New Collaboration Ensures Students Receive College Credit for prior Learning

Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education has formed an innovative collaboration with and the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning that will ensure prospective students receive credit for college-level learning they have gained through their work, military or other prior learning experiences.

PASSHE universities for years have recognized prior college-level learning as demonstrated through assessments such as the College Board’s College Level Examination Program and Advanced Placement courses and exams. This new collaboration will broaden the opportunities prospective students have to get their prior learning assessed through a standardized process. It also will include strategies to ensure that prospective students become more aware of these avenues that make earning a college degree more affordable, efficient and possible.

“The and CAEL partnership represents a major step forward in the state system’s efforts to make it easier for returning adult students to have options for obtaining credit for their prior learning,” said PASSHE Chancellor Dr. John C. Cavanaugh. “This partnership is based on PASSHE having the ability to make options known and available to students to determine whether they are eligible and can obtain credit for that learning.

“It is additional evidence that PASSHE is serious about making more options available for returning adult students to complete their degrees. We are very excited about again being a leader in helping the commonwealth achieve its goal of ensuring that an educated workforce is available for employers.”

“Our work with PASSHE is groundbreaking on many levels,” said Chari Leader Kelly, vice president of “At last, adults will have access to high-quality, prior learning assessment across the state of Pennsylvania.

“This approach means a better educated workforce, a higher degree completion rate and a more affordable degree for the thousands of adults who are just starting their degrees, or have some college, but need to complete. This better educated workforce has the potential to attract new employers to the state. Moreover, it may also break family legacies of not being able to access or afford higher education-children who see their parents getting degrees will better understand the importance of going to college.”

Through this collaboration, prospective students will be able to create portfolios that demonstrate prior learning outcomes obtained through specific work, military or other training programs, as well as the many forms of online content such as Massively Open Online Courses. Prospective students’ portfolios will have to provide evidence that the same learning outcomes have been achieved as those by a student who passes the same course in a regular academic setting.

“This collaboration with and CAEL benefits both our students, especially the many who come with prior work, military and volunteer experiences, and our universities, as we attract highly qualified students,” said Shippensburg University of Pennsylvania President Dr. William N. Ruud. “We are working to ensure that our academic policies are clear and easily understood to provide maximum benefit to our students.”

The collaboration is part of a broader strategy to make it easier for adults to complete their college degrees at PASSHE universities.

The Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education is the largest provider of higher education in the Commonwealth, with nearly 120,000 students. The 14 PASSHE universities offer degree and certificate programs in more than 120 areas of study. About 500,000 PASSHE alumni live and work in Pennsylvania.

The state-owned universities are Bloomsburg, California, Cheyney, Clarion, East Stroudsburg, Edinboro, Indiana, Kutztown, Lock Haven, Mansfield, Millersville, Shippensburg, Slippery Rock and West Chester Universities of Pennsylvania. PASSHE also operates branch campuses in Clearfield, Freeport, Oil City and Punxsutawney and several regional centers, including the Dixon University Center in Harrisburg. serves as a comprehensive prior learning assessment (PLA) resource to adult learners, postsecondary institutions, employers and workforce organizations. PLA is the evaluation and assessment of an individual’s lifelong learning for college credit leading to degree completion, certification or professional development. This lifelong learning may be acquired through work, employer training programs, military service, independent study, volunteer or community service and more.

The Council for Adult & Experiential Learning links learning and work. CAEL works at all levels within the higher education, public and private sectors to make it easier for people to get the education and training they need to attain meaningful, secure employment.

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