A key emphasis throughout Academic Year 2015-16 in Colorado has thus far been Prior Learning Assessment (PLA). The state has developed goals and a timeline for a statewide policy on PLA, beginning with the 10 most common AP & IB exams wherein the goal is awarding college credit for an AP score of 3 and an IB score of 4. Institutions were told that if the awarding of credit at a score of 3 was considered impossible, then the individual institution would needto provide data-driven justification. This also applied to developing a statewide standard policy toward CLEP credit and DSST (formerly Dantes) credit. However, such data-driven justifications have proved hard to make with CLEPsince in many Colorado locations CLEP credit has never been awarded and so comparison data is not available. At Colorado State University, resistance to CLEP credit was madeby offering data that shows the positive retention and persistence effects of FYC, particularly among traditionally underrepresented student groups.
The University of Colorado published a document in response to PLA which can be read at this location: https://www.cu.edu/sites/default/files/CO_LegislativeContext_PLA.pdf
PLA efforts in Colorado respond to legal requirements in the state to provide challenge approaches that are either developed locally or are obtained through standardized exams like CLEP (and perhaps both). In Colorado the requirement for Challenge opportunity is provided in §23-1-125(4), which requires institutions to allow students to test out of core curriculum, typically lower division, courses that also transfer across institutional type in the state. A Phase 2 of the current PLA efforts will be directed toward courses in the major, the State of Colorado Department of Higher Education reports.
With PLAefforts, the state of Colorado reports that it is following on the heels of other states. For instance, Colorado’s Department of Higher Education reports that the following states/systems accept a 3 on every AP exam: Florida, Indiana, Kentucky, Minnesota, North Dakota, Ohio, Wisconsin and the California State University System. Students with PLA credit reportedlyperform no worse andoftentimes better than students who take the college courses that credit-bearing PLAs replace.
The biggest benefit reported about PLA is that it offers a way to get adults with some college but no degree into and through college. Among the groups most affected are veterans and traditionally underrepresented groups. These efforts also direct colleges and universities to utilize nationally recognized published guides, such as the American Council on Education’s (ACE) Military and Workforce-based credit recommendations.
The Colorado Department of Higher Education reports that PLA efforts increase student success by preventing credit loss during transfer. They alsolead tofaster completion of the degree and, prior to that,an increased likelihood of enrollment. Other benefits, the state reports, are reductions in student debt; enhanced discussions about student learning and expected competencies from courses; and boosts to institutions that are subject to performance-based funding.
Performance-based funding was enacted into law in 2014 in Colorado.