Research on Career Schools and Colleges

a qualitative study of higher education policy and practice IN AWARDING credit for prior learning and experience

By Dr. John Slama, Ed.D.

           Credit transfer policy and practice is an enduring topic within higher education.  This grounded theory study examined the policies and practices of nine Minnesota institutions around the awarding of college credit for prior learning and experience.  In-depth interviews were conducted with those individuals serving as advisors to students through the credit transfer and awarding process.  Study participants equally represented public, private not-for-profit and for-profit institutions with large and small enrollments. 

            Internal authority over transfer policy differed greatly among institutions.  Transfer policy is shaped by institutional mission, financial need, influential faculty members, and legislative and regulatory influences.  College credit can be earned through the transfer of coursework between schools as well as through military, standardized exams, work and life experiences.  Transfer credits were treated differently by institutions depending on whether these credits were earned from regionally or nationally-accredited schools.  Databases and websites play an increasing role in guiding and supporting transfer decisions for students and schools.  Finally, non-traditional students over the age of 25 years face unique challenges in returning to college and making the most of their prior learning and experience.

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