Financial Aid for PLA?

"Adult students often know stuff for which they don’t have academic credit. When they can get transcripted credit for knowledge or skills they can document, they get a head start towards a degree. But giving them credit for what they can document is often a lot harder than it sounds," Matt Reed writes for Inside Higher Ed's Confessions of a Community College Dean blog.

"Quick: what’s the single biggest barrier to giving credit for portfolios of work?

Yes, there are issues of rigor, but those are largely addressable through looking at student learning outcomes. Yes, there are issues of turf, but (most of) those can be managed, even if it occasionally involves calling someone on the carpet. Those issues exist, but they’re comparatively minor. What’s the big one?


Assessing a portfolio takes time. Assessing lots of portfolios takes lots of time. That time needs to be compensated. And we don’t currently have a reasonable way to pay for it, at scale.

Charging students full tuition for the courses for which they’re trying to get credit would work well for the institution, but it’s absurd for the student. CAEL has a well-developed system for evaluating portfolios of work -- the term of art is Prior Learning Assessment, or PLA -- but it’s expensive, and the cost isn’t covered by financial aid. Students have to put cash on the barrel, with no guarantee of an outcome. (If the outcome were guaranteed, that would amount to selling credits, which is what diploma mills do and what accreditation exists to avoid.)  For a student with relevant experience, a high fee for PLA feels like a shakedown. For a college that doesn’t want to do shakedowns, though, PLA amounts to an unfunded mandate. Scaling it up means scaling up an uncompensated cost at a moment when most public colleges can’t seriously entertain the idea."

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Publication Date: 11/9/2017

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