PA community colleges to award credit for work, life experience

For the first time, nontraditional students at all 14 of Pennsylvania’s community colleges be able to receive credit for their work and life experiences. The Pennsylvania Commission for Community Colleges launched College Credit FastTrack today at Harrisburg Area Community College’s Midtown Campus on North Third Street.

Nicholas Neupauer, president of Butler County Community College and chairman of the PCCC board, said the program will allow adult learners to earn credit for prior training and work experiences as well as military service, independent study, community service or free online course completion. It also establishes statewide standards for awarding these credits.

The initiative will give students who have lost their jobs, are looking to switch careers or are transitioning from military to civilian life the “credit they deserve” and enable them to complete a degree more quickly and at reduced cost, Neupauer said.

“Some postsecondary 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,” he noted.

The new website and e-portfolio platform provides a single point of entry for participants. Students will be shepherded through the process by connecting with an adviser at one of the colleges and developing a portfolio. The portfolio will then be evaluated by faculty to determine which credits will be awarded.

College Credit FastTrack is based on successful prior learning assessment initiatives used by other institutions to determine whether a student’s educational, workforce and life experiences can be translated to college credits. Pennsylvania’s initiative is the first such statewide program in the U.S., Neupauer said.

Among the participating colleges are Bucks County Community College, Delaware County Community College, Harrisburg Area Community College, Lehigh Carbon Community College, Montgomery County Community College and Reading Area Community College.

Headed by lead institution Montgomery County Community College, College Credit FastTrack was made possible by a $2.5 million Trade Adjustment Assistance Community College and Career Training grant from the U.S. Department of Labor.

PCCC is a voluntary membership association for Pennsylvania’s community colleges. Learn more about the PCCC here.

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