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Prior Learning Credits Boost Completion Odds

October 16, 2020

Adult students who receive college credits for prior learning are more likely to complete academic programs than their peers without prior learning assessment (PLA) credits, according to a new report from the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning and the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education.

The report examined student outcomes at 72 U.S. colleges and universities. Even after controlling for other factors that influence completion, it found that prior learning assessment increases student completion by 17 percent, and by 30 percent for all forms of prior learning assessment other than credit recommendations for military training. Prior learning assessment also saves students time and money, according to the report.

"The report also showed that PLA’s positive impact on completion persists across all learner demographics, including gender, age, race/ethnicity, socioeconomic status, academic performance and institution type," the groups said in a news release. "However, despite PLA’s broad potential, only about 11 percent of adult students at the institutions participating in the study earned PLA credit. Black students, Pell Grant recipients and students who lived in lower-income communities were least likely to have participated."

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Paul Fain

Paul Fain, Contributing Editor, came to Inside Higher Ed in September 2011, after a six-year stint covering leadership and finance for The Chronicle of Higher Education. Paul has also worked in higher ed P.R., with Widmeyer Communications, but couldn't stay away from reporting. A former staff writer for C-VILLE Weekly, a newspaper in Charlottesville, Va., Paul has written for The New York Times, Washington City Paper and Mother Jones. He's won a few journalism awards, including one for beat reporting from the Education Writers Association and the Dick Schaap Excellence in Sports Journalism Award. Paul got hooked on journalism while working too many hours at The Review, the student newspaper at the University of Delaware, where he earned a degree in political science in 1996. A native of Dayton, Ohio, and a long-suffering fan of the Cincinnati Bengals, Fain plays guitar in a band with more possible names than polished songs.

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