Paying for college is expensive. Given the cost of higher education, many prospective students have been giving considerable weight to the cost of their college or university of choice, with more than 38% of prospective students saying that the total cost of attendance was the deciding factor in their selection, says Sallie Mae.

And who can blame them? U.S. News reports that for the 2020-2021 school year, the average price for tuition at a private institution was $35,087, public out-of-state tuition was $21,184, and public in-state tuition was $9,687—a significant cost for most people, especially during an economy soldiering through a pandemic.

While scholarships, financial aid, grants, and other sources are excellent supplements to help offset the burden of attending your school of choice, some schools, like Park University, are finding innovative ways to give prospective students credit where credit is due.

Whether you’re a recent high school graduate, a returned missionary, member of the military, or a humanitarian worker or civic volunteer, you know that real-life experience is often the best teacher—especially when it comes to things that can’t be taught in a classroom.

Those real-life experiences, knowledge, and skills attained are invaluable and Park University is ready to recognize you for them by way of college credits.

Oscar Monterroso

How citizenship and community service can earn college credit

Starting fall of 2020, Park University allows students the opportunity to earn three credit hours for every 120 hours of community service, up to a maximum of nine credit hours for 360 (or more) hours of community service. This shift in credit allocation is a significant benefit to those weighing the costs and benefits of higher education.

“The new program is inventive, in that it assigns quantifiable value to the invaluable experience of working in service to others,” said Michelle Myers, Ed.D., Park University provost. “Students who are involved in community or service organizations, or perhaps have served on mission trips with their church, are among the candidates who would be ideal for this program.”

To receive credit, community service and/or civic engagement must involve activities that directly promote the common good, welfare, and/or safety of the local, national, and/or global community. Students can use community service experiences from their junior year of high school and beyond. The time for service must be within five years prior to attending Park University.

As an added benefit, students with real-life service experience, earning a minor in the program is fast-tracked. All you need are two core classes, and three to nine credit hours of electives (depending on credit hours earned for community service), and you will earn a minor in Citizenship and Service from Park University in just 18 credit hours.

Upon completion of the program, students will be able to relate the practical experience to interdisciplinary and integrative thinking, demonstrate the value of service in a global society and provide documentation illustrating the ability to facilitate service in a wide variety of contexts, including communication, teamwork, and leadership.

Students and global citizenship

The plan for offering college credit for real-life experiences—such as missionary work—aligns with one of Park University’s core values of promoting global citizenship. Through a connected learning and working environment, liberal arts education, and community stewardship, being a good global citizen is a celebrated ideal at Park University—and the inclusion of the Citizenship and Service minor reflects that.

Given the large number of high school seniors thinking about a gap year before heading to college, Park University President Shane Smeed identified an opportunity for students to be rewarded for their civic efforts by turning those experiences into college credit. The credit is making a difference for students looking to get a leg up on their academic careers and save some money in the process.

For more information about how you can turn real-life experiences, even missionary work, into college credit, visit Park University’s Citizenship and Service page here or contact Park University’s Office of Admissions, at, or (816) 746-2530.