many students wonder if credits earned through online courses can be transferred to traditional schools – or, for that matter, to other online colleges – but the answer is often complicated. Students who attempt to transfer credits may have difficulty finding a school to accept the credits they have already completed, especially if the first school wasn’t regionally accredited. Programs like the Alternative Credit Project work to resolve that problem by establishing approved, low-cost online courses that transfer automatically to participating schools.