Equity-Minded Credit for Prior Learning

September 6, 2023

Achieving the Dream

Colleges that award credit for prior learning (CPL) recognize the vast knowledge adult learners accumulate from their personal and professional lives. CPL allows these learners to apply for college credits using experiences comparable to community college courses, including career training programs, industry credentials, certifications, military training, and exams. CPL helps adult learners save more money, earn a college degree faster, avoid duplicative learning, and feel an increased sense of belonging. Along with enabling colleges to improve credential progression and completion, it expands the benefits colleges can feature in recruitment and marketing efforts.


  • Provides adult learners with more flexible ways to integrate learning into their busy lives
  • Reduces time and cost of credentials for adult learners

Strategy Features

An equity-minded CPL approach encourages every eligible student to submit an application. The following features can help produce an equitable and accessible process:
Simplify the Process

CPL processes should minimize the use of jargon, eliminate unnecessary steps, and ensure decision criteria are clearly explained up front to encourage students to embrace this opportunity.

Promote CPL Often in the Adult Learner Journey

Institutions should promote CPL benefits in marketing materials, throughout the application, and during onboarding. Key staff can be trained to spot CPL opportunities and connect learners to the right support.

Keep Fees Low or Cover Them When Possible

Keeping fees associated with CPL as low as possible for learners increases access. When fees continue to be a barrier, the college should seek alternative methods of covering all or some of them.

Provide Multiple Ways to Demonstrate Knowledge

Learners can choose the method they feel most comfortable demonstrating their knowledge. These options should be tailored to each program. Examples include tests, papers, portfolios, interviews, oral submissions, and live demonstrations.

Implementation Tips

Design the Process with Adult Learners

Gather input from adult learners as you assess the current CPL process and outreach strategy. Continue to collect their insights as you work to expand accessibility of CPL.

Embed CPL Into Existing Processes

Work discussions about CPL into other existing processes adult learners move through.

Train Advisors and Faculty to Promote CPL

Capitalize on the time advisors and faculty spend with students by training them to value and champion CPL for their students.

Track Data to Ensure Equity and Scale

Monitor disaggregated data around CPL applications, credits awarded, costs, and more to ensure maximum access to CPL and close equity gaps.

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Implementation Exemplars

Equity and Inclusion in CPL: Presentation

September 8, 2023

Implementation Exemplars

Equity and Inclusion in CPL: Slide Deck

September 6, 2023

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