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Prior Learning Assessment Helps Students Save Time, Money While Earning Degree

NASHVILLE, Tenn. (TSU News Service) Tennessee State University is offering adult learners and non-traditional students a way to earn college credit for knowledge they have gained outside the traditional classroom setting.

Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) is a nationally recognized process for evaluating knowledge and skills to award college credit. PLA can help adults feel empowered, decrease costs and graduate faster.

TSU has created a new web page to help students understand how the program works. It features links, interactive case studies and a video. The program is in line with Governor Bill Haslam’s “Drive to 55” initiative to increase the number of working age adults holding a postsecondary certificate, diploma or degree to 55 percent by 2025.

“Students here in Nashville might have skills and knowledge they gained through work, volunteering or service in the military and other areas,” said Dr. Evelyn Nettles, associate vice president for Academic Affairs. “By matching those experiences to college credit, they can reduce the time it takes to earn a degree and see significant cost savings.”

Student Brittany Rives, a concierge luxury lifestyle manager, said PLA has been very helpful.

“I was able to use my past business experience and incorporate it into my academic career,” said the 25-year-old Rives, who is majoring in accounting and business law. “It’s helped me be able to merge some of those credit hours, and definitely save on the cost of tuition.”

One way a student may earn credit is by developing an online portfolio that documents or demonstrates learning that occurred through prior experiences. Students take a three-credit online course to learn what to include in the portfolio, how to match it to courses in their degree plan, and how to document their learning.

A trained faculty assessor with appropriate subject matter expertise evaluates the student’s portfolio to determine the awarding of credit.

The new resource was developed in partnership with the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning, a Chicago-based organization that assists adults in finding practical ways totransfer learning from prior professional and life experiences to college course credit and the completion of a postsecondary degree.

“PLA can be especially powerful for adult students who in many cases must also balance their classes with work and family. Thanks to PLA programs like this one here at Tennessee State University, students can earn college credit for what they already know, saving them both time and money to help them earn their degree,” Nettles said.

The program is housed in the Office of Student Support Services for Adult and Distance Learners. It can be accessed at www.earncollegecredit.org/tennstate.


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Tennessee State University
3500 John Merritt Boulevard
Nashville, Tennessee 37209

About Tennessee State University

With more than 9,000 students, Tennessee State University is Nashville’s only public university, and is a comprehensive, urban, co-educational, land-grant university offering 38 undergraduate, 22 graduate and seven doctoral programs. TSU has earned a top 20 ranking for Historically Black Colleges and Universities according to U.S. News and World Report, and rated as one of the top universities in the country by Washington Monthly for social mobility, research and community service. Founded in 1912, Tennessee State University celebrated 100 years in Nashville during 2012. Visit the University online at tnstate.edu.