New grant for prior learning credits

SOU receives state grant to provide “prior learning” credits

(Ashland, Ore.) — Southern Oregon University has received a one-time, $338,000 grant from the Oregon Higher Education Coordinating Commission to expand opportunities for students to receive academic credit for knowledge and skills gained through life experiences such as work or military service.

SOU’s current Credit for Prior Learning program was initiated in 2015 as an option in the university’s bachelor’s degree program in Innovation and Leadership, which has been popular among mid-career adult students. The HECC grant, which was awarded this fall, has expanded the prior learning program campus-wide, and it already has been adopted in other academic areas, including Business, Communication, Media & Cinema.

“Offering students the option of Credit for Prior Learning is a way to honor the skills and knowledge our students bring to the school even before they have started taking classes on our campus,” said Moneeka Settles, coordinator for the Innovation and Leadership program. “It benefits students, no matter their major, because it recognizes the wisdom they have gained on their own life path.”

Students’ proposals for Prior Learning credits must meet several criteria under SOU’s policy for the program. Students must produce a portfolio that supports evidence they have learned the course outcomes, then faculty members assess the portfolio on a pass, no-pass basis. Students can also earn Credit for Prior Learning through challenge exams and military credit. Credits for prior learning can make up no more than 25 percent of the credits required for graduation.

SOU is among five Oregon universities and 14 community colleges that received this year’s HECC grants for Credit for Prior Learning programs. The HECC awarded a total of $10 million for the programs, under the state’s Future Ready Oregon investment package to support education and training that may lead to employment and family-wage careers. The grants are for one year, but institutions can apply to renew them annually.

Future Ready Oregon, funded by the 2022 Legislature, prioritizes historically underserved and vulnerable communities by offering opportunities to receive college credit “for prior experience or skills gained outside of traditional higher education institutions.”

The HECC requires standards for prior learning programs, monitors their implementation and provides periodic reports on them to the legislature. The HECC, which adopted its own prior learning standards in 2014, tracks the types and number of Credits for Prior Learning that are awarded throughout the state each year.