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College credit but no degree: the focus is on working adults

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(ARA) - If you are a working adult who has accumulated some college credit but haven't earned enough to be awarded a degree, you are not alone. There are at least 54 million people in the nation who fall into this category. To once again put the United States among world leaders whose citizens have college degrees, these "near completers" are receiving increased attention.

During the fall of 2011, the Institute for Higher Education Policy led the first National Summit on Near Completion in Washington D.C., to draw attention to the needs of those with some college, but no degree. These are people for whom life circumstances have prevented them from finishing what they started, even if they are only a year's worth of credit - or less - from completion. Working adults often find that finances, family and work obligations are the main obstacles they face. Another major hurdle is the willingness of colleges to accept transfer credit from other institutions and recognized sources that provide equivalent college-level learning.

Greater acceptance of prior earned credit can result in significant savings for students, their families and benefactors - including federal- and state-sponsored grant and scholarship programs.

Yet, many colleges have limits on the amount of transfer credit they will accept even though the credits may come from other accredited schools. Some colleges may even require at least a year's worth of credit to be earned at their school which can result in students repeating courses they have already completed.

Other colleges, however, are more flexible in this regard. One example is Excelsior College, a 40-year old private, nonprofit, accredited institution that is among the nation's leaders in online and distance education. Excelsior reported that during the 2010-2011 academic year, it accepted in transfer more than 618,000 hours of undergraduate credit presented by newly enrolled students at an estimated savings to them of $207 million - what the college calls its Knowledge Value Index.

Recognition of transfer credit is one means business leaders across the U.S. agree can reduce the cost of a college education. A recent survey among corporate executives and small business owners conducted by IBOPE Zogby, one of the nation's most respected polling organizations, found that 74 percent of those surveyed believe the acceptance of credit transferred from one institution to another is an important way to make a college education more affordable. They also stated that the recognition of credit by examination (69 percent), credit earned through evaluated military training programs (65 percent) and evaluated corporate or industry training programs (63 percent) are other significant ways to lower the cost of a degree.

Which credits will be accepted in transfer from another college or university is up to the receiving institution. Recommending college-level equivalency from noncollegiate sources is a program that the American Council on Education's College Credit Recommendation Service provides. These sources include programs offered by industry, the professions and the military, as well as college-level examination programs.

Earning a college degree can carry many benefits including higher wages. It can also provide a degree of security. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, only 4.7 percent of those with a bachelor's degree are unemployed today. So if you are among the millions of working adults who have some college credit but no degree, you owe it to yourself and your family to take the credits you do have - those nonworking assets on your resume - and turn them into working assets toward achieving your educational goals.

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