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ACE Research Brief Explores Credit for Prior Learning Practices

November 25, 2013

Prior Learning cover


​A new ACE research brief finds that many higher education institutions recognize the potential value of extending credit for prior learning experiences, and ​that students enjoy a high overall success rate in earning academic credit or employer recognition for such learning.

The brief, Credit for Prior Learning​, by Mikyung Ryu of ACE’s Center for Policy Research and Strategy, draws on survey responses from colleges and universities, students, and employers to explore the role of credit for prior learning (CPL) in driving national education attainment goals and supporting the needs of individual nontraditional learners.

Student respondents, largely working adults, reported having a high overall success rate (82 percent) in earning academic credit or employer recognition for their ACE-evaluated prior learning.

While the vast majority of responding colleges and universities indicated they have put into practice some form of CPL (92 percent), campus policies and the type of credit that is awarded vary widely from campus to campus and by type of assessment method. For instance, while ACE credit recommendations for military training were accepted by 77 percent of responding institutions, that figure was 26 percent for portfolio assessments and ACE-evaluated corporate training.

Such variability within and across institutions is one reason students can find it difficult to find clear, consistent information about their CPL options, according to the brief. The brief also found that industry-based education benefits are available but sometimes underutilized due to a lack of employee learning support systems.

CPL remains a rapidly evolving field, and the brief suggests areas of focus to increase its successful application, such as credit mobility and transparent information services for students who are seeking it.

“Credit for prior learning can serve to help our nation capture the large investments made in education and training outside of traditional classrooms and enable colleges and universities to better fulfill the unique needs of adult nontraditional students,” Ryu said.

 “With the current focus on boosting the number of Americans completing postsecondary degrees or credentials, understanding institutions’ awareness, acceptance and application of credit for prior learning is an important first step in expanding the practice,” said Cathy A. Sandeen, ACE vice president for education attainment and innovation.

Media Contact: Jon Riskind ▪ 202-939-9453 ▪​

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