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Credit for Prior Learning

Credit for prior learning may be part of a given career pathways program, or it may be a stand-alone policy at a college or university or within a particular department or program. Regardless, there is a growing recognition that it is an important strategy for moving non-traditional adult students to degree/credential completion. In fact, the Minnesota State Colleges and Universities system (MnSCU) requires each of its institutions to establish procedures for evaluating and assigning credit to work or experiential learning.

The Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) describes Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) as the process by which colleges evaluate for academic credit the college-level knowledge and skills an individual has gained outside of the classroom, including employment, military training and service, travel, hobbies, civic activities, and volunteer service. A recent study of students 25 years or older found that PLA students had greater persistence, higher graduation rates, and earned degrees more quickly than other adult students.  Furthermore the CAEL study revealed that graduation rates for PLA students were higher than non-PLA students in every racial/ethnic group.  The study also found that financial aid recipients with PLA credit and remedial students with PLA credit had higher graduation rates than their non-PLA counterparts.

In an effort to boost retention and graduation rates, Inver Hills Community College launched ASAP. ASAP is designed for adult students looking to earn a degree quickly in a format that accommodates full-time work and/or family and other responsibilities. ASAP offers 8-week courses that meet at various location in the metro region one night a week or on Saturdays. If students are able to demonstrate skills and knowledge commensurate with course content and learning objectives, they receive academic credit without having to take the course. Granting credit for prior learning not only helps students earn credits toward a degree quickly, but saves them money: the cost per PLA credit is $100, significantly less than the average credit hour costs for courses.

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