Pennsylvania's 14 community colleges on Monday unveiled a
statewide effort to enable adult learners to transform life and
work experiences into college credit, saving money and time spent
working toward a degree.
The Prior Learning Assessment initiative, dubbed "College Credit
FastTrack," is intended to boost degree completion rates in a state
that has struggled to entice adults back into the classroom.
It was announced at a Harrisburg event and already has begun
accepting pitches from individuals hoping their life experiences
are worthy of credit.
The effort is being funded by a $2.5 million grant from the U.S.
Department of Labor.
Those interested are directed to a website, ccfasttrack.org,
where they create an account, identify a campus and search for a
course or courses that they believe match their experience. They
then are guided through the process of applying and developing a
portfolio documenting that experience, which is reviewed by faculty
for its credit-worthiness.
The cost of creating a portfolio is a non-refundable $125 fee,
according to officials with the Pennsylvania Commission for
The credit could be toward an associate degree but could also
serve as the foundation for a bachelor's degree.
Danielle Gross, a commission spokeswoman, said officials
estimate that 57 percent of jobs in Pennsylvania by 2018 will
require some of kind of training beyond high school.
"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," Nicholas Neupauer, commission board chair
and president of Butler County Community College, said in a
"College Credit FastTrack will enable these students to complete
a life-changing degree program more quickly and at a reduced
For those who already possess a degree, the program can lessen
the cost of either adding a credential or changing careers by
shifting into a new discipline.
Officials at the Community College of Allegheny County, one of
the participating schools, said a three-credit course earned under
the program would cost less than half of one taken at CCAC's
per-credit rate of $105.
An administrative assistant in a government office who is
skilled at doing research, drafting legislation and has attended
hearings may have accumulated the basics for an introduction to
political science, said Mary Frances Archey, CCAC's vice president
for student success and completion.
Microsoft or Cisco training might apply to computer-related
courses, police training could be relevant to criminal justice
studies and emergency medical training might be applicable to
health science classes, Ms. Gross said.
Pennsylvania degree attainment for those 18 and over ranks 30th
among states and District of Columbia, Ms. Gross said. Just over a
third of Pennsylvania's adult population - 33.9 percent - has an
associate's degree, compared with the national average of 34.7
Most neighboring states are higher, she said.
Ms. Archey said the cost per portfolio and proficiency students
must show in creating the portfolio mean the credits are being just
given away free.
"I think it's going to help a lot of non-traditional students,
many of whom started college a long time ago," she said.
Bill Schackner: firstname.lastname@example.org, 412-263-1977 or on