Program aims to increase attainment levels for nontraditional learners
The American Council on Education (ACE) announced today that Lakeland College is one of 25 colleges and universities nationally asked to be the first members of an innovative alternative credit consortium that will create a more flexible pathway toward a college degree for millions of nontraditional learners.
As part of serving in this pilot project, Lakeland has agreed to continue its long-standing practice of working with ACE by expanding its list of courses which will be granted transfer credit. In this consortium, Lakeland will play a key role in reviewing the quality of alternative sources of low-cost or no-cost introductory courses that may satisfy general education requirements and will then play a lead role in assisting students completing those courses to continue through to a bachelor's degree.
This initiative is made possible by the generous support of a $1.89 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation. Its initial focus will be on the more than 31 million adults who have completed some postsecondary coursework but lack a degree or credential. Many of these students represent first-generation, low-income students, so findings from this investment likely will apply to younger students from this population, as well.
Founded in 1862, Lakeland launched an evening degree-completion program for working adults in 1978, the first in the Wisconsin at that time. Today, Lakeland serves 2,800 non-traditional students statewide at seven centers — Sheboygan, Milwaukee, Green Bay, Madison, Fox Cities, Central Wisconsin and Chippewa Falls — and online. Lakeland's total enrollment is approximately 3,600.
"Lakeland has been serving nontraditional student for nearly 40 years, so this project was a natural fit for us," said Lakeland President Dan Eck. "We're excited to see the results of this effort and learn how we can offer better access and serve this population in new ways.
"Earning a four-year college degree provides many advantages. Undergraduate and graduate degrees have paved the way for thousands of Lakeland graduates to achieve their career goals and become leaders in their communities."
The participating institutions represent a diverse group of four-year and two-year, public and private, non-profit and for-profit colleges and universities that have a strong commitment to access and attainment and serving nontraditional learners. A complete list is at the end of this story.
Participating institutions have agreed to provide anonymous data to ACE regarding the amount of credit their institution accepts, as well as progress and success rates of students transferring in courses through this project. Additional college, university and system partners will be recruited in fall 2015 to join the consortium.
"The institutions serving in this pilot project will play a valuable role in helping enhance the work we have been doing for many years in developing quality mechanisms for determining the credit worthiness of education, training and life experiences outside of a formal higher education classroom setting," said ACE President Molly Corbett Broad.
"We very much appreciate this generous investment and the commitment it represents to the effort to provide a more flexible and cost-efficient way to increase the number of Americans able to gain a college degree or credential."
As an additional part of the effort, ACE will expand its current work in the area of college credit recommendations by developing a quality framework and guidelines for issuing recommendations for digital micro-credentials, competency-based programs and non-degree certificate programs.
"This project will yield multiple and long-lasting benefits to the participating institutions, the wider higher education community and potentially millions of nontraditional learners," said Deborah Seymour, ACE assistant vice president for education attainment and innovation. "It will help lead to the greater acceptance of alternative forms of credit in a way that ensures quality and encourages more people to complete their postsecondary education."
Joining Lakeland in this pilot program are:
American Public University; Capella University; Central Michigan University; Charter Oak State College; Colorado Community College System; Colorado Technical University; East Carolina University; Fayetteville State University; Fort Hays State University; Goodwin College; John F. Kennedy University; Kaplan University; Metropolitan State University of Denver; National Louis University; Northern Arizona University; Northwestern State University; Notre Dame College; SUNY Empire State College; Texas Woman's University; Thomas Edison State College; University of Baltimore; University of Maryland University College; University of Memphis; University of North Carolina.
Founded in 1918, ACE is the major coordinating body for all the nation's higher education institutions, representing more than 1,600 college and university presidents, and more than 200 related associations, nationwide. It provides leadership on key higher education issues and influences public policy through advocacy. For more information, please visit www.acenet.edu or follow ACE on Twitter @ACEducation.