New study proves value of prior learning assessment

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Prior Learning Assessment

CHICAGO – A new study shows a practice called Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) could be a key to increasing college graduation rates – a goal President Obama highlighted in the State of Union address. In the study, PLA students graduated at double the rate of non-PLA students and they saved between 2.5 and 10.1 months of time in earning their degrees.
Many colleges offer PLA to help adults earn college credit for learning they have gained outside of the classroom, including employment, military training and service, travel, hobbies, civic activities and volunteer service. PLA advocates have long argued that by helping students earn credits faster and at a lower cost, PLA has a large effect on students’ progress toward a degree.

Studies show…

Lumina Foundation for Education funded the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) to conduct a large, multi-college study to study the outcomes of PLA students. The study used student record data from 48 colleges and universities. The foundation was interested in the study because of the potential to help meet its goal of college credentials for 60 percent of the U.S. population by 2025. Go to for a copy of Fueling the Race to Postsecondary Success: A 48-Institution Study of Prior Learning Assessment and Student Outcomes.
“When 56 percent of students with prior learning assessment earn degrees within seven years compared to 21 percent of students without prior learning assessment who do not, that’s a ‘sit up and take notice’ finding,” notes Jamie Merisotis, CEO of Lumina Foundation. “CAEL’s research confirms that prior learning assessment can help adults move faster toward their associate and baccalaureate degrees. We need to see more institutions offering this option and more adults participating in it.”

Athabasca University was one of only two Canadian universities selected for the study.

CAEL and Lumina Foundation for Education

The Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) is a national leader in the fields of adult learning and workforce development, providing colleges and universities, companies, labor organizations and state and local governments with the tools and strategies they need for creating practical, effective lifelong learning solutions. With a membership of over 600 colleges, universities, corporations, labor unions, associations, and individuals, CAEL is headquartered in Chicago and also maintains offices in Denver, Philadelphia, and New York City. More information is available at

Lumina Foundation for Education is committed to enrolling and graduating more students from college – especially low-income students, students of color, first-generation students and adult learners. Our goal is to increase the percentage of Americans who hold high-quality degrees and credentials to 60 percent by 2025. Lumina pursues this goal in three ways: by identifying and supporting effective practice, through public policy advocacy, and by using our communications and convening power to build public will for change.


Pamela Tate, President & CEO, CAEL – 312-499-2681
Dr. Judy Wertheim, VP for Higher Education Services, CAEL – 312-499-2659