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How to Accelerate Your Degree Plan
(Continued from 3)

Credit Banking
Credit banking is an evaluation and transcript service for those who need to consolidate academic records. The credit bank issues one transcript in which all credit is summarized in a comprehensive form. The credit bank will accept seven kinds of deposits, including credits from licenses, certifications, college courses (inlcuding correspondence or distance courses), equivalency exams, non-college learning experiences, company courses and in-house training. Some universities that provide portfolio assessment and credit banking are Charter Oak, Excelsior College, Ohio University, and Thomas Edison State College.

Credit by Learning Contract
Contract learning, where you design your own curriculum or learning contract, is used in many distance degree programs. The learning contract enables students who cannot attend traditional programs offered by colleges and universities to prepare a contract to attain the equivalent knowledge. Under faculty guidance, students design contracts that detail the subjects to be studied, assignments, projects or tasks to be fulfilled, resources used, and the methods for knowledge assessment, as well as the time frame for completion.

Transfer Credit
In devising an academic plan, be sure that any course you take at another school will transfer to the institution you want to issue your degree (this must be in writing). Be certain that each course also applies to the school's degree requirements for graduation. When transferring credit, there is no hard and fast rule as every college or university has its own policy on accepting transfer credits from other schools. Schools with regional accreditation are known to not accept credits from colleges accredited by other accrediting agencies.

It is important to remember that while different colleges and universities will have specific requirements to earn a degree, they typically require that 30-45 of these units must be residency units (units earned from the graduating college). Some colleges and universities also have limits on the number of credits that can be transferred and applied toward a degree. There are exceptions, however (see Credit Banking, above.) You can also receive a degree from a prestigious school just by taking the final 30 hours at that institution.

Competency Based Education
Competency-based education (CBE), broadly defined as credit awarded on student learning (rather than time spent in a classroom), may streamline the path to a degree for a large number of students, according to a report from the American Enterprise Institute (a private, not-for-profit institution dedicated to research and education.). According to the report, colleges that offer CBE programs offering credit for Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) are difficult to find. AEI profiles 52 colleges with CBE programs either in existence or projected to launch. The research shows whether the colleges participate in credit transfer with PLA, the ACE Credit College and University Network, CAEL and LearningCounts for course transfers. Some of the more well known colleges listed include Capella University, Western Governors University, Colorado State University Global, DePaul University, and University of Maryland University College, Among these schools, CSU-Global accepts 24 portfolio credits toward a bachelor’s degree.

Importance in School Selection
How important is it to find a college or university that grants credit for prior learning or experience? According to the American Council on Education, when colleges and universities were asked how they evaulate prior learning of adult students, nearly half (48 percent) said credit was given through examination, 36 percent used portfolio review, and about 34 percent followed ACE credit recommendations. Unfortunately, 37 percent of respondents did not provide any assessment for prior learning. Be sure to ask about a school's policy before enrolling.

Also, before you take any examinations, contact the college or university you want to attend or check their Website to confirm their policies on exam acceptance. Generally schools will follow the standard recommendations for credit, but may have their own policy regarding acceptable grades and the amount of credit received. If needed, request a written confirmation to ensure you will receive full credit.

Helpful Resources:

Credit for Prior Learning and The Currency of Higher Education, two research papers from the Lumina Foundation, show alternative options to college credit for older students.

Adult Learner's Guide to PLA (Prior Learning Assessment). Includes a Student Resource Center to help you gain credit for ACE reviewed coursework.

The Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL). Cael's online service, Learning Counts partners with hundreds of colleges and universities to help students earn credit from prior learning, and helps them build online portfolios for credit.

College Degree Search. Subscription based. Know your options, to find the best college for you. Find regionally accredited degree programs that offer American Council on Education credit for life experience (prior learning or portfolio assessment), business and military credit, and other accelerated options. Profiles the top degree programs in a range of disciplines offered on campus, through the Internet, correspondence, multimedia, or broadcast/video.

See also Are You a Candidate for Life Experience Credit?

Additional Resources:

College Credit Without Classes, How to Obtain Academic Credit for What You Already Know, James L. Carroll.

Getting a College Degree Fast, Testing Out & Other Accredited Shortcuts, Joanne Aber, Ph.D.

One Year to a College Degree, Lynette Long and Eileen Hershberger

Do it Yourself Degree: How To Earn Your Bachelor's Degree In One Year Or Less, For Under $10,000. Jay P. Cross.

Guide to Credit By Exam and External/DIY Degree Programs: Excelsior College, UExcel, CLEP, DSST & More, Walter Were.

CLEP Official Study Guide 2017, The College Board.


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