Credit Where It’s Due: NEBHE Survey Finds More Colleges Rewarding Prior Learning

At least 117 of 259 nonprofit two- and four-year institutions in New England offer some sort of “prior learning assessment,” according to data collected by NEBHE for the 2013 Annual Guide to New England Colleges and Universities.

Institutions use student results on prior learning assessments to determine whether students’ education and professional experience warrant advance standing through course placement and/or college credit. These assessments range from the high school-based Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate programs to the American Council on Education (ACE)-evaluated corporate or military training programs and portfolio reviews.

The national Center of Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) recently partnered with HCM Strategists to further states and institutions’ ability to serve students through A Resource Guide for State Leaders: State Policy Approaches to Support Prior Learning Assessment. Among examples, the Vermont State Colleges (VSC) system created its Office of External Programs to administer all assessment of prior learning for the system’s two- and four-year institutions in 1975. As of August 2012, more than 7,000 Vermonters have earned credit through prior learning assessment, earning an average of 30 credits—for the cost of one three-credit class and a $300 administration fee. 

In addition, the data collected by NEBHE for the 2013 Annual Guide reveals that 105 New England institutions offer distance learning options, 22 offer degree programs with classes only offered on weekends; and 10 offer external degree programs that allow students to earn credits toward a degree with minimal or no classroom attendance.  To be sure, these increasingly flexible delivery and experiential learning options are not completely “disruptive”—they still aim to meticulously match the learning experience with currently offered courses and exams.




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