At least some form of credit for prior learning has been in place since after World War I, when veterans first gained the opportunity to demonstrate their skills and knowledge through competency-based exams for high school equivalency. By the mid-1970’s, many institutions had implemented transfer policy and practice for military training, national examinations, and individualized assessments, such as the portfolio, with nationally recognized standards to guide the range of assessment options.
But CPL doesn’t have to apply specifically to veterans. When applied as part of a well-designed degree plan, CPL can increase student retention, encourage persistence, shorten time to completion, and translates valuable learning experiences into tangible progress towards education and career goals for all many students.
Benefits of the CPL Model
Motivation to Persist: Adult students who received PLAs credit were 2.5 times more likely to persist in their education and complete their degrees than students who received no credit for prior learning. More than half of PLA participants earned a degree within seven years, compared to 21 percent of non-PLA students.4
Accelerated Pathways: The acceptance of CPL offers an accelerated path to degrees that are relevant to the 21st century, and grounded in real experience for adult learners. This model offers a proven pathway to raise productivity in higher education and, to enable millions of students who have stopped short of a degree to complete their education.
Flexibility: The acceptance of CPL can open up a world of opportunity to students, breaking down traditional barriers to information, and helping them take advantage of free educational resources, such as MOOCs; competency-based degree programs; badging, and other learning opportunities now available in this new world of online and blended learning that is rapidly transforming higher education.
Meeting Demand: Non-traditional students account for nearly 40 percent of all U.S. 5 undergraduate enrollments. By instituting CPL, institutions are able to meet educational demands of this increasing student population.
Accelerating Degree Attainment: State legislatures have realized the efficacy of this model and have become involved with the implementation of applying CPL, thanks in part to advocacy by organizations such as the Lumina Foundation and Complete College America. The Obama Administration has also helped to encourage PLAs, most notably through a $2 billion Labor Department grant package aimed at job training for displaced workers.
Employability: Currently, the nation faces the challenge of having a skills and training gap that contributes to lower employment rates. Applying CPL allows colleges and universities to produce more employable graduates with skills that are in demand by today’s workforce.
Meeting Unfulfilled Workforce Demands: Our current education and workforce training system will fail to produce enough skilled workers, falling short by three million associate or bachelor’s degrees, and almost five million post-secondary credentials. This means that important jobs will go unfilled, because employers can’t find workers with the right skills to fill them. CPL has the potential to produce more graduates.6
Cost-Effectiveness: Collectively, the U.S. spends approximately $772 billion annually on postsecondary-level education and training, and the bulk of this spending supports education and training occurring outside of formal education institutions. Because PLAs decrease time to graduation, fewer costs are incurred for students. CAEL estimates that students who hold PLA credits can save from $1,605-$6,000 over the course of their schooling, depending on the type of institution they attend and how much credit they have earned.7
(Next page: Infographic and CPL’s overall potential)