July 5, 2012 – Fort Valley State and the University System of Georgia are revolutionizing the way adults earn their college degrees for a chance at higher-paying jobs. Nontraditional students and business professionals who have perfected on-the-job skills will not have to buy books, drive to campus or sit through lectures in order to pass all of their classes. Instead, individuals can show what they have learned by creating a portfolio for credit.
If an evaluator approves the student’s work, they will instantly earn college credit atFVSU, which is part of the USG’s Adult Learning Consortium. Recently, the USG renewed a $25,000 College Access Challenge Grant to fund the three-year-old FVSU ALC program for an additional year.
“There are new opportunities for adults to come back to school and finish college by demonstrating their prior learning experience,” said Dr. Anna Holloway, FVSU’s College of Graduate Studies and Extended Education dean who is the principal investigator for the grant. “You may get credit for your assessed experience. This program is cheaper than the time and the travel it would take to earn a three-credit hour course.”
Adult students must first apply to FVSU. After being accepted, students who choose portfolio assessment are required to take an online course about how to create their first portfolio. If professionals in the criminal justice field want to demonstrate mastery in the subject, they would not necessarily need to take an introductory course on criminal justice, they would create a portfolio demonstrating their knowledge. Only one portfolio can be submitted during this class.
Subsequently, they can pay a $250 fee to apply to do an additional portfolio. It will be assessed by an evaluator, who decides whether the student can earn college credit through Prior Learning Assessment. According to Holloway, all PLA credits are transferrable to other ALC-member schools.
Holloway says the new CAC grant money will help train additional PLA coordinators to judge student portfolio. So far, faculty members in criminal justice, education, business, agricultural engineering and English have been trained. In 2009, the past CAC grant funded two online Noel Levitz-based surveys–the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning’s Adult Learning Focused Institution (ALFI) survey and the Institutional Self Assessment Survey (ISAS)–to gauge adult student satisfaction with the university and faculty perceptions of FVSU’s support for adults. FVSU plans to administer the surveys, again, in fall 2012.
The grant also supports faculty and staff development. According to Dr. Jean Wacaster, the university’s Prior Learning Assessment coordinator, nine FVSU faculty and administrators attended the ALC Summer Institute in Savannah, Ga., June 18-20. There, they attended sessions on topics such as multi-generational learning styles, retaining adults, utilizing online learning and implementing the ALC.
“It was a really great conference,” said Wacaster. “Several different departments of the university were represented. We had a good chance to get our heads together and brainstorm about what to do next year with our adult learning program, to make it more accessible.”
In addition to helping nontraditional and adult students, the university launched a Military Resource Center to help current and former service men earn college credit. The university currently accepts Military Training based upon the ACE Guide, Dante’s Tests credit, College Level Examination Program credit, and through the ALC’s PLA.
FVSU is one of 13 ALC campuses in Georgia. In 2009, USG received a $2 million College Access Challenge Grant from the U.S. Department of Education that helps non-traditional and low-income Middle Georgia workers earn college degrees. One prong of the grant supports the state’s ALC. The College Access Challenge Grant and ALC also are part of the Complete College and Complete College America plans–state and national initiatives whose mission is to increase the number of Americans with college degrees or career certificates, especially from traditionally underrepresented groups.
For more information about the program, contact PLA counselor Ashley Ballard at (478) 953-3911 or PLA coordinator Dr. Jean Wacaster at (478) 825-6858.