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CAEL announces campaign encouraging increased adoption of credit for prior learning programs at U.S. colleges and universities

Newly developed resources and toolkits for postsecondary education professionals available online – free of charge – to boost creation of effective and equitable CPL program offerings for adult learners

INDIANAPOLIS – The Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) today announced the launch of a new campaign to encourage postsecondary education institutions to develop and improve credit for prior learning (CPL) programs that benefit adult learners across the country. The campaign, which includes newly developed resources available to institutions at no cost, underscores a key part of CAEL’s mission to engage with its partners so more adult learners can achieve academic and career success. 

Credit for prior learning is a term for various methods that colleges, universities, and other education/training providers use to evaluate and formally recognize learning that has occurred outside of the traditional academic environment. It is used to grant college credit, certification, or advanced standing toward further education or training. Other common terms for this process include prior learning assessment (PLA) and recognition of learning.

“CPL is at the heart of CAEL’s legacy of expanding opportunities for and increasing equitable outcomes in postsecondary education,” said Earl Buford, CAEL president. “By affirming the value of diverse experiences, CPL can broaden access to education while helping students complete credentials more quickly and affordably.”

Data from a 2020 report published by CAEL and the Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) show that adult students who participate in CPL saved an average of 9 to 14 months in completing their degree and between $1,500 and $10,200 in expenses. The data also show that students are 17 percent more likely to complete their program when they take advantage of an institution’s CPL offerings.

Enhancing adult student success translates into direct financial advantages for institutions in addition to providing reputational benefits. The report found that because CPL students were more likely to persist and complete, they earned more traditional-course credits – 17.6 on average – at their institutions than non-CPL students. 

CAEL’s CPL campaign calls on institutions and advocates to scale up the use of CPL, expand the number of students who receive college credit for prior learning, and make concerted efforts to make receipt of credit for prior learning equitable. Strada Education Network, which helped develop the initiative, will also support outreach efforts.

“We’re incredibly excited about this opportunity to promote more broadly the adoption of credit for prior learning among postsecondary institutions. The evidence of CPL’s benefits to students and institutions is well-documented. In addition, in CAEL’s nearly 50 years advocating for adult learners, we  know that CPL helps institutions meet students where they are and validates them as learners,” said Becky Klein-Collins, vice president of impact at CAEL. “The downloadable resources for institutions include a new advocacy toolkit to help build institutional buy-in, a step-by-step guide on building–or expanding–an effective and inclusive CPL program, a sample CPL process map, and tips on using a CPL program to attract and retain adult learners. There’s even a short video from a CPL practitioner that explains in more detail how CPL works.”

Interested institutions are invited to visit cael.org/lp/cpl-pla to access the new information and resources. 

About CAEL
Recognizing that adult learners are the backbone of the U.S. economy, CAEL helps forge a clear, viable connection between education and career success, providing solutions that promote sustainable and equitable economic growth. CAEL opens doors to opportunity in collaboration with workforce and economic developers; postsecondary educators; employers and industry groups; and foundations and other mission-aligned organizations. By engaging with these stakeholders, we foster a culture of innovative, lifelong learning that helps individuals and their communities thrive. A national membership organization established in 1974, CAEL is a part of Strada Collaborative, a mission-driven nonprofit. Learn more at cael.org and stradacollaborative.org.

About Strada Education Network
Strada Education Network is a nonprofit organization that believes education and training after high school can be the most powerful and equitable way to help people secure a good job, do meaningful work, contribute to their communities, and lead a fulfilling life. We conduct research, make grants and social impact investments, and support organizations in Strada Collaborative, who directly serve students and workers. Learn more at stradaeducation.org.

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