Community college leaders adopt innovative policy

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Contact: Zora Mulligan, MCCA Executive Director
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Jefferson City, Missouri – March 11, 2013. The long process for a policy that recognizes Missourians’ diverse learning experiences came to fulfillment on March 6, at a meeting of the Missouri Community College Association’s Presidents/Chancellors Council. The council adopted the state’s first statewide standard for awarding credit for prior learning, a model policy designed to help Missouri’s public two-year institutions meet the greatly increasing demand for skilled workers by accelerating adult learners’ progress in traditional educational delivery systems.

Community College Presidents and Chancellors Council chair Debbie Goodall said, “Today’s workers develop and demonstrate essential knowledge and skills through multiple avenues outside of formal postsecondary settings, such as on-the-job training, industry certifications, non-credit programs and apprenticeships. It’s critical that we validate and recognize this learning so that adult students don’t waste time and tuition dollars relearning what they already know.”

The impetus for the policy was two major training programs funded through a U.S. Department of Labor grant and administered by the Missouri Community College Association, MoHealthWINs and MoManufacturingWINs. Grant project director and team co-leader Dawn Busick said, “As adult students are being driven back to college to earn employable industry based skill certifications, credit for prior learning will serve to be a powerful motivator for them to engage further into advanced educational degree opportunities.”

While Missouri’s education agencies have been conscious of such policies for years, development of this statewide model policy for credit for prior learning began during the fall of 2010. Educational leaders, along with the support of Governor Jay Nixon’s office, the Missouri Department of Economic Development, the Division of Workforce Development, and industry partners committed to improve retention and achievement rates and/or reduce time to completion by developing standard practices on awarding credit for prior learning. Linn State Technical College co-led the credit for prior learning team. Linn Tech president Dr. Donald Claycomb said, “It is important to the state of Missouri that the community colleges and the state technical college work together on initiatives such as these designed to enhance the quality of life in our state while improving economic development.”

The national Council for Adult Experiential Learning (CAEL) trained Missouri two-year institution administrators and faculty in developing and implementing a credit for prior learning policy, while the work group benchmarked national best practices. The resultant draft policy was presented at the Missouri Community College Association’s annual convention in November 2012, as team representatives shared the policy with Missouri education officials and at an international learning conference in Washington, DC.

Now that the policy has received official endorsement, MCCA executive director Zora Mulligan says the next steps for the policy will be dissemination throughout the state’s public two-year institutions, and integration with college degree administration and graduation policies.

The Missouri Community College Association is a statewide organization through which Missouri’s community colleges work together to advance common agendas. MCCA provides advocacy, education, information, and networking opportunities in service of the state’s 5,700 community college faculty, staff, administrators, and trustees.

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