Credit for Prior Learning

Students receive college credit for career and life experiences

Learning is a lifelong enterprise that happens while you’re raising a family, advancing your career, serving in the military, volunteering for a charitable cause or exploring a favorite avocation. Adults returning to college or enrolling in college for the first time are frequently seeking credit for their life and work experiences as a bona fide way to accelerate progress toward earning a degree, diploma or certificate.

That’s where Credit for Prior Learning (CPL) can make a world of difference in terms of saving time and money. CPL opens the door to getting a college education by recognizing the college-level work you’ve already accomplished in your life.

Faculty perspective…

Scott Gunderson, DCTC business management faculty and the college’s 2017 Outstanding Educator, reports that working adults are extremely busy balancing their home lives and career responsibilities. Throwing college into the equation does not seem like a viable plan for success. Scott contends that Credit for Prior Learning (CPL) is the made-to-order solution.

Scott Gunderson

Scott Gunderson

“People are never too old to earn a degree,” he said. “In fact, the older you are the more likely your range of experiences can translate into credits. CPL saves time because you can graduate faster. CPL saves money because credits earned through prior learning are assessed at a much lower cost.”

Scott added that he teaches a Credit for Prior Learning course designed to encourage students to look in their “rear-view mirrors.” Students reflect on their lifelong learning experiences up to the time of the course and then survey the road ahead to plan their paths to graduation.

“Students who utilize Credit for Prior Learning are two to five times more likely to complete their degrees,” Scott said. “When I meet with adult students, they often think they have to start at square one. My next step is going over their past achievements. If they have served in the military, worked for three or more years, obtained training or certifications, done volunteer work or have previous credits from other institutions, I let them know they are excellent candidates for CPL. Their concerns are transformed into excitement for the journey ahead.”

How does CPL work?

You can approach CPL in a number of different ways. Assembling a portfolio is one of the more popular approaches. This method allows you to document your life and work experiences. You can then demonstrate how your experiences are similar to the learning gained via a formal college education.

The college reviews your portfolio and determines if your demonstrated learning meets equivalency standards and can be applied as credits to specific courses in your degree program.

Review the checklist below to see if you’re a CPL candidate. If you find that you are, contact Enrollment Services for more information about getting college credit for your prior learning.

  • Are you 25 or older?
  • Have you served in the military?
  • Have you earned previous college credits?
  • Have you worked at least three years in the same job?
  • Have you volunteered?
  • Have you earned any licenses or certifications?

Student Spotlight: Derek Smith

Derek Smith

Derek Smith

Originally from Bucyrus, Ohio, Derek Smith, 40, is a graduate of Wynford High School, class of 1996. Derek is a freshman at DCTC earning an Associate of Applied Science (A.A.S.) in Business Management. His long-range academic goals are centered on earning a bachelor’s degree in business from Saint Mary’s University of Minnesota.

Derek attends his CPL course two nights a week while working 50 to 60 hours a week as a manufacturing manager at BTD in Lakeville, Minnesota. He is also a dad raising three children, Jameson, 11, Josie, 6, and Max, 2, with his wife, Erin, who works as an advisor at a debt collection firm.

“I started out as a laser operator at BTD,” Derek said. “I had a knack for figuring out creative ways to do things. I got along great with my co-workers by making our jobs more efficient and fun. BTD is a cool place to work. We are all working toward the same goal.”

Three words that describe you as a college student:

Today, Derek oversees the finishing side of BTD operations, including powder coating of metal products, the assembly department and warehouse. He is compiling a portfolio in his CPL course aimed at accruing 20 college credits for his life and work experiences. The A.A.S. degree in Business Management requires 60 credits so CPL would get him a third of the way there.

“I would like to work my way up to a director role at BTD,” Derek said. “I would also like to use my college education to eventually start a family business. I’m open to ideas about what that business would be.”

Derek resides in Farmington, Minnesota, with his family. In his free time, which is sparse, he enjoys traveling, especially weekend road trips.

Derek Smith | 12 Answers

  1. Favorite sport or physical activity:  Men’s slowpitch softball
  2. Place you would most like to visit: Australia
  3. The most exciting thing you’ve ever done: Raced motocross
  4. Your personal motto if you had to have one: “Treasure moments with your family.”
  5. Favorite all-time TV show: The Office
  6. Favorite all-time movie: Dumb and Dumber
  7. One thing you most want to accomplish in life: Owning a successful business
  8. Most precious material possession: iPhone
  9. Dream occupation: ATV testing
  10. Person you would most like to meet: Ben Shapiro
  11. Skill you would most like to learn and master: Golf
  12. Most important issue or problem facing humankind: Torn political landscape

Student perspectives…

Lisa Parker

Lisa Parker

Lisa Parker, 50, is originally from Pequot Lakes, Minnesota. Lisa is a freshman at DCTC and commutes to school from the town of Luxemburg near St. Cloud, Minnesota, completing a nearly 200-mile round trip. She is earning an A.A.S. degree in Technical Management.

Lisa has extensive experience in corporate retail and manufacturing, working as a buyer and product developer. She is interning in the HR department at Pinnacle Climate Technologies while going to college. Her long-range academic goal is earning a bachelor’s degree in human resources from Saint Mary’s. Her long-range career goal is working as an HR professional.

She and her husband have three adult children, Trent, 30, a world-ranked video gamer, Karissa, 27, a model and fitness instructor, and Tyrese, 19, a dancer, and one 14 year old, Se-Ri, who is into filmmaking like her father.

Lisa’s CPL portfolio is structured to achieve 30 college credits.

“CPL has shown how there’s more to me than I realized. When I was young and establishing myself, I just did what I had to do. Now when I’m taking a step back and looking at what I’ve achieved, I can see that I’ve accomplished quite a lot, including event planning for 1,800 people. The CPL process is a great eye-opener.”

Chuck Condon

Chuck Condon

Chuck Condon, 46, grew up in Sauk Rapids, Minnesota. Chuck is a freshman at DCTC earning an A.A.S. degree in Technical Management. He has an electronics diploma from NEI and a Power Plant Technology certificate from Bismarck State College.

Chuck started working for Great River Energy, an electric transmission and generation cooperative, 27 years ago. He is a foreperson at the cooperative’s Pleasant Valley Station in Dexter, Minnesota. His duties cover operations and maintenance. One of his primary responsibilities is operational planning.

In fall 2018, Chuck will begin working 50 to 60 hours a week on a large project at the Dexter plant, but he plans on completing his A.A.S. and making a career move into project management and long-range maintenance planning. He resides in Kasson, Minnesota, and has three sons, 25, 23 and 21. He sees going to college as a way to be a role model for his children.

Chuck’s CPL portfolio is structured to achieve 15–20 college credits.

“Creating a portfolio is more work than I expected. CPL makes you look at your life and work experiences. You then figure out how you can apply those experiences to your college education. I was surprised to see just how much I’ve learned during my career.”

Sarah Escamilla

Sarah Escamilla

Sarah Escamilla, 39, was raised in Medford, Minnesota. Sarah is a full-time sophomore at DCTC pursuing an A.A.S. degree in the Legal Administrative Assistant program. She is active on campus, serving as secretary in the college’s Business Professionals of America (BPA) chapter. She is also a member of Phi Theta Kappa.

Sarah worked as a civilian IT specialist for the U.S. Marine Corps for 20 years. Her husband is a retired Marine staff sergeant who specialized in small arms repair. Sarah worked in IT wherever he was stationed; her area of expertise was computer network and software support. Her husband’s military pension has helped pay for her college education.

Once she graduates from DCTC and gets acclimated to working in the legal field, Sarah would like to return to college and study to become a paralegal. She commutes to DCTC from Owatonna, Minnesota.

Sarah’s CPL portfolio is structured to achieve 20 college credits.

“My CPL class shows me how to build a portfolio of my life and career experiences. CPL gives me the opportunity to complete my degree in a shorter amount of time. The faster I earn my degree, the faster I get back to work.”

Cheri Nechodom

Cheri Nechodom

A resident of Newport, Minnesota, Cheri Nechodom, 53, is a freshman at DCTC. Cheri is double-majoring, earning a diploma in Landscape Horticulture & Design and an A.A.S. in Technical Management. She is a first-time college student with more than two decades of experience as a seasonal landscaper, including a decade at Gertens. She has also worked for 10 years as a professional house painter.

Cheri enjoys hard physical work in an outdoor setting, but her goal is to launch a new career as landscape designer and eventually move into management. She has a strong interest in sustainability. She is taking speech classes to become more comfortable speaking in front of an audience.

After she graduates from DCTC, Cheri would like to go on and earn a bachelor’s degree. She is taking college one step at a time and is proud of herself for making the decision to apply what’s she learned to create new career opportunities. She is originally from Mendota Heights, Minnesota.

Cheri’s CPL portfolio is structured to achieve 30 college credits.

“I am learning to be more confident. College has shown me that I can be more than just a gardener. CPL has taught me to be more positive about moving forward in my career. Life experiences are far more valuable than I thought.”

Brittnie Nolan

Brittnie Nolan

Originally from Dubuque, Iowa, Brittnie Nolan, 23, is a veteran of the U.S. Army National Guard. Brittnie served for four years as an HR specialist with the 34th Combat Aviation Brigade based in St. Paul, Minnesota. She misses the camaraderie of military service.

Brittnie is majoring in Business Administration at DCTC and is on track to earn her Associate of Science (A.S.) degree. She is a full-time student and also works full-time as a key manager, shift supervisor and bartender at Applebee’s in Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota. Her long-range academic plan is focused on pursuing a bachelor’s degree in business at the University of Minnesota. She ultimately wishes to work for a large multinational corporation.

Brittnie has be particularly impressed by the Veteran and Military Service Center at the college. “Working with the center has been an amazing experience,” she said. “They have everything about my college experience squared away.” Brittnie resides in Burnsville, Minnesota.

Brittnie’s CPL portfolio is structured to achieve 40 college credits.

“I was happy to learn my military service alone counts for eighteen college credits. My management and HR experience also count for a lot. CPL has cut my time in college and saved me a good deal of money. CPL is getting me into my new career a lot faster.”

To learn more about Credit for Prior Learning at DCTC, contact:

Scott Gunderson
Business Management Faculty