Fast-tracking life and work experiences for college credits, a long-standing procedure at many four-year colleges and universities in the United States and abroad, is an idea whose time has been too long delayed but finally has arrived.
Pennsylvania is following the curve on this concept at the state level with its College Credit Fast Track program, which can award community college students for life skills if its connected to courses taken for credits.
The goal is to open an easier pathway to a two-year degree — and perhaps beyond — while essentially reducing classroom time to achieve that distinction.
The Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges announced the plan earlier this week. Commission Chairman Nicholas Neupauer said some post-secondary education “is as necessary now as a high school degree was in previous generations, and many adults want to gain a degree and gain re-employment with as little time in the classroom as possible.”
The community colleges involved, 14 in all, including HACC, will offer Prior Learning Assessments which will include previous work or other educational experiences as “learning outcomes” in determining college credit.
This latest version of life-experience for credit program follows a similar program offered to departing veterans for several decades, along with automatic credits for time in military specialties. It’s funded by a U.S. Department of Labor in the wake of President Barack Obama’s goal of providing free community college education.
There’s a catch. Applicants have to upload an “e-portfolio” on the state’s College Credit Fast Track website, listing their reasons for requesting credit. That involves a $125 nonrefundable fee.
The idea — and it’s a laudable goal — is to boost degree-completion rates. The $125 upload charge? A bit dear.
For prospective students counting their pennies and stretched to the financial limit, that’s not chump change.
Prior-learning assessments for college credit have been in effect at a number of schools, but the Pennsylvania Commission for Community College says the new system streamlines the process.
It’s a welcome innovation, but adding an upload fee to a financially burdened student’s ongoing debt may prove an overwhelming obstacle for many community college hopefuls.
If the system is designed to help such folks, drop the $125 charge — or make exceptions. It is a state service, after all.
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