SHU to Participate in National Pilot for Prior Learning Assessment

News Story: December 1, 2010

Sacred Heart University has been selected to participate in a pilot program for Prior Learning Assessment by the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL), the only school in Connecticut of 100 chosen nationally. Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) is one way for individuals to have learning acquired outside of a classroom evaluated for college-level credit. While other online resources exist for some of these PLA tools, SHU’s partner in the process,, specializes in the assessment of prior learning through an individualized student portfolio.

According to Mary Lou DeRosa, dean of University College, “CAEL will partner with the American Council on Education and the College Board to establish the online portal where students can access information on assessing credit for learning that occurs outside the traditional college classroom. Other schools in the program range from Providence College to Texas A&M.”

University College, she explained, offers numerous portals for adult learners. Especially if they have been away from the classroom for many years, they may be intimidated by the process of returning to academic work. “Prior Learning Assessment recognizes that there are many ways to learn. Some returning students sit for a CLEP exam, for instance, which gives credit for life experience. That way, someone who is accomplished in Spanish or accounting, say, can achieve college credit upon successfully passing the test.”

For others, an individual portfolio works best, demonstrating their proficiency in a given discipline. Through CAEL, aspiring students can learn how to assemble elements of their life’s experience that will show them prepared to take up college-level work. Research has shown that students who receive such credit have higher graduation rates and take a shorter amount of time to complete a degree than students without it. Once first in the world in the number of 25-34-year-olds who have a college degree, the U.S. is now 12th, and the goal has been articulated to add 8 million more degree-holders to the national ranks by 2020.

The service will assist colleges and universities nationwide that do not currently offer a PLA program, need support for existing on-campus programs, or have a need for a more streamlined process. It will also assist adults not yet affiliated with a college or university.

Hundreds of colleges and universities in the U.S. award students credit for knowledge and skills learned outside the classroom. CAEL will use a web-based platform and expert faculty assessors to examine the content and breadth of students’ work and training to determine credit recommendations for their college-level learning. The one-stop online center will give students affordable access to have their prior learning evaluated, thereby accelerating their progress toward a degree whenever credit recommendations are made.  CAEL will also work with state workforce agencies and boards to include the cost of prior learning assessments in their eligible reimbursement expenses so that dislocated workers and low-income adults can afford the online service.

Those interested in the program should contact either Ellen Corey, at 203-365-7566 or, or Ellen Kovar, at 203-396-8073 or