Beginning this fall, students at Arkansas' two-year colleges will be able to get a jumpstart completing their college degree by converting some of their prior learning experiences into college credit.
On Wednesday, the Arkansas Association of Two-Year Colleges announced an initiative that uses a standardized process for assessing a student's prior learning. Students who meet standards can receive college credit for learning they previously gained through on-the-job training, corporate training, military service, civic activities, volunteer service and open source courseware.
Prior learning assessment and evaluation services will be provided through the Chicago-based Council for Adult and Experiential Learning. Through the council's online portal (LearningCounts.org), students take CAEL 100: Prior Learning Theory and Practice, a three credit-hour, six-week online course, which is the first step in the prior learning assessment. Through the process, students build a portfolio that demonstrates their prior learning. The portfolio is then evaluated by a subject area expert.
"At a time when more jobs are requiring postsecondary degrees, adults wanting to advance in the workplace are facing the challenges of balancing work, life and going to school," says Mark P. Campbell, vice president of LearningCounts.org. "LearningCounts.org helps adults accelerate their degree completion in an accessible and affordable manner that meets their needs."
As part of the initiative, AT&T announced a grant of $24,750 to the Arkansas Association of Two-Year Colleges to establish and manage a scholarship program to assist students interested in having their prior learning assessed for college credit. The grant will allow colleges to provide scholarships to 66 students. Each recipient will receive $375, which will cover half the cost of the course and portfolio evaluation.
"AT&T and the AT&T Foundation support projects that create opportunities, make connections and address community needs where we and our customers live and work," said Ed Drilling, president, AT&T Arkansas. "For more than 25 years, supporting education has been a major focus for AT&T. An educated workforce is critical to the future of our nation and to the success of our company. It is a privilege to represent AT&T, the AT&T Foundation and my fellow AT&T Arkansas employees as we announce this grant to support education in our state."
Students interested in prior learning assessment should contact their college's financial aid office.
"Governor Beebe has set a goal to double the number of college graduates in Arkansas by 2025," said Dr. Ed Franklin, executive director of AATYC. "We cannot accomplish this goal solely by increasing the number of traditional students enrolling in college straight out of high school. Arkansas has an untapped resource of adult students who are capable of succeeding in college and completing a certificate or degree. These nontraditional students have relevant life and work experience that could translate into college credit, which will help them graduate more quickly. The vast majority of these nontraditional students will attend their local two-year college."
Dr. Dan F. Bakke, president of Pulaski Technical College, the state's largest two-year college, said he expects students will appreciate the added option of prior learning assessment.
"Some of our students bring to college a wealth of skills and knowledge from previous careers," Dr. Bakke said. "If they can earn college credit for knowledge they've already gained or skills they've already mastered, they can spend more time on the areas they need to concentrate on, and they move closer to successful completion of their degree."