- More than 24 states nationwide offer a variety of policies and support resources for adult learners seeking to turn military or work experience into validated credit hours, according to a recent study from the Education Commission of the States.
- A majority of these states make information about transferable experience available online or through meetings with advisers and offer assessments or exams for students to demonstrate subject competency developed through professional experience.
- Students in 11 states are provided information on potential credit-hour limits for approved work experience.
As competency-based models of education and credit earning opportunities increase at schools across the country, academic leaders must be flexible in making sure these opportunities meet the traditional standards for school and program accreditation and state authorization, while still contributing to the academic rigor of a program.
While many skills gained in the workforce and through military service transfer well in some areas of industry, like leadership, communication, and creative thinking, they do not inspire robust theoretical knowledge needed for students and graduates to change industries or even companies which often have drastically different approaches in their missions and work.
From a branding standpoint, colleges must also be aware that promoting competency-based education could impact potential students and donors’ view of institutional value and student profiles. If a school brands itself as virtually open access with an eye towards enrolling working professionals, then it could impact the way leaders can make the case for investment or research support.
However, these kinds of initiatives can open the door for industrial partnerships in the public and private sector, which can go a long way in building recruitment interest and financial gain for specific programs of strength. And, as the traditional student population dwindles, providing flexibility and allowing credit for on-the-job training could be a sticking point to lure working professionals, particularly those who have not already earned degrees, back to campus.