by Alana J. Mauger
Montgomery County Community College’s Board of Trustees voted Monday, March 18 to expand the number of transfer credits students can apply to an associate’s degree program. Under the new policy, students can now transfer up to 75 percent of their credits earned from regionally accredited post-secondary institutions back to MCCC to complete an associate’s degree or certificate. The previous practice allowed 50 percent of transferred credits to be applied.
“The new policy is part of the College’s strategic effort to strengthen our Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) model to improve adult student enrollment and persistence rates by building streamlined pathways toward degree completion,” explained Dr. Karen A. Stout, president. “These efforts also connect to our work nationally with the American Association of Community Colleges (AACC) Plus 50 Encore Completion Program, which looks to train 10,000 baby boomers for high-demand jobs through 2015.”
In addition to expanding the percentage of accepted transfer credits, the new policy clarifies criteria for all forms of PLA, which is the process colleges use to evaluate a student’s life experience to determine if prior learning can translate into college credits.
Examples of PLA include evaluation of corporate or military training as established by the American Council on Education (ACE); nationally recognized exams such as Advanced Placement (AP) and College Level Examination Program (CLEP); review of student portfolios; customized tests to prove prior learning meets specific exit standards for courses; and examination of non-credit courses to document content for transferability to for-credit courses.
The policy also clarifies procedures for the acceptance of transfer credits; provides criteria regarding transfer credits earned at other institutions; reinforces the role of faculty and academic leadership in determining transfer course equivalencies based on student learning outcomes; and provides procedures by which students can appeal transfer credit assessments.
According to a 2010 study on PLA and adult student outcomes conducted by the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL), students with PLA credits had better academic outcomes, especially in terms of graduation rates and persistence, than non-PLA students, and many significantly shortened the time required to earn their credential.