Award of Academic Credit by Evaluation

Award of Academic Credit by Evaluation

This policy broadly regulates within the State University of New York (SUNY) the award of academic credit by evaluation of demonstrable learning that takes place outside of courses that are part of registered credit-bearing academic programs offered by institutions of higher education. As of this writing, this work is also referred to as ‘prior learning assessment or PLA,’ ‘credit for prior learning or CPL,’ or ‘learning recognition.’ It is important to note that though ‘prior learning’ is a widely used term, the award of academic credit by evaluation can be applied to learning concurrent to one’s program of study.

Background and History

SUNY initially issued the Award of Academic Credit by Evaluation policy in 1976, one of the first university systems in the country to formally adopt this type of assessment. This policy revision supersedes the original and expands the types of verifiable college-level learning to be recognized, including, but not limited to: performance on standardized published exams; military education and training; professional and industry certifications and licenses or other credentials; non-credit and continuing education study; on-the-job training/education; and work experience. This policy revision is informed by research demonstrating that the award of credit by evaluation can increase access to, and success in, higher education by decreasing time to degree completion that results in cost savings. Credit received for prior learning can also help faculty advisors properly place students in their programs of study and can contribute to institutional goals for student retention and graduation success if learners are aware of its availability and avail themselves of the opportunity. Many students, particularly those who self-identify as low income or under-represented minority, have reported not being aware of opportunities to have their prior learning assessed or of the related benefits such a review can provide; this revision addresses related outreach and communication.[1]  

[1] 2018-2020 studies and reports funded by the Lumina Foundation and the Strada Network and prepared by The Western Interstate Commission for Higher Education (WICHE) and the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL). Retrieved online at: https://www.wiche.edu/key-initiatives/recognition-of-learning/

State University of New York (SUNY) Board of Trustees’ Resolution 2023-8 – State University of New York Award of Academic Credit by Evaluation Policy

Award of Academic Credit by Evaluation Policy

Core Tenets

I. Core Tenets

A. The awarding of credit by evaluation is based on the same criteria used to evaluate credit awarded in courses in registered degree and certificate programs:

  1. Shared Governance: Campus-level policies and procedures developed to implement this policy must meet all applicable campus administrative and shared governance procedures for consultation and must undergo a campus governance process equivalent to that for any local academic policy.
  2. Faculty Oversight: The evaluation of student learning for the award of academic credit must be conducted by faculty or approved by faculty in the case of evaluation by a subject matter expert or established third-party validation.
  3. Accreditation and Regulation: This policy reflects any related standards by the Middle States Commission on Higher Education (MSCHE) and the New York State Department of Education (NYSED) as of its writing. Campus policies must reflect the same, as well as related standards of programmatic-level accrediting bodies, and be updated accordingly should standards be revised.
  4. Award Level: The evaluation of student learning for the award of academic credit can be applied to both undergraduate and graduate programs as well as microcredentials.
  5. Transparency and Communication: Campus policies and procedures, and the availability generally, of award of academic credit by evaluation must be clearly delineated and disseminated.  
  6. Accountability: Campus policies and procedures related to the award of academic credit fall under the purview of the President, Chief Academic Officer, or their designee as described below.

B. Campus Responsibility:  Award of academic credit by evaluation is strongly encouraged and is consistent with SUNY’s commitment to access and student success. Per I.A.1. above, campuses are responsible to develop local policies and procedures.  A given campus may allow the award of credit hours up to the limit specified by the residency requirement as described later in this document.

Credit by Evaluation in Practice

II. Credit by Evaluation in Practice

Personnel involved in the assessment of prior learning must be adequately trained in assessment procedures and pursue continuing professional development for the functions they perform, e.g., portfolio assessment, use of the ACE Military Guide, assessment of industry certifications, etc.

Campuses are strongly encouraged to identify and assess prior learning through a variety of methods to determine if academic credit could be awarded. Common methods include, but are not limited to:

A. Standardized Published Examinations

The award of credit for published examination applies to the following published examinations (the following list is current as of the date of adoption of this policy; updates to this official list will be maintained by the SUNY System Provost’s Office):

  1. Advanced Placement (AP);
  2. International Baccalaureate (IB);
  3. Advanced International Certificate of Education Program (AICE);
  4. A-Levels (Advanced Level Qualifications);
  5. DSST exams - Defense Activity for Non-Traditional Education Support, Defense Subjects (DANTES) Standardized Tests (DSST);
  6. College-Level Examination Program (CLEP) Subject Examinations;
  7. American Council on the Teaching of Foreign Languages (ACTFL) proficiency assessments; and
  8. UExcel® Credit by Exam (Excelsior College).

B. Military Education and Training

Credit for military training and education as recommended by the American Council on Education (ACE) via the enhanced Military Guide and via the Joint Military Services Transcript should be accepted and applied according to student need and as appropriate to local requirements in the same way as other transfer credits.

Credit from accredited military-affiliated institutions must be accepted and applied accordingly when they satisfy local program degree requirements, in the same way as other transfer credits.*

C. Other Forms of Learning

For credits earned through other experiences, such as professional and industry certifications and licenses or other credentials, non-credit and continuing education study,  non-credit microcredentials**,  on-the-job training/education and work experience, the methods of evaluation shall be conducted or approved by faculty and may include third-party review by appropriately qualified reviewers: 

  1. Faculty/department developed challenge exams;
  2. Assessments by a nationally recognized external body such as the American Council on Education (ACE), the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL), the National College Credit Recommendation Service (NCCRS); and
  3. Portfolio review.

* The Community College of the Air Force, US Naval Academy, US Coast Guard Academy, US Air Force Academy, and US Military Academy are institutionally accredited higher education institutions. Credit from related transcripts should be regarded according to transfer policies, not by Award of Academic Credit by Evaluation.

** Credit-bearing microcredentials should be reviewed by the receiving campus according to transfer policies, not by award of Academic Credit by Evaluation.

Transfer

III. Transfer

The goal of the SUNY policy (#2012-089) on Seamless Transfer Requirements, as described in Memorandum to Presidents Vol. 13, No. 3, is to enable students to complete their intended program of study on time, without unnecessary cost and/or duplication of effort. The principles of this policy serve as the framework for the transfer of credits earned through credit by evaluation.

  1. Save for programmatic restrictions, as referenced herein in III.B. and IV., credit earned through credit by evaluation shall be guaranteed to transfer between SUNY campuses.
  2. Receiving campuses cannot deny credit solely because it was earned through credit by evaluation, but may establish restrictions consistent with programmatic requirements that treat native and transfer students the same.
  3. Transcript entries for credit awarded shall clearly indicate credit was awarded via evaluation of prior learning.
  4. Campuses shall document their standards for course equivalency determinations in accord with the Seamless Transfer requirements and include a list of acceptable forms of verification (e.g., transcripts, official score reports).
  5. Where credit is awarded originally by the sending campus in content areas not offered by the receiving campus, the articulation must be reviewed and approved by an appropriate academic committee or designee assigned by the receiving campus, consistent with campus governance processes.

Application of Awarded Credits

IV. Application of Awarded Credits

Academic credits awarded by evaluation may apply to multiple established requirements, including courses in the major, SUNY General Education, Transfer Path courses, approved applied learning experiences, and credit-bearing microcredentials developed in accordance with SUNY Trustee policy. All disciplines may accept academic credit awarded through evaluation. Any restrictions otherwise compliant with SUNY policies will be determined at the campus level and transparently communicated.

Residency Requirement

V. Residency Requirement

Individual campuses may allow as many credits awarded to apply toward degree requirements as deemed appropriate and consistent with their local residency requirements. Consistent with seamless transfer requirements, campuses are encouraged to exercise flexibility to support student success and timely degree completion.

    Student Participation

    VI. Student Participation

    All students will be allowed to apply for the use of credits earned by evaluation, as appropriate to the academic program.

    Although an individual may request evaluation of their verifiable, college-level learning at any time, the awarding of academic credit should be considered early enough to ensure maximizing its benefits toward a desired degree. 

    Campus Coordination

    VII. Campus Coordination

    The Chief Academic Officer is responsible for the academic programs of the institution, including effective campus policies and practices to assure alignment with SUNY Board of Trustees’ policies including the award of credit by evaluation. This individual or designee shall:

    1. Communicate clearly and accurately the campus practices concerning options, policies, and procedures (including appeal) to students, faculty, and staff (see item VIII below for additional detail);
    2. Ensure processes and evaluation activities are expeditious and conducted with integrity to include consideration for the student’s best interest and compliance with state and federal regulations.
    3. Provide professional development for faculty and professional staff who would perform the evaluation and other campus stakeholder groups responsible for implementing this and related policies and procedures (e.g., admissions, enrollment management, communications, continuing education, registrar, advisors, business office);
    4. Serve as an information channel between the campus and other units and agencies (e.g., System Administration, ACE); and
    5. Maintain accurate records of credit evaluation activities, including documentation on the student transcript.

    Campuses must monitor, review, evaluate, and revise as needed their award of academic credit by evaluation policies and procedures.

    Communication

    VIII. Communication

    The President, Chief Academic Officer or, for some areas, a designee will assure that campus-level policies and procedures related to the implementation of this policy are fully disclosed and prominently available to prospective and enrolled students, as well as faculty and staff. The award of academic credit as described herein should be regarded as an essential tool for promoting and supporting access to higher education. Information about award of credit of prior learning should be provided in relevant publications and media such as: 

    1. Campus catalogs;
    2. Webpages (transfer students, prospective students, admissions, workforce development, continuing education, etc.); and
    3. Enrollment materials.

    In addition, if the award of credit by evaluation is restricted in any way, communication methods must also include a statement regarding any credits that are:

    1. Not accepted for degree credit;
    2. Not appropriate for specialized requirements; or
    3. Not appropriate for prerequisites for advanced level courses.

    Fiscal Procedures

    IX. Fiscal Procedures

    The award of academic credit by evaluation incurs an operational cost for the institution. Support for these costs – in the form of student fees (hereafter “Assessment Fee(s)”) - should reflect, as closely as possible, the costs incurred.

    1. Assessment Fees charged for evaluation shall be based on the services performed in the process and not determined by the amount of credit awarded;
    2. In regard to the charge for this evaluation and assessment, only the Assessment Fee will be charged to the student;
    3. Campuses will determine the appropriate proposed Assessment Fee (based on the direct and indirect costs) necessary to provide evaluation services. Such costs would include, but not be limited to, supervision of the evaluation activities, assessment preparation or purchase, administration of the assessments, including correction, evaluation, recording, notification of participants, and associated employee benefits / pooled offset contribution / other costs incurred in providing support services;
    4. Assessment Fees may be re-examined and adjusted each academic year;
    5. Based on the financial circumstances of the participant, waiver of Assessment Fees may be authorized by the campus president or designee.
    6. Overall Assessment Fee levels should be established in such a way as to accommodate any loss in revenue as a result of waivers, operating within the principle that overall the evaluation program must reflect, as closely as possible, the costs incurred by the institution; and
    7. Proposed Assessment Fees for evaluation and assessment activities will be developed by each campus and forwarded to the SUNY System Administration Office of the SUNY Chief Financial Officer for approval.

    Reporting

    X. Reporting

    System Administration will request information from campuses concerning the award of credit by evaluation to assess the effectiveness of this policy.

     

    Resources and Training Opportunities for Campuses

    As we work together across SUNY to formulate and implement Campus Action Plans for Credit for Prior Learning (CPL/PLA), we have curated a comprehensive set of training opportunities including NCCRS, International Baccalaureate and ACE Military with more in the planning stages! These sessions are designed to provide an understanding of the resources available to campuses and to improve competencies in using tools for effectively assessing students' prior learning experiences.

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    NCCRS Workshop

    Credit Recommendations and Stakeholder Benefits

    Founded in 1973 by the University of the State of New York, Board of Regents, the National College Credit Recommendation Service (NCCRS) serves as a resource for institutions that embrace credit for prior learning, for learners who seek transfer opportunities, and for organizations that are committed to providing college-level learning. Through the work of NCCRS, learners throughout the country have gained access to college credit for successfully completing training and education delivered by government agencies; employers; workforce development, community and faith-based organizations; apprenticeship sponsors; certification exam developers and others. This session will examine the benefits of credit for prior learning and NCCRS through examples of how credit recommendations create degree pathways. Further discussion about pathways and partnerships will be supplemented by information about an NCCRS initiative. This initiative is designed to fulfill the program’s founding mission of increasing access to higher education to overcome social inequality.

    February 13, 2024 from 10 to 11 am (recording)  

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    International Baccalaureate (IB) Workshop

    Attracting and Recruiting IB Students - Developing a Competitive Edge

    In this session, Marie Vivas from the International Baccalaureate Organization will offer insights on auditing and refining your  recognition policies to enhance student recruitment. Additionally, she will guide you on utilizing various IB recruitment tools.

    March 12 from 11 to 12 am

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    Workshops on using the ACE Military Tools

    ACE Military Guide overview and Student Learning Outcomes: Participants will become familiar with the ACE Military Guide by seeing live examples of its use. Emma Bowman from Empire State University will walk through several sample evaluations to show how SUNY Empire uses the Military Guide’s many features. The demonstration and following discussion will provide participants with concrete skills to begin using the Military Guide for their own institution’s needs.

    February 1, 2024 from 12 to 1 PM (recording)
    February 15, 2024 from 12 to 1 PM (recording)

    User Roles in the ACE Military Guide: This session will build on the information from the overview session by discussing the different user roles available to each ACE Military Guide institutional account. Emma Bowman will examine how Empire State University uses these roles to streamline the handoff of tasks between offices. Participants will be empowered to think through what their own institution’s workflow and user experiences might look like.

    February 29, 2024 from 12 to 1 PM
    March 7, 2024 from 12 to 1 PM    

    Student Information Systems and the ACE Military Guide: In this session, Emma Bowman will discuss what happens after evaluators make decisions using the ACE Military Guide. The presenter will describe both how the Military Guide stores information for future use and also how student information systems such as Banner can store military transfer data.

    March 21, 2024 from 12 to 1 PM
    March 28, 2024 from 12 to 1 PM 

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    Workshops on using the ACE National Guide

    Using the ACE National Guide (non-military): This workshop will introduce participants to the American Council on Education’s National Guide from a policy and practical standpoint.  Participants will be introduced to searching the National Guide, requesting documentation, and applying credits to degree programs.   Carl Burkart from Empire State University will walk through several sample searches and discuss the policy and practical issues involved in integrating ACE evaluations into student degrees.  The demonstration and discussion will provide participants with the skills to use the ACE National Guide at their institution.

    March 26 from 3 pm – 4 pm

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    Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) for Apprenticeship On The Job Training (OJT)

    Mohawk Valley Community College (MVCC) is actively addressing challenges in equating on-the-job training (OJT) to college credit by developing a model that utilizes Prior Learning Assessment (PLA). This model aims to align OJT with experiential components of credit-bearing courses, optimizing college credits associated with apprenticeship-related technical instruction (RTI).

    The primary focus is on the Industrial Manufacturing Technician (IMT) trade, capitalizing on its popularity across SUNY and adoption by major employers like Indium Corporation, Wolfspeed, Danfoss, GlobalFoundries, and Micron (in Idaho). This choice indicates the potential for statewide growth in IMT apprenticeships, promising a substantial impact on the workforce.

    On March 29, Tim Thomas Chief Strategy Officer will present an overview of the work that is being done at Mohawk Valley Community College and discuss the implications for that work across the SUNY system. 

    April 2 from 11 am – 12 pm

    American Council on Education (ACE) Modernized Military Guide

    The Benefits of PLA and CPL (ACE)

    Introducing the ACE Military Guide (ACE)

    ACE has made a short trailer video on the Military Guide and the Guide is online.

    Workshops on using the ACE Military Tools

    ACE Military Guide overview and Student Learning Outcomes: Participants will become familiar with the ACE Military Guide by seeing live examples of its use. Emma Bowman from Empire State University will walk through several sample evaluations to show how SUNY Empire uses the Military Guide’s many features. The demonstration and following discussion will provide participants with concrete skills to begin using the Military Guide for their own institution’s needs.

    February 1, 2024 from 12 to 1 PM (recording)
    February 15, 2024 from 12 to 1 PM (recording)

    User Roles in the ACE Military Guide: This session will build on the information from the overview session by discussing the different user roles available to each ACE Military Guide institutional account. Emma Bowman will examine how Empire State University uses these roles to streamline the handoff of tasks between offices. Participants will be empowered to think through what their own institution’s workflow and user experiences might look like.

    February 29, 2024 from 12 to 1 PM
    March 7, 2024 from 12 to 1 PM    

    Student Information Systems and the ACE Military Guide: In this session, Emma Bowman will discuss what happens after evaluators make decisions using the ACE Military Guide. The presenter will describe both how the Military Guide stores information for future use and also how student information systems such as Banner can store military transfer data.

    March 21, 2024 from 12 to 1 PM
    March 28, 2024 from 12 to 1 PM 

    Introduction to ACE Military Guide

    Recording of Introduction to ACE Military Guide, September 18, 2023 from 12:00 pm to 1:00 pm

    Emma Bowman from Empire State University walked through several sample evaluations to show how SUNY Empire uses the Military Guide’s many features. The demonstration and following discussion provided participants with concrete skills to begin using the Military Guide for their own institution’s needs.

    Zoom Recordings

    Date Session Video Transcript Slides Resources
    05/10/23 Getting Started with the ACE Military Guide Zoom Transcript Slides  
    05/17/23 ACE Military Guide: Setting Up an Institutional Account Zoom Transcript Slides  
    05/22/23 Behind the Curtain of ACE Learning Evaluations Zoom Transcript Slides 1, 2

     

    American Council on Education (ACE) National Guide

    The American Council on Education (ACE) has been dedicated to lifelong learning for more than 100 years.  ACE National Guide provides resources for colleges to assess educational experiences for the purpose of granting college credit based on the recommendations of subject matter experts who are faculty at accrediting colleges and universities. 

    Training Opportunities

    Workshops on using the ACE National Guide

    Using the ACE National Guide (non-military): This workshop will introduce participants to the American Council on Education’s National Guide from a policy and practical standpoint.  Participants will be introduced to searching the National Guide, requesting documentation, and applying credits to degree programs.   Carl Burkart from Empire State University will walk through several sample searches and discuss the policy and practical issues involved in integrating ACE evaluations into student degrees.  The demonstration and discussion will provide participants with the skills to use the ACE National Guide at their institution.

    March 26 from 3 pm – 4 pm

     

    Recording of ACEnet Training Event, September 7, 2023

    Michele Spires, Assistant Vice President at American Council on Education (ACE), discussed ways in which institutions can maximize credit-for-prior learning opportunities to increase successful enrollment and graduation rates for adult and military learners.  With close to 30 years of wide-ranging experience in post-secondary education and workforce development, Spires is actively engaged in tackling critical challenges facing higher education institutions today. Her full bio is available online: https://www.acenet.edu/Pages/Bio/Michele-Spires.aspx

    National College Credit Recommendation Service (NCCRS)

    Accepting and awarding credit for learning outside of the traditional classroom relies on strong policies, practices and understanding of tools and sources that help bolster efforts led by institutions of higher education. Founded in 1973 by the University of the State of New York, Board of Regents, the National College Credit Recommendation Service (NCCRS) has been helping learners achieve their goal to earn a college degree for 50 years. As a gateway for hundreds of colleges and universities to award college credit, NCCRS has supervised thousands of reviews of college-level learning experiences. These have included reviews of government- and corporate training, apprenticeships, and other qualified programs using a peer review model that engages faculty from institutions throughout New York and beyond. This session will highlight the steps and validity of the academic review process and key quality assurance metrics used by NCCRS when examining comparability of noncollegiate to college-level learning. NCCRS relies on faculty engagement, thus the session will feature information on responsibilities and expectations of participation and how faculty can get involved as independent evaluators for NCCRS.

    Training Opportunities

    Credit Recommendations and Stakeholder Benefits

    Founded in 1973 by the University of the State of New York, Board of Regents, the National College Credit Recommendation Service (NCCRS) serves as a resource for institutions that embrace credit for prior learning, for learners who seek transfer opportunities, and for organizations that are committed to providing college-level learning. Through the work of NCCRS, learners throughout the country have gained access to college credit for successfully completing training and education delivered by government agencies; employers; workforce development, community and faith-based organizations; apprenticeship sponsors; certification exam developers and others. This session will examine the benefits of credit for prior learning and NCCRS through examples of how credit recommendations create degree pathways. Further discussion about pathways and partnerships will be supplemented by information about an NCCRS initiative. This initiative is designed to fulfill the program’s founding mission of increasing access to higher education to overcome social inequality.

    February 13, 2024 from 10 to 11 am (recording)

    Recording of NCCRS Training Event, September 13, 2023

    This presentation by Lisa Sax Mahoney, Director, National College Credit Recommendation Service (NCCRS) described the range of services offered by NCCRS that can help support your campus as you develop methods and tools for awarding credit for prior learning to support the academic success of your students.

    International Baccalaureate (IB)

    The International Baccalaureate (IB) organization, with a presence in over 150 countries/territories worldwide, offers a highly rigorous secondary program of study at high schools throughout the United States and around the world.  Many US universities and colleges, including many SUNY schools, offer significant credit for the IB diploma and subject exams.  Understanding the IB Diploma and how to award academic credit for the credential can help recruit students living abroad and here in the United States.

    Training Opportunities

    Attracting and Recruiting IB Students - Developing a Competitive Edge

    In this session, Marie Vivas from the International Baccalaureate Organization will offer insights on auditing and refining your recognition policies to enhance student recruitment. Additionally, she will guide you on utilizing various IB recruitment tools.

    March 12 from 11 to 12 am

    IB101 and IB201 Training

    Marie Vivas is the Senior Recognition Manager for the US and Canada at the International Baccalaureate Organization. She has extensive knowledge of the international college admissions counseling process from several perspectives. For over fifteen years she was Director of College Counseling at Escuela Campo Alegre in Caracas, Venezuela and, at Colegio Americano de Quito in Ecuador. Prior to joining the IBO, she was Director of Admissions at Jacobs University Bremen. Marie works closely with university admissions officers and faculty on IB recognition issues. She was the lead in creating a series of Access Workshops for IB Counselors and Coordinators working with low-income students.  

    IB101 (description below) sessions were offered on 10/10/2023 and 10/20/2023.  

    This session gave participants an overview and answered the most frequently asked questions about the IB:

    • What is the IB Diploma?
    • Where is it taught?
    • How are the courses evaluated and assessed?
    • Diploma vs. Certificates?  HL vs. SL?
    • Will the IB help students get into college?
    • Does the IB prepare students for college?
    • Will students receive credit for the IB?

    This is a link to the IB101 Training - Presentation Slides used at both sessions.

    This is a link to a recording of the IB101 presentation, October 20, 2023

    IB201 (description below) sessions were offered on 11/13/2023 and 11/28/2023.

    This session is aimed at colleagues looking to update (or create) their IB policy and it includes:

    • Details on curriculum that can help shed light on the outcomes for IB graduates
    • A deeper exploration of Standard Level vs. Higher Level coursework
    • Tips and resources on how to establish an IB policy that works for your institutions and aids with the recruitment of students with IB credit     

    This is a link to the PowerPoint presentation from both sessions.

    This is a link to the recording of the IB201 presentation, November 13, 2023

    This is a link to the recording of the IB201 presentation, November 28, 2023

    Credit for Prior Learning (CPL/PLA) Liaisons Meetings

    This community of practice includes campus liaisons and representatives from System Administration who meet regularly to discuss implementation of the SUNY Board of Trustee policy on the Award of Academic Credit by Evaluation.  Meetings will serve as a resource for campuses as they review/update or develop campus-level policies and procedures and identify implementation plans to expand the award of credit.

    Credit for Prior Learning (CPL/PLA) Liaisons Meetings

    Date Session Video Slides
    11/17/23 Update for CPL Liasons Zoom Slides
    Academic Affairs