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Colorado adults will soon be able to earn college credit for work experience

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Colorado lawmakers approved in 2020 a measure that says colleges adopt policies to give students credit for work experience.

Gabriel Scarlett, The Denver Post

Coloradoans will soon be able to earn college credit for their work-related experience, a move that especially benefits adults who decide to further their education. The measure was approved during this year’s legislative session.

The extra credits would allow students to earn a certificate or diploma more quickly, as well as increase overall college attainment among Colorado residents. Colorado has a goal to equip 66% of its adults with a credential or degree by 2025, especially since about 75% of jobs now require education beyond high school.

A committee will study how colleges should handle work experience for credit and state public institutions will begin to give the credits to students enrolling in the 2022-23 academic year.

“It’s really a game changer in how we’re talking about higher education for all learners of all ages,” said Kelly Caufield, Colorado Succeeds vice president of government affairs. The nonprofit organization works on connecting businesses to education and policy.

Colorado already has a policy for higher education institutions to grant credit for military education and training. And the state becomes one of at least 19 other states to create a structure for giving credit for work-related experience.

The committee also will examine  how colleges and universities should handle industry credentials from students who gained training in high school. The committee will look at whether adults should earn credit for the jobs they do on a daily basis.

To earn credit, students would need to show proficiency through an assessment or evaluation.

Caufield said more than 400,000 Colorado adults have earned some postsecondary credit but have not earned a certificate or degree. The new measure will open up opportunities for adults to attend college, and  gives students a “leg up that they didn’t have before.”

“That credential is more attainable because you’re not going in with zero credits,” Caufield said. “It’s easier to finish that credential when you already have some credit under your belt.”

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