Credit for Prior Learning: Leveraging Past Learning to Close Present-Day Equity Gaps


The pandemic-induced recession presents a uniquely important opportunity to support unemployed and underemployed Californians, particularly those of color, in reskilling and upskilling to secure better-paying jobs in the future. California’s economic recovery will depend on a skilled workforce to drive growth and the state’s higher education system must innovate and adapt to meet this need.

This brief outlines how and why credit for prior learning (CPL) deserves a more prominent role among college and university programs offered for California adults. When colleges require students to take courses with content they have already mastered on the job, in the military, or through an online course, potential graduates often must spend extra time and money duplicating their education—or deferring it.

By contrast, more uniform and widely implemented CPL policies throughout California’s public higher education segments could elevate the economic trajectories for hundreds of thousands of uncredentialed adults — while helping the state increase degree attainment and meet workforce demands. Further, more consistently and widely adopting similar CPL practices in California could increase college affordability and completion, especially for Black students and students of color, many of whom rely on state and federal aid.i


i. National Center for Education Statistics. (2019). Indicator 22: Financial aid.

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