HB 12-1072 Higher Ed Prior Learning Assessments
Higher Ed Prior Learning Assessments
House Bill 12-1072
Testimony to the House Education Committee
Frank Waterous, Senior Policy Analyst
February 8, 2012
My name is Frank Waterous, and I am a senior policy analyst with the Bell Policy Center. The Bell is a non-partisan, non-profit research and policy organization dedicated to expanding opportunity for all Coloradans.
The Bell Policy Center strongly supports House Bill 12-1072, "Higher Ed Prior Learning Assessments." By developing the criteria and process for post-secondary institutions to grant academic credit for students' prior college-level learning outside the classroom, Colorado will encourage more adults to pursue post-secondary credentials, increase student persistence and completion, and further support the development of the skilled workforce necessary for our state's economic competitiveness.
HB 1072 is good education policy. Over one-third of all students enrolled in Colorado's public higher education institutions are adults age 25 or older. (1) Many of these adults bring with them significant knowledge, training and experience from work, military service or independent study that all too often is not translated into credit toward post-secondary credential completion. Yet research clearly shows the significant benefits of a strong program for awarding credit for prior learning.
In 2010, the Council For Adult & Experiential Learning conducted a study, (2) funded by the Lumina Foundation for Education, that looked at data from more than 62,000 adult students at 48 post-secondary institutions representing a broad cross-section of higher education. The study found strikingly better academic outcomes for adult students who received credit for prior learning compared to those who did not, including higher completion rates, increased persistence and lower time-to-completion rates.
Effective prior-learning assessment can take many forms, and can be conducted in a variety of ways. These include:
- Standardized exams such as the College Level Examination Program (CLEP), Advanced Placement (AP) and the subject tests of the Defense Activity for Non-traditional Education Support (DANTES) program.
- Individualized student portfolios, evaluated by faculty subject-matter experts.
- Evaluations of corporate or military training such as those provided by the American Council on Education.
- Evaluations of apprenticeship training done by post-secondary institutions and trade associations.
- Program evaluations of non-credit training, such as the learning acquired through police and firefighter academy programs. (3)
HB 1072's broad language allows any or all of these options to be considered by the institutions and the Colorado Commission on Higher Education in creating a prior-learning assessment program that works for adult post-secondary students in our state.
HB 1072 is good workforce development policy. Increasingly, some level of post-secondary education beyond high school is necessary for successful participation in the 21st century workforce. And while increasing college enrollment and completion among traditional-age students remains very important, an often overlooked fact is that two-thirds of the people who will be in our state's workforce in 2025 are already working adults today. (4) Colorado cannot meet its post-secondary credential completion goals or fill its future workforce needs without helping more adult students succeed.
And in the end, of course, strengthening the quality of Colorado's workforce by helping more students succeed has broader implications for all of us. As the Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation has observed, "Educational attainment is the single-most important element in job and income growth," and is one of the chief underpinnings of a strong economy. (5)
In closing, the Bell Policy Center believes that House Bill 12-1072 is an important step forward in helping Colorado achieve its post-secondary completion and workforce-development goals. We urge you to support the bill, we thank Representatives Massey and Fields for bringing it to you today, and we thank you for the opportunity to share this information. If you have any questions, or if I can provide further information, please call me at 303-297-0456 or email me at email@example.com.
1) Colorado Department of Higher Education, Headcount and FTE Summary, with age
2) Fueling the Race to Postsecondary Success: A 48-Institution Study of Prior Learning Assessment and Adult Student Outcomes, The Council For Adult & Experiential Learning, March 2010,
 Fueling the Race to Postsecondary Success and "Prior Learning Assessments: Tools to Help 21st Century Students Achieve Their Postsecondary Education Goals and Keep America Competitive," Center for American Progress, Sept 2011, http://www.americanprogress.org/issues/2011/09/pdf/pla_brief.pdf
 "Preparing for the Future: Closing Colorado's Middle-Skills Gap," Skills2Compete-Colorado Campaign, Oct 2011, http://bellpolicy.org/sites/default/files/ClosingColoradosMiddleSkillsJobsGap.pdf
 "Toward a More Competitive Colorado: Executive Summary on Competitiveness," Metro Denver Economic Development Corporation, Nov 2009,