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Sessions College Creates New Pathways for Adult Learners

Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) Program Offers Opportunity for Experienced Learners
Tempe, AZ (September 16, 2022)


To better serve the needs of adult learners, Sessions College for Professional Design (“Sessions”) has developed a Prior Learning Assesment (PLA) Program that offers new opportunities for adult learners seeking online Associate and Bachelor's degrees. The program is available to prospective students entering classes in January 2023.

The new Prior Learning Assessment (PLA) program enables prospective students with evidence of college-level skills or knowledge to have their skills and experience evaluated for credit towards a degree. Benefits of the PLA programs to students include recognition of prior learning, reduced tuition costs, and faster pace towards graduation.

The program offers a systematic way to evaluate prior learning that is aligned with best practices in established by the Council for Adult and Experiential Learning (CAEL) and Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC) . Prospective students have the opportunity to provide evidence of prior learning that is evaluated by qualified experts. Credit is only awarded when the evidence of skills or knowledge provided meets or exceeds the competencies defined for a Sessions College course, in alignment with program outcomes.

The new program for Sessions College is aligned with the school's expanding set of BFA and Associate Degree programs designed to train creative professionals. In constantly changing creative fields, many designers, illustrators, photographers, and other creatives develop skills and competencies outside the academic environment, in the professional workplace, and via non-credit courses and training, certifications, and other experiences.

The Prior Learning Assessment program enables adults who have verifiable skills to have those types of skills recognized, thereby providing the opportunity to enter a program, waive subject areas they have already mastered, and focus on new areas of skills on the path to a degree.

For Dr. Meryl P. Epstein, Dean of Academic Affairs at Sessions College, the focus of the program is broader inclusion of adult learners: "We are very excited to provide adult learners with the opportunity to earn course credit for their creative and/or technical expertise as well as professional experiences through our PLA program. Real life experiences are of value!"

"The online facilitated course PLA 100 course is an important component of our PLA program," comments Dr. Epstein. "The course features information and guidance to help students to develop evidence-based documentation focused PLA Portfolio(s) to be reviewed by our evaluators. This PLA program has been developed to acknowledge and celebrate students’ prior learning experiences with an emphasis upon student success."

According to CAEL data, PLA programs are generally successful because students who undergo prior learning assessment have graduation rates more than 20% higher than the average student (See CAEL article).

CAEL sees Prior Learning Assessment in higher education as a way to address a critical credentials gap faced by employers and workers in United States: "By 2027, 70 percent of all jobs will require postsecondary education. Yet 27.9 percent of adults 25 or older have completed high school or less. And 42.8 percent of adults 25 and older do not have a college degree."

In September 2022, recently designated Workforce Development Month by the NAWDP, Sessions College is one institution embracing this society-wide challenge.

Sessions College is the pioneer in accredited and affordable online skills-based education that readies adult and college age learners for the digital design workforce. Founded in 1997, Sessions College offers project-based bachelor and associate level degrees and certificate programs for in demand careers in art, design, and photography. Students learn via real world projects that reflect the latest industry-relevant skills. Sessions College is accredited by the Distance Education Accrediting Commission (DEAC) and the Middle States Commission for Secondary Schools (MSA-CSS) and is approved to deliver its online degrees and programs throughout the United States by the National Council for State Authorization for Reciprocity Agreements (NC-SARA).

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Kimberly O'Hanlon
Senior Director of Admissions
(480)212-1704 ext. 155