Military, work experience could net college credit

DENVER — Colorado lawmakers want to reduce the cost of college for students by directing higher education institutions to create a system of awarding credit for job experience and military service, under a proposal being heard Wednesday.

Republican Rep. Tom Massey said the goal is to allow students to graduate faster if their experience applies to some college courses. That can be someone who has spent months in the military working on a submarine who has gained technological expertise or a writer who can get credit for an English or literature course, he said.

If students can graduate faster, they’ll pay less for their college education at a time when the state has repeatedly cut funding for higher education, resulting in tuition increases, Massey said. Higher education faces about $30 million in cuts in the next budget.

Graduating students faster has an economic impact because they’re in the workforce sooner and it’s also a savings for the state budget, he said.

“The biggest cost driver we have is when we have start having students that go into a fifth and sixth and a seventh year,” Massey said.

House Bill 72 would direct the Colorado Commission on Higher Education to work with public colleges to develop a system by July 1, 2013, for awarding credit for past experience, which also can include community involvement.

“We want to make sure that students are rewarded for what they know without having to pay a fee,” said Democratic Sen. Bob Bacon, a co-sponsor of the bill.

Massey said higher education officials will have discretion to decide what types of experience from students’ can translate to credit for some courses.

“We’re not micromanaging to the point where we’re telling institutions how to do it,” he said.

Chad Marturano, the director of legislative affairs for CCHE, said the department has not yet taken a position on the bill. He noted that some institutions already allow credit for prior learning experience.

Nonpartisan legislative analysts said many colleges allow students to test out of certain basic requirements, but there is no common statewide process or credit guide. It would cost nearly $1.7 million to implement the bill, according to an estimate from legislative analysts.


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