Gain College Credit through the Northeast Regional Prior Learning Assessment Consortium (NRPLAC) 

November 2, 2021 8:40 am


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Do you have life or work experience that could be turned into college credit? Now may be a great time to find out if your experiences could help further your career and degree, saving you both time and money. 

We recently had a chance to speak with two leaders of the Northeast Regional Prior Learning Assessment Consortium (NRPLAC), Heather Mayer, the Project Coordinator and Dr. Cristy Sugarman, Executive Director of Center for Alternative Studies and Educational Testing, to find out more about how previous learning experiences could add up to credits toward a college degree. 

What is the Prior Learning Assessment? 

The concept behind the Prior Learning Assessment comes down to an evaluation of experiences, either in life, work, or the military that happen outside of college. Those experiences are examined by the faculty at North Shore Community College, a close partner of the consortium, as well as the partnering college to determine if these experiences may equal college credit. 

Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) gives Essex and Middlesex County residents (and residents outside of this region) the chance to earn college credit for prior learning and work experience by credentialing skills attained outside of the traditional classroom.This can be done for just about anyone but many people who have seen success with this program have been in the military, serving as a stay at home parent, displaced workers, or an unemployed professional. 

The ultimate goal of the program, with support from the many community, educational, and business partners, is to increase college completion for the residents of our region through prior learning assessment. 

Why Was This Consortium Formed? 

Both Mayer and Sugarman explained that the consortium was formed due to the ultimate need in our region. In Middlesex and Essex Counties alone, approximately 90 thousand residents have some college credit, but did not complete a degree program. Across Massachusetts that number is somewhere near 700 thousand adults who have some college credits but have never finished their degree. 

A lack of a degree could be holding many residents back from career ambitions, promotions, or keeping them in an underemployed status.  

How Does Prior Learning Assessment Benefit Residents and Employers? 

There are a multitude of benefits to taking the prior learning assessment. Included in these benefits are saving money by gaining credits for experiences such as being multilingual, having technology skills, healthcare certifications, speaking/communication skills, or manufacturing skills. 

Some of the benefits come from saving time when credits are applied to a college degree, the student will get to their goal of graduation that much faster. Additionally, people who utilize the prior learning assessment are twice as likely to get a degree than their counterparts. 

For employers, having a robust workforce pipeline can help our region recover faster from the pandemic. Additionally, many employers will save money if they have a policy of covering a portion of college tuition. 

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What College and Community Groups Are Partnered With NRPLAC? 

There are currently eight colleges that are partnered with our consortium. These include North Shore Community College, Middlesex Community College, Northern Essex Community College, Endicott College, Gordon College, Merrimack College, Salem State University, and the University of Massachusetts Lowell. 

Community partners include: MassHire’s Workforce Boards, Wellspring, Leo Inc., Behavior Concepts, and Action Inc, as well as financial support from Essex County Community Foundation. 

Further resources regarding this program can be found at MyExperienceCounts.Mass.Edu. Here you can research how your interest and experience match up. Start an inquiry to this terrific program at the NRPLAC site.