Credit Where Credit is Due

Thirteen Comcast employees have been awarded college credit through CCV's Assessment of Prior Learning course.

Josh Larkin/CCVThirteen Comcast employees have been awarded college credit through CCV’s Assessment of Prior Learning course.

Community College of Vermont’s Assessment of Prior Learning (APL) course added another 13 students to its completion ranks on May 6, all of them Comcast employees.

“For years I have been interested in revisiting a return to higher education,” said Travis Miller, a Customer Care Supervisor, “and this presented the perfect opportunity to do so.”

The success of the course is nothing new for CCV, more than 7,000 Vermonters have been through the three-credit, semester-long class since it began in the 1970s. But the partnership with Comcast is unique in that the class was held on-site at Comcast’s South Burlington location and provided their employees a chance to begin working toward a degree without the burden of paying up front and being reimbursed.

Comcast has a robust tuition benefits program, but there weren’t as many Vermont-based staff taking advantage of them as the company would have liked.

“Reimbursement can be a hardship for their employees,” says Melissa DeBlois, coordinator of academic services at CCV Winooski. “So they said ‘we will take as many of you as want to do this,’ and they paid for it and bought them notebooks for class and really tried to make it special.”

It took some time to get to that point, however. After months of talks between CCV and Comcast, an agreement was made in which the class would be held at the Comcast South Burlington location and it would run as pilot program for the national cable, telephone, and internet service provider.

“Their Connecticut branch said ‘hey, can we do this?’ It’s interesting to think that this is a model that could expand in some ways that we haven’t seen before,” says DeBlois. “Comcast has a pretty extensive in-house professional development program, Comcast University, but it hasn’t been evaluated by any outside organization, so no credits are associated with it.”

CCV's Dianne Maccario works with a Comcast employee during the APL course.

Josh Larkin/CCVCCV’s Dianne Maccario works with a Comcast employee during the APL course.

The APL course, however, allowed the employees to ask for credits based on their experience and knowledge from the job. APL is one of four different options available at CCV and the Vermont State Colleges through which students may gain credit for their experiences. During the three-credit, semester-long course, students create a portfolio to document prior learning in a variety of academic subjects. Along with credit by exam, course challenges, and the Focused Portfolio Development course, APL allows students to save time and money on their college education by evaluating the skills and knowledge they’ve acquired throughout their life.

“APL is our biggest offering,” says Gabrielle Dietzel, director of the office of external programs and prior learning assessment for the VSC. “The program is very well-acknowledged and which won an award in 2009 and is nationally recognized. APL is the perfect thing for a company to do; it’s a really good financial arrangement, convenient, and good for employees interested in pursuing education who can get a great start with the credits awarded.”

And it’s through APL the 13 Comcast-ers will be evaluated and awarded the credits for what they know. For all of them, those credits will get them that much closer to earning a college degree. And for some, such as Miller, having the opportunity meant a return to college was made that much easier.

“In entering the program, I looked to build on top of some prior-earned credit in working on a bachelor’s degree in business,” Miller said. “I am very thankful for the opportunity that has been presented.”

CCV President Joyce Judy attended the course-completion celebration on May 6 and said the stories she heard that night really made clear this was an example of CCV’s mission at work.

“I talked to one young employee who told me his parents hadn’t gone to college and he had never even considered it, but with the encouragement from Comcast he’s now on his way to earning a degree,” she says. “Another gentlemen told me he had often thought about it, but to start at ground zero at his age just wasn’t going to be possible. He now has a jump start and without APL he would never have gotten there.”

For Comcast employees, having a foundation for earning an associate’s or bachelor’s degree can make a huge difference—moving up in the ranks and earning higher wages are the rewards of advancing their degree. Right now, at a time when Vermont ranks near the bottom for the percentage of high school graduates headed for college, access to higher education by gaining credit for what they know is a boon to all Vermonters. And having a prior learning assessment opportunity brought to them via their company is even better.

“This partnership with Comcast is a perfect example of what we do here at CCV,” says Judy. “Taking education to Vermonters where they are, helping them to imagine getting a degree when it seemed insurmountable, and, most importantly, giving them the opportunity to position themselves for the future. We don’t know exactly what’s coming, but we can be ready.”