Earning College Credits for Work Experience in Arizona

JobsEducators have been addressing the fact that more than 27 percent of Arizona adults have attended college and earned credits, but still have no degree. Many of those adults would be able to obtain a degree if they could learn on the job and earn credits for doing so. Arizona colleges are looking for ways to let them do just that.

Pamela Tate, President and CEO of the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning in Chicago says that there is a large gap between those people who have college degrees and the numbers of people required to fill the high-skill jobs.

It is expected that by the year 2025 around 40 percent of Arizona residents will have a college degree, but more than 60 percent of the jobs that are available will require a college degree. In order to address this disparity and speed up the process required to obtain a degree, credits may be given by educational institutions for prior learning.

The nation’s colleges and universities are scrambling to increase the number of degrees awarded as well as increasing graduation rates because they need to close this gap. Even President Obama has proposed that federal financial aid should be linked to the graduation rates of colleges and universities.

Adults can earn credit if they present a portfolio that includes a certificate that is professionally recognized along with a discussion of training and examples of how that training has been applied. Content experts would evaluate the portfolio according to a set of strict standards. They would then award credits based on the experience to that particular candidate.

The Associate Vice Chancellor of Academic Affairs for the Maricopa County Community College District, Sam Dosumu, has been conducting prior learning evaluations and has said that many students have gained anywhere between 13 and 20 credits with the average degree requiring 60 credits. This can encourage former students to return to college and finish earning their degree.

While the concept of earning credits for prior experience is not new, the fact that many colleges and universities are willing to award those credits for that experience is new. Credits can also be earned by taking a College Level Examination Program which is a group of 33 subject tests. An adult can take the tests in order to earn credits but acceptance among colleges can vary widely.

Employers will need to participate in this program by setting out specific ways for employees to advance on the job once they have earned their degree. Those employers may even offer to pay for assessments.

Several universities will accept lower grades if that student is transferring credit from a different institution but will require a near perfect score on the CLOP exam before they award any credit. There has been no shift in the conversation within those universities from fall enrollment to the rates of graduation in the spring.

Certain large companies and employers have a tuition reimbursement program. The executives of these companies quickly realized that they could save money by having their employees undergo a credit assessment instead of enrolling to relearn content.