President Obama is! During a speech at the State University of New York, on August 13, 2013, the President stated, “A higher education is the single best investment you can make in your future. And I’m proud of all the students who are making that investment.” He went on to discuss the financial barriers to higher education and his plans for college affordability.
The President’s plan is multi-faceted and involves many players from government and higher education. One facet of his plan focuses upon innovation and competition. He is challenging colleges and universities to:
“Recognize Prior Learning and Promote Dual Enrollment. Colleges can also award credit for prior learning experiences, similar to current Administration efforts to recognize the skills of returning veterans. Dual-enrollment opportunities let high school students earn credits before arriving at college, which can save them money by accelerating their time to degree.”
There are several ways colleges can assess and recognize prior learning. The most common include national exams such as CLEP and DANTES, credit recommendations for training and military service from the American Council on Education (ACE), and portfolios. Portfolio programs allow students to demonstrate learning in disciplines and subjects for which exams or ACE recommendations are not available. This method is also a viable alternative for students who do not test well. A portfolio generally contains a resume and/or autobiography, a narrative essay discussing the learning as it relates to a particular course or subject, and documentation to verify the author’s identity and support the request for credit.
Students can save a substantial amount of money and time through participation in a Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) program. The fees associated with exams and portfolios are significantly less than tuition for a course. Additionally, some students have been able to graduate up to a year earlier than they would have without PLA. They were able to enter the workforce or earn a promotion and increase their earning potential much earlier. There are other advantages to participating in PLA. Studies show students who participate in PLA programs are more likely to persist and graduate and PLA students report improved self-esteem.
Students interested in learning more about how to save time and money with PLA can visit http://www.amu.apus.edu/admissions/general-information/pla.htm or http://www.apu.apus.edu/admissions/general-information/pla.htm.
CAEL. (March, 2010). PLA Fueling the Race. http://www.cael.org/pdfs/PLA_Fueling-the-Race. retrieved 9/26/2013
White House Press Secretary. (August 22, 2013). Remarks by the President on College Affordability — Buffalo, N., http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/08/22/remarks-president-college-affordability-buffalo-ny. retrieved 9/26/2013
White House Press Secretary. (August 22, 2013). FACT SHEET on the President’s Plan to Make College More Affordable: A Better Bargain for the Middle Class. http://www.whitehouse.gov/the-press-office/2013/08/22/fact-sheet-president-s-plan-make-college-more-affordable-better-bargain-. retrieved 9/26/2013
By Tedi Thompson-Magrini
Associate VP/Prior Learning Assessment at American Public University System