Get your due credit Featured

7:00pm EDT February 24, 2008

Various corporations spend a great deal of time and money on their employees’ corporate training programs. At the same time, many employers offer their employees college tuition reimbursement.

When employees enrolls in both their company training program as well as a college program, the content may be duplicated. As a result, the company may pay for the educational training twice. To avoid this duplication, companies can have their training programs evaluated to see if the courses qualify for college credit. If the courses do qualify, the company saves money and the employees save time by not repeating subject matter. In addition, the company receives validation that its training programs are of high quality.

Smart Business spoke to Arthur Hunborg, director of prior learning assessment and off-campus sites at Fontbonne University, about how colleges evaluate prior learning.

How can a company tell if its training programs qualify for college credit?

Corporate human resource departments can request to have the American Council on Education (ACE), a college credit recommendation service, review their corporate training. Recommendations by ACE are intended to guide colleges and universities as they consider awarding college credit to given students. Corporations can contact the national or state ACE offices to have their corporate training evaluated.

Will universities grant credit to employees for certain learning already obtained?

Yes. Most colleges and universities throughout the United States have a Prior Learning Assessment Center to review educational experiences outside the traditional classroom. A prior learning assessment is a concept based on accepted principles of adult learning and serves to validate the professional competence achieved by adults outside the classroom.

For what types of prior learning do colleges and universities grant credit?

In addition to possibly granting college credit for corporate/educational training that has already been reviewed by ACE, colleges and universities may also award credit hours for successful performance on College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) standardized tests, which provide students the opportunity to demonstrate their college-level outcomes through a program of competency exams in undergraduate college courses. ACE also conducts evaluations of the outcomes of military service educational training and, once completed, it recommends, if warranted, college credits for the respective military educational and occupational (MOS) training. Many colleges and universities also have internal, standardized departmental proficiency exams to award their students with college-level education experiences gained outside the traditional classroom. Lastly, students may verifying their educational learning outcomes by completing a Documented Learning Portfolio, which offers students another avenue to attain college credit in a nontraditional format.

How can an individual’s ACE recommendation help a company?

First, it validates that the company’s training programs are of high quality. Second, once they are cognizant of the fact that their corporation’s educational training programs have been approved by ACE and are transferable college credits, employees will possibly be more likely to actively seek out corporate educational opportunities offered by their employer. Third, the educational posting fees for ACE-recommended credit hours are usually fairly minimal — usually around $35 to $50 per credit hour. Given the tuition cost of private and public colleges and universities throughout the U.S., this can be an additional cost benefit to corporations that offer tuition reimbursement.

How many ACE-recommended credit hours will a college or university accept?

This varies depending on the institution and the ACE recommendation. Colleges and universities may have a multitude of stipulations on the acceptance and posting of prior learning credits. Many colleges and universities will not accept ACE vocational recommendation credit hours. Most colleges and universities accept up to 48 to 60 prior learning credit hours to be posted to their official college transcripts at the undergraduate level. A small number of earned prior learning credit hours may be used to fulfill the university’s general educational requirements, but most corporate learning/training evaluated by ACE will be utilized to fulfill elective hours.

Why is prior learning assessment attractive for employees?

Most college students, adult learners in particular, are very consumer-oriented and like to be rewarded for college-level learning outcomes attained outside the traditional classroom. It helps students attain additional credit hours in a practical manner, and it usually saves the student money. We’ve found that business professionals seek out ACE-recommended corporate training, so employers that offer it are generally viewed positively as having a strong commitment to high-quality, ongoing education.

ARTHUR HUNBORG is the director of prior learning assessment and off-campus sites at Fontbonne University. Reach him at (314) 719-8009 or ahunborg@fontbonne.edu.