Academic Credit for Prior Learning in Washington Postsecondary Education:
Proposed Policies and Recommendations

Prepared by Noreen M. Light and William S. Moore - SBCTC
Submitted to the Washington State Legislature December 2010

Areas for improvement were identified by the SSB 6357 work group with specific recommendations for addressing these areas noted below. An ongoing work group was formed to coordinate and provide oversight for the implementation of these recommendations.

Responsible Group
Establish an ongoing statewide Prior Learning Assessment and Credit (PLAC) work group.
A work group is needed to assess the impact of implementation of the revisions recommended in this report, and recommend further revisions to policy and practice, as needed.
Higher Education Coordinating Board

Additionally, the proposed ongoing work group will need to consult with key resource groups – each having their own areas of knowledge and expertise - throughout the Washington State higher education system. A few of these key resource groups have been identified in the table below.

The SSB 6357 PLA work group encourages all Washington State institutions of higher education – to the greatest extent possible - to adopt the following recommendations aimed at either revising existing policies and guidelines or improving system practice regarding PLA to reflect and align with existing policies

Subgroup Leads and Additional Resources
Subgroup progress, important dates, other information
Identify a single point of contact regarding PLA information, for each institution
Fewer than half of the institutions queried were able to identify a single point of contact
Diane Martin
Registrars, Academic units
-- Increase transparency and consistency of information available to students and stakeholders.
-- Information should be readily available to prospective and current students. A clear description of Prior Learning Assessment policies and processes should be published in the college catalogue and on college websites, and students should be informed of the location of PLA information through quarterly schedules and in other marketing materials.
-- Search of institution websites and online catalogs resulted in no, incomplete, or inconsistent PLA information found in more than half of the websites
-- Survey respondents indicate that the most likely source of information for students is the course catalog, student handbook, or class schedule.
Instruction Commission, Public Information Officers
2/16 – To be addressed later

Subgroup Leads and Additional Resources
Subgroup progress, important dates, other information
Develop articulation agreements between institutions, where patterns of student enrollment between institutions are identified
Facilitate transfer of credit between institutions of higher education.
Jane Sherman, Jim West
Articulation and Transfer Council (ATC) and Registrars
2/16 - Jane Sherman, Jim West will work with JAOG on this.

Review work-based and other common training in career clusters and develop a matrix of possible credits
Reduce duplication of effort involved in one-on-one assessments, and increase consistent award of credits for common training (e.g. career colleges, apprenticeships, military, fire service, and law enforcement training)
Erik Tingelstad, Bernal Baca, Pat Ward
-- Centers of Excellence Directors with respective industry advisory council members
-- Instruction Commission (IC); possibly Workforce Education Council (WEC), or Articulation and Transfer Council (ATC)
2/16 – Erik Tinglestad will coordinate. Bernal Baca will assist. Pat Ward (SBCTC) will work with this group.

Improve clarity and increase consistency of fee structures
-- The WACTC-adopted guidelines for community and technical colleges are unclear, currently stating “actual costs plus reasonable”
-- Survey respondents indicated practices that range from “no charge” to “regular tuition cost for the five-credits of the portfolio course, plus regular tuition cost for any course credits that are awarded based on the portfolio documentation.”
Bernal Baca
Washington Association of Community and Technical Colleges (WACTC) and Registrars
2/16 – This item will be addressed later.

Develop a consistent method of tracking PLA
Allows for identification of high-impact practices which could be brought to scale across the state
Josh Baker, Pam LeMay, Nancy Mullane.
Institutional researchers with registrars
2/16 – Both Josh and Pam has examples of home grown systems they will share with the group at a future meeting. Nancy will interface with ARC.

Institutions to track the number of students attempting and completing PLA, and the number of PLA credits being awarded.
Survey respondents indicated that they were unable to provide data because there was no tracking mechanism in place.
Josh Baker, Pam LeMay, Nancy Mullane, Jim West. Education, Research and Data Center(ERDC), Public Centralized Higher Education Enrollment System (PCHEES) Work Group
2/16 – This is related to #7. Jim will work with ERDC.

Increase the number of PLA credits accepted in transfer of academic credit to baccalaureate institutions.
The Northwest Commission of Colleges and Universities allows up to 25% of a degree from PLA.
Jane Sherman, Jim West
Intercollege Relations Commission (ICRC). COP, WaACRAO, ICORA
2/16 – Jane and Jim will work with JAOG, COP and other groups.

-- Collect and share examples of good practices.
-- Follow up with colleges identified as having transparent, consistent practices resulting in higher numbers of students receiving credit for prior learning
Identify practices that support assessment and award of prior credit
Noreen Light, Carolyn McKinnon.
PLAC Work Group
2/16 – All work group members will contribute through our Wiki. Noreen and Carolyn will coordinate.

Develop online handbook for training to include accreditation issues, CHEA list of approved accrediting bodies, and single point of contact for each institution
Remove ambiguity and increase consistency by providing clear guidelines and examples of practices that support assessment and award of credit for prior learning
Noreen Light.
SBCTC professional development staff
2/16 – This will be addressed later.

Provide online and recorded training for those who will be advising students or assessing individual student’s prior learning
Support accurate and complete academic counseling regarding PLA
Noreen Light.
SBCTC professional development staff with CTC Assessment Liaisons
2/16 – This will be addressed later.