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CAEL Pathways Blog

Accelerating Degree Success for Adult Learners in Uncertain Times

Are you overwhelmed? I know we are. How do you think our adult students feel? The value proposition of unlocking mid- and high-wage jobs in STEM careers through a degree is undeniable; however, the imperative to accelerate achievement is heightened with what students are facing in coming years. More work, less pay, economic uncertainty and increased family responsibility are just the start of the list. 


Talk about velocity! PLA allows students to cut a year (or more) off study for an Associate of Applied Science Transfer Degree (AAS-T) and complete a BAS in two years or less providing they have the requisite work experience, training and certifications. While many community colleges have a PLA web page and maybe even a coordinator, our experience is that students dont take full advantage of this accelerator unless they are mentored through it. Equity and accessibility require a faculty mentor, which means building portfolio development and review into programs. It also means aligning faculty incentives and compensation to support students earning PLA credits. 

In our BAS degree for Sustainable Building Science Technology (SBST), many students earn 18 credits through a PLA portfolio process where faculty mentor them. For our new associate degree in Multi-Occupation in Engineering & Technology (MOET), students can earn/ transfer more than half of required credits for prior work and training either in the military or the workplace. 

CAEL (the Council on Adult & Experiential Learning) and WICHE (Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education) recently published the PLA Boost, which asserts that PLA is one tool to close achievement gaps. By recognizing students existing knowledge, skills and abilities and meeting them where they are, higher rates of program success is the outcome. 

Read more at: Community College Daily

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