Blog Posts

June 18, 2015

This year’s National Institute on the Assessment of Adult Learning convened adult learning experts, practitioners, and enthusiasts in Philadelphia for a deep dive into Prior Learning Assessment (PLA). As a first time attendee, it was fascinating to learn about the many different ways institutions are leveraging PLA to attract, retain, and graduate adult students. Below are two key takeaways from my time surrounded by PLA experts (though it should be noted these were limited by my inability to attend all of the concurrent sessions).

May 7, 2015

ACCN Blog A number of new reports with relevance for those working with returning adults have been released this spring. This week’s post provides an overview of two of these, a policy brief from the Education Commission of the States on state financial aid and a report on the results of a recent survey of adults’ perceptions of the costs and benefit s of postsecondary education from the American Enterprise Institute.

April 27, 2015

ACCN Blog Earlier this month, Lumina Foundation released their 2015 edition of the A Stronger Nation through Higher Education report. The report is issued annually and examines the nation’s progress towards meeting Lumina’s Goal 2025, which calls for 60 percent of working-age Americans to hold a degree or other high-quality postsecondary credential by 2025. Primarily using data from the U.S. Census Bureau’s 2013 American Community Survey, the authors present a detailed picture of higher education attainment in the United States at the metropolitan, county, and state levels. While Lumina highlights progress in postsecondary attainment over the past few years, the overarching theme of the report is that we must do more over the next 10 years to achieve Goal 2025. In particular, the report calls for accelerating the postsecondary attainment rate through: improved enrollment, persistence, and completion, particularly by underrepresented students; support for adults’ efforts to return to college; and recognition of all forms of high-quality postsecondary credentials.

April 14, 2015

ACCN Blog Last Monday – April 6, 2015–Starbucks announced updates to their College Achievement Plan (CAP), which provides tuition reimbursement to employees admitted to Arizona State University’s online degree program. For employees of corporate-owned Starbucks (about 60 percent of U.S. stores) who work 20 or more hours per week, CAP reimburses the out-of-pocket costs of tuition to ASU Online after all other types of financial aid have been applied. Participating employees also receive a tuition discount, funded by ASU, equivalent to about a 42 percent reduction in tuition costs. The program was launched in June of 2014, and currently enrolls about 2,000 Starbucks employees.

April 2, 2015

ACCN Blog As many who work in the world of adult college completion know all too well, tracking down relevant data can be tough. With a significant proportion of publicly available data focused on first-time, full-time students, identifying trends among adult learners with prior credit is challenging. However, over the past few months, some promising new resources have emerged.

March 18, 2015

ACCN Blog Social policy research firm MDRC’s recent evaluation of the City University of New York (CUNY) Accelerated Study in Associate Programs (ASAP) for Developmental Education Students has been making waves in the world of higher education since its February release – and with good reason. The program has demonstrated unparalleled results, nearly doubling the graduation rate for its participants.* Notably, the evaluation focused on low-income students with developmental education needs. Neither the study’s authors, nor the numerous experts who have commented on the results, can identify another program with anywhere near this magnitude of impact on community college graduation rates.

March 4, 2015


On February 25th, the U.S. Department of Education’s Office of Career, Technical, and Adult Education (OCTAE) released a new report, Making Skills Everyone’s Business: A Call to Transform Adult Learning in the United States. Developed in response to international survey results which found that adults in the United States have low basic skill levels compared to their peers in other countries, the report examines the consequences of these findings and suggests seven strategies for improving adult skill levels. The authors stress sharing responsibility—across levels of government and sectors—for “upskilling” America’s adult population through effective learning and training opportunities. The report outlines broad-based approaches, highlighted by promising examples from around the country.

February 18, 2015

ACCN Blog Historically, "reverse transfer" referred to when a student transferred from a four-year postsecondary institution to a two-year college. In recent years, however, this term has taken on new meaning. Today, “reverse transfer” more commonly means transferring credit from a four-year to a two-year institution, with the goal of awarding associate degrees to students who have completed the necessary requirements while pursuing a bachelor’s degree. Over the past few years, initiatives built around this newer definition have been gaining steam. Reverse transfer initiatives typically target students, often adults, who earned the credits needed for an associate degree after transferring from a community college to a four-year institution – but ultimately did not end up completing a bachelor’s. Advocates argue that the reverse transfer process provides these students with a meaningful credential for their work and can also provide institutions with more accurate completion data.

February 4, 2015

ACCN Blog On February 2, 2015, Pennsylvania’s community college system became the first in the country to introduce a statewide Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) initiative – the “College Credit FastTrack.” The state’s 14 community colleges — led by Montgomery County Community College — have agreed upon common standards for awarding PLA credits and created a website and e-portfolio platform for the state’s community college students interested in pursuing credit for past educational, workforce, and life experiences.

January 28, 2015


The President’s new plan for free community college—dubbed “America’s College Promise”—has generated a flurry of commentary within and outside of higher education circles. The administration’s proposal aims to make “two years of college as free and universal as high school,” by waiving tuition for any student enrolled in a community college at least half-time, who maintains a minimum 2.5 GPA, and is making steady progress towards completing their program. On the institutional side, the plan will only apply to “high-quality” programs, that is, those which provide academic programs that fully transfer to four-year institutions or occupational training programs with high graduation rates that offer degrees and certificates valued by employers. The federal government would fund 75 percent of program costs, with states chipping in the remaining 25 percent.