DOE wants students to save money, time with new credit guide

Jarek RutzEducation, Headlines

University of Delaware, pictured above, is one of the contributors to the Delaware Credit for Prior Learning Policy Framework.

University of Delaware, pictured above, is one of the contributors to the Delaware Credit for Prior Learning Policy Framework.

The state’s new credit for prior learning policy framework will reinforce a practice that WilmU has been using for more than 30 years, a practice other institutions of higher learning in the First State also follow.

According to the Department of Education, the guidelines are intended to help colleges and universities develop policies and procedures for evaluating prior student learning to accurately award credit for college degree programs or advanced placement in apprenticeship programs. 

Wilmington University has offered credit for prior learning for more than 30 years.

“The reason this is an important issue now is that the pandemic impacted countless employees who either had to find new careers, earn college degrees, or garner new credentials,” said David Caffo, director of experiential learning at WilmU. “Those who don’t have college degrees can complete their programs faster if given credit for prior learning.”

He said WilmU values work, life and military experiences, and those experiences, in many cases, are as viable as coursework.

In the past five years, 6,500 students earned credit for prior learning, he said.

“This year, we’ve offered the credits to 1,300 students so far,” Caffo said, “which is already an 18% percent increase over the total number for last year.”

Key components of the 27-page guidelines include: 

  • Helping increase access to careers that are recession-resistant and wealth-generating
  • Outlining the importance of creating credit for prior learning education systems that are timely, financially accessible, and community-centered
  • Sharing with Delaware institutions ways to best evaluate prior learning and experiences for awarding credit and clock hours in credential, degree and apprenticeship programs
  • Calling for institutions to develop and consistently apply a fee structure for credit for prior learning education that is transparent and accessible to all students, faculty, staff and stakeholders
  • Recommending institutions charge fees for credit for prior learning assessments based on services performed in prior learning rather than credits awarded, if charged at all
  • Recommending any credit for prior learning fee structures include fee waivers based on eligibility
  • Reinforcing that no student should be denied access to credit for prior learning due to the student’s inability to pay
  • Reinforcing that credit for prior learning education is an institutional decision, and highlights the Delaware colleges, universities, other postsecondary education providers, and state agencies that are helping to develop and deliver credit for prior learning education in Delaware
  • Recognizing that a quality credit for prior learning education system requires an ongoing process of continuous improvement.

Many colleges and universities commonly grant credit for prior learning demonstrated through assessments such as Advanced Placement exams or military service, said Secretary of Education Mark Holodick.

“This framework provides certification and degree-granting institutions guidance on other ways students could receive credit for prior learning,” he said, adding that it’s a tool that could be especially valuable for returning students and those with non-traditional backgrounds.

Students can receive credit for full courses at Delaware postsecondary institutions where they can demonstrate they gained the equivalent knowledge and learning from work and other experiences.  

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The credit for those courses could save students thousands on tuition costs, and saves them time by lowering their required credits, which the Department says will help working adult students.

The framework notes credit is not awarded for experience, but for college or apprenticeship-level learning, which entails knowledge and skills that students have obtained as a result of their prior learning. 

A slew of educational representatives collaborated with the state to make the framework. They include representatives from Delaware’s colleges and universities, the Adult Education Divisions of the New Castle County Vocational Technical School District, POLYTECH School District, Sussex County Vocational Technical School District and the Delaware Department of Labor.  

“Given our experience with traditional and non-traditional students, Wilmington University has had the privilege of offering credit for prior learning for 30 years,” said Jim Wilson, vice president for academic affairs 

This has allowed WilmU to offer thousands of Delaware residents viable ways to complete their degree programs faster, he said, while saving significantly on tuition costs. 

“We wholeheartedly support The Delaware Credit for Prior Learning Policy Framework,” he said. “We look forward to working with the state of Delaware to ensure every student is rewarded for skills and knowledge accrued outside the classroom.”

To read the full framework, click here.

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