Workers and students who've lost jobs during the pandemic and want to continue their education might be able to receive college credit for previous life or work experience.
University of Louisville Professor Matt Bergman said most Kentucky colleges, technical schools and universities offer Prior Learning Assessments to determine which skills and experiences are credit-worthy. But he said these "PLA" programs are vastly underutilized, especially among Black students, Pell Grant recipients and people at community colleges.
He said PLAs could be used to help re-skill workers to jumpstart the economic recovery post-COVID.
"Individuals basically will be performing regular job duties and have continuing education as well as professional development, [and] would be able to tap into what they've learned along the way and use that for college credit," Bergman said.
He said the Commonwealth could boost access to PLAs by standardizing the process statewide and promoting credit-for-prior-learning options as key components of degree programs. He added when students move between colleges, they risk not having all their previous course credits transferred, so schools also need to establish guidelines for accepting prior-learning credits awarded by other institutions.
Bergman said receiving credits for prior learning can save students time as well as thousands of dollars. But PLAs also offer business benefits for colleges, since tuition revenue increases when a school can attract non-traditional students who might not otherwise enroll.
"We're retaining those individuals at a greater rate - therefore, bringing in more tuition and improving graduation rate and their pace to graduation," he said.
He pointed out colleges can use PLA programs to recruit diverse and multigenerational students, especially those with military or corporate training, nonprofit and government experience. Research by the Western Interstate Commission on Higher Education found adult students who participated in PLAs were 17% more likely to complete their college degree.