Fewer college courses for adult learners who get credit from work, life experience

Credit for Prior Learning focuses on what on-the-job skills people learned and how that translates to college classes

At a local community college, they're putting focus on how students can take fewer classes and still succeed

ROANOKE, Va.This article is part of “Solutionaries,” our continuing commitment to solutions journalism, highlighting the creative people in communities working to make the world a better place, one solution at a time. Find out what you can do to help at SolutionariesNetwork.com.

Time and money can be barriers for adults who want to switch careers or go to college. But at a local community college, they’re putting a focus on how students can take fewer classes and still succeed. We’re working for you on how you can get college credit for your life experience.

“I just wanted to change. I wanted to do something different,” said Latrice Hilton, an adult learner.

But like many people, working full time doesn’t always make it easy. Hilton found the opportunity she needed, breaking into medical coding through Virginia’s G3 program at Virginia Western Community College in Roanoke.

“So this is an opportunity for me, even though I’m working and I have other obligations, it opens up a door so that I can excel in the fields that I want to excel in,” said Hilton.

The G3 program pays for training in five of the most in-demand industries: Early Childhood Education, Healthcare, Information Technology, Public Safety, and Skilled Trades.

But Hilton can also get credit for other training – not in the classroom.

“We all know that change is scary, very, very scary. And so that’s my job is to make it not so scary. Help them navigate those waters. Figure out if the learning that they’ve gained from those work and life experiences could be equivalent to college-level learning so that we can get them credits for that,” said Cathy Ferguson, VWCC Credit for Prior Learning Specialist.

Ferguson looks at what on-the-job skills they’ve learned and how that translates to college classes.

“What that means in the long term is that they’re not going to have to take those introductory courses. So that’s going to save them time. It’s going to save them money, and they can start into the more advanced courses,” said Ferguson. “We’re not just giving away credits, we’re awarding credits for their learning that’s equivalent to college-level learning.”

Hilton says having access to programs like these means she can grow.

“This is an opportunity for me. Even though I’m working and I have other obligations, it opens up a door so that I can excel in the fields that I want to excel in and won’t be just I’m going to work because I need a job. But this time around, it’s going to be I’m going to be doing something that I really love. The opportunity is there and I’m taking it,” said Hilton.

You can get college credit for things like industry certifications, military and law enforcement training, national standardized exams such as CLEP, and even AP Exams. Portfolio assessments can also help. It’s a self-assessment of the learning you believe is equivalent to college-level learning.

You can find more about the Credit for Prior Learning program and contact info here.

Since last summer, Virginia Western has used G3 funding to provide $1.22 million in assistance to 1,336 students. On the workforce side, G3 so far has helped 27 students obtain credentials and funded students in CCMA, Pharm Tech, EKG Tech, Phlebotomy, Welding, HEO, Mechatronics Fundamentals and Machining.

Across all 23 Virginia community colleges for the 2021-22 academic year:

  • 11,084 VCCS students received nearly $14.9 million in G3 tuition assistance,
  • 75% (8,272) of the G3 students enrolled in credit programs that lead to a postsecondary degree or certificate, while the remaining quarter (2,867) were enrolled in noncredit Workforce Credential Grant (WCG) programs that lead to third-party licensure or certification.

Virginia Community colleges offering free classes through the G3 initiative, you can learn more about that by visiting: https://virginiag3.com/

This story is part of a program at WSLS 10, “Solutionaries.” Solutions offer hope and that’s the belief of Solutionaries, a show from our parent company, Graham Media Group, focusing on those who are taking on some of our biggest challenges. Each episode focuses on effective responses to problems and offers viewers ways they can join the effort for positive change.

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About the Author:

You can see Jenna weekday mornings at the anchor desk on WSLS 10 Today from 5-7 a.m. She also leads our monthly Solutionaries Series, where we highlight the creative thinkers and doers working to make the world a better place.